Raul Neto is not Ricky Rubio, but he should help Cavs bide their time

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

It was not a shocker when the Cleveland Cavaliers brought back Ricky Rubio in free agency, in what was via three-year, $18.4 million deal, with the third season partially-guaranteed.

Rubio will not likely be back until December or January, with him coming off his torn ACL in his left knee dating back to last December. Despite that, Rubio was a key catalyst for the Cavaliers in the first two or so months of last season following his trade acquisition last offseason from the Minnesota Timberwolves.

If Rubio can get himself right around the turn of the year, that could be quite a boost for the Wine and Gold from there. Now, he is set to be 32 in October, and it’s understandable to be skeptical about how he can be this coming season.

What is apparent, either way, is his playmaking, vision, defensive capabilities and leadership can be crucial upon his return, and I do get why Cleveland brought him back. Athleticism and quick-twitch explosion is not what has been a differentiator for Rubio, either, so he can still have a big impact in the 2022-23 season, in my opinion.

Until Rubio is back, though, one would assume Raul Neto will have to function as playable depth as the de facto backup lead guard, to aid in preserving Darius Garland, and giving him a breather for a few stretches in games.

Neto isn’t Rubio, in fairness, and we know that. Still, he can help Cleveland until Rubio is back, and at least from there, be playable insurance, I’d think.

Neto isn’t Rubio, but he should help the Cavs bide their time until Rubio returns.

Neto was brought in as added lead guard depth via one-year, veteran’s minimum deal for the Cavaliers to have with Rubio still rehabbing, and he should be fine, generally.

Neto wasn’t able to have many opportunities in his time with the Utah Jazz and one season with the Philadelphia 76ers to make plays offensively, however, he did have more of a role with the Washington Wizards the past two years.

He was more of a defensive sub in years prior to that, and should be able to help Cleveland to some extent defensively with his ball pressure against guards, and being alert in passing lanes. His quick hands and attention to detail have led to him averaging 1.5 steals per-36 minutes in his seven seasons to this point, and having a steal rate of 2.1 percent.

That said, Neto did demonstrate that he can help Washington’s offense for rotational stretches when the chances arose, and did pretty competently in some spot starts.

In the last two seasons, he had 8.7 points and 2.3 assists in 21.9 minutes per outing in 2020-21, and last season, had 7.5 points and 3.1 assists in 19.6 minutes per outing. He started in 41 of his 134 appearances with the Wizards over that span.

For rotational stretches, while he doesn’t have the passing vision/creativity of Rubio, who had 6.6 assists per game as mostly a supersub guy with Cleveland in 34 appearances last season, Neto should be able to penetrate some and initiate meaningful passes, leading to quality possessions.

He showed that he can create for other guys in pick-and-roll scenarios with Washington as well, and perhaps he and former Wiz teammate Robin Lopez can give Cleveland a lift in stretches with their PnR chemistry. Neto should be able to mesh with Jarrett Allen in PnR also, and I could foresee some nice pick-and-pop sequences between Neto and Kevin Love in bench stretches, for example.

Along with him feasibly helping out Garland in that manner, along with Collin Sexton seemingly a bit, if he’s back, and potentially playing with Garland in spurts on occasion, Neto can make some plays as a shot creator in the mid-range, and with floaters/push shots.

Plus, while I’m not saying it’d necessarily be at a high volume, per se, Neto’s driving ability is underrated. He can get to the basket with sudden quickness, finish with body control and from change-of-pace, and he can self-create some with runners after ball fakes and/or in pick-and-roll situations.

So, while he’s again not going to have a Rubio-level impact as a floor general, ridiculous passing wizard and leader for stretches, for stretches, the 30-year-old Neto should help the Cavaliers bide their time until Rubio is back.

Next. 2 realistic expectations for Cavs' bench in 2022-23 season. dark

I’m not suggesting Neto is going to be a regular closing time guy, but for stretches throughout games, the Cavaliers should benefit from having him as playable depth, and his veteran presence can get other guys good, on-target looks. And he’ll seemingly aid in preserving Garland more this upcoming season.