What would constitute a successful 2022-23 for Cavs’ Raul Neto?

Raul Neto, Washington Wizards. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Raul Neto, Washington Wizards. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images /

This upcoming season, the Cleveland Cavaliers know what they have in Darius Garland. He had a breakout, All-Star campaign in his third year in 2021-22, and he looks to be one of the NBA’s emerging young stars.

Garland followed up what was a very encouraging second year with that All-Star season last year, and his playmaking, vision and diversified scoring repertoire leads me to believe he’ll only get better from here. He was one of the biggest reasons for Cleveland’s turnaround last season, and it’s apparent that he’s one of the club’s cornerstones looking onward, and was locked up via rookie scale max extension last month.

As far as the outlook beyond Garland, the Cavaliers signed two veteran lead guards in free agency, with Ricky Rubio returning via three-year, $18.4 million deal (with Year 3 non-guaranteed), and Raul Neto being picked up via one-year deal at the veteran’s minimum.

Rubio gave the Cavaliers quite a lift following his trade acquisition last offseason last year, but he might not be available until December or January, with his recovery from a torn ACL last December. He can still give the Cavs high quality play when he is back in the playmaking and defensive areas, though, and his leadership is a boost.

With Neto, he showed more in the past two seasons with the Washington Wizards with more role consistency, and he should help as playable depth for stretches sans Garland in the mean time. With Washington, he had 8.1 points and 2.7 assists in 20.7 minutes per contest, and had more chances to make plays than when he was with the Utah Jazz and Philadelphia 76ers on offense.

Other guys, such as Caris LeVert and Collin Sexton, seemingly, could take more playmaking reigns in non-Garland stretches, too, for what it’s worth. I’d think players such as Evan Mobley and Kevin Love could be key secondary playmakers to look out for as well.

But as it pertains to Neto, he was a sensible depth signing, and is a quality defender for stretches against plenty of lead playmakers. He can get the ball hopping, too, and demonstrated nice creation signs the last two seasons with more opportunities.

So in regards to Neto then, what would constitute a successful 2022-23 campaign for him with the Cavs?

Neto is not a player that’s going to be a bench maestro the way Rubio is. He should provide playmaking insurance for Cleveland and help preserve Garland, though, and Neto can be a solid reserve defender for stretches at the point-of-attack.

His quick hands, anticipation to blow up handoffs and off-ball play have led to him having 1.5 steals per-36 minutes in his career, and a robust steal rate of 2.1 percent.

Offensively, Neto should be able to generate some quality looks for players such as Lauri Markkanen, Kevin Love and/or Sexton also. And in the pick-and-roll game, Neto can hit some nice pocket feeds and has the requisite feel to hit dumpoffs after drawing in defenders. That could pay dividends in sequences with Jarrett Allen and former Wiz teammate Robin Lopez, for example.

From there, an underrated part of his game is his driving/slashing ability, too, which could give Cleveland a lift, feasibly in non-Garland stretches. His change-of-pace and a bit unorthodox fakes/moves with the ball getting downhill enables him to get to the cup, or hit some floaters/runners to keep defenders off-balance.

Granted, in terms of shooting, Neto has been streaky in his career from three, but if he can be a meaningful ball-movement presence, made some plays with penetration in stretches, and he helps keep Cleveland afloat in non-Garland minutes, he’ll give Cleveland a lift. This is until Rubio is back, realistically; following that, he’ll more so be an insurance piece.

Overall, however, while it’s uncertain as to how much the 6-foot-2 Neto will be called upon at the outset of this season ahead, if he initiates good ball-swings, can make driving plays and is active in stretches defensively, that should pay off for Cleveland.

Whether he’ll stick around after Rubio is back is something we’ll have to see about. Until Rubio returns, I’d still think the 30-year-old Neto could be competent in bench stretches, though.

Next. Crafting the perfect Cavs rotation for the 2022-23 season. dark

And I’d imagine in that sense, that’d help preserve Garland, who was banged up much of the second half of last season, given his workload and the club’s limited options with Rubio and Sexton’s injury absences.