After the Cleveland Cavaliers took home the NBA title this summer, the iconic Browns jersey listing every starting quarterback to come into the city’s hopes and leave into the abyss was finally retired. Should the sports community clamor for another artistic interpretation of instability, a Utah Jazz jersey adorned with a long list of would-be heirs to the point guard vacancy left by John Stockton may be the result.
Obviously, Stockton’s shoes are too large to ever completely be filled. Deron Williams may have been the most competent successor, but his being traded to New Jersey firmly entrenched his name between Raul Lopez and Devin Harris.
Last season offered no permanent solution. After falling out of the rotation, Trey Burke became just another name on the list. He’s gone now, having been traded to Washington for just a future second-round pick. Dante Exum was lost to injury all season so his name was cautiously added, with the underlying hope that he can be a long-term solution and therefore taken off this figurative list. The majority of the point guard play last season was handled by Raul Neto, a second-round NBA Draft pick, and a first-round All-Good Looks Draft pick.
By starting the first game of the 2015-16 season, the 24-year old Brazilian native became the first Jazz rookie point guard in what must be eons to start the year as a titular (that’s Spanish, which is almost Portuguese, for starter).
Neto did a serviceable job despite being thrust into the role, with the Jazz winning 27 of his 53 starts. His On/Off numbers were also admirable. While he held the starting role, Jazz opponents scored 2.8 points less when Neto was on the court while the Jazz offense was 2.4 points better with Neto on the hardwood.
Neto however, was a Band-Aid. A damn fine Band-Aid, who may at times have overachieved what expected of a diminutive 6-foot 1 guard in his first year of NBA action. Unfortunately for Neto, a fury of Dennis Lindsay orchestrations has made it clear that he is not the one who will retire that figurative jersey.
Shelvin Mack was acquired from Atlanta at the trade deadline and was immediately placed into the role that Neto had called his own all season. It actually turned out to be a good move for Neto and the team. With Neto coming off the bench, the Jazz’s defensive rating dropped to a fabulous 94.9 as compared to 101.5 with Neto as a starter.
Here’s the problem; the Jazz currently have a log jam at the point guard position. Former Indiana Pacer George Hill has been added to the roster to take the starting role pressure off of Dante Exum, who will return from that season-eliminating injury. That’s two more point guards ahead of Neto, not including Mack. This puts Neto as a fourth-string point guard on a team primed to make a major splash this season. There aren’t going to be the minutes for Neto to develop further.
To make matters even worse, the Jazz chose to add another point guard through the draft, Marcus Paige, out of North Carolina, who has wowed coaches and local media alike with his impressive off-court persona and intelligence. Shouldn’t there be a limit on how many point guards a team can have?
Exactly one season after resorting to an unproven second-round rookie in Raul Neto to guide Quin Snyder’s offense and defense, the Jazz now have an over-abundance of parity at point guard, led by a proven veteran in Hill.
So despite starting in 53 NBA contests as a rookie last season and representing his native Brazil in the Olympics this summer, it is possible that Raul Neto will find himself either buried on the Utah Jazz bench, or in the D-League.
At least he can always fall back on male-modeling.