By: Sam Meyerkopf / @euro_adventures
Raul Neto, PG, Lagun Aro GBC
Points: 6.8 Rebounds: 1.3 Assists: 2.0
When you think of a Brazilian point guard right now, one name should pop into your head: Marcelinho Huertas. He’s the head man for the best attack going in Europe, and he shows no signs of slowing down. What makes Huertas such an incredible fit for Barcelona is that his passing imagination knows no boundaries, and his eyes are always darting around the court anticipating what might come next.
Raulzinho Neto should go out right now, buy a TV, and put Huertas highlights on a loop 24 hours a day. He has potential and already a big role on a good ACB team (Lagun Aro), but Neto needs to firmly learn the point guard position.
On an afternoon in Madrid, I was able to zero in on Neto, as he took on one of the best teams in Europe, Real Madrid.
One weakness is clear from the start: Neto needs to step up his defense. Sergio Llull attacked him every chance he got and went to the basket more than usual. Each time Llull took a hard drive it resulted in points or a foul. Now it’s no treat ball hawking an All-Euroleague guard, but Neto has the athleticism to stay in front of Llull and he couldn’t this game.
On another occasion Neto didn’t notice a screen at all, got picked and totally lost Llull running around the court. Sergio got a more than a wide open look at a three and nailed it. While his on-ball defense was shaky, his off-ball was even shakier. After Llull torched him a couple times off the dribble, Neto couldn’t keep his eyes off him and lost his full vision on defense.
Next on the list of “things Raul needs to work on” is his ball management. Too often than not Neto would pick up his dribble in bad situations, when the team needed him to keep the offense running, not stall it out. On one instance Neto found himself in a little bit of trouble near the sideline out by the three point arc. He didn’t have a plan for what he was doing and when all else failed, he just picked up his dribble. Smelling blood in the water, Ante Tomic came running over to double-team with Llull. Frantically Neto looked for a passing line, but ultimately got stripped. He needs to keep that dribble going and either split the double-team or get rid of the ball a lot quicker.
It wasn’t all bad for Neto, he is a draft prospect after all. His driving game was exceptional for his age. Whenever he felt comfortable Neto would make a quick dribble at the basket and normally use a euro-step to get space to finish. For a guy his age, the euro-step is already top notch and will probably be his go to move for years to come. He finished quite well against the Madrid big men and showed little fear going right into the teeth of Real’s defense.
Neto is quick and can finish at the rim, but he’s got to keep his head on swivel on the drive. He drives to score right now, not to pass. As he gets even more comfortable attacking the defense, learning to pass in a crowd will come.
In a couple different situations, Lagun Aro’s offense got totally out of whack, but Neto raced over to get the ball and brought it back out for a quick set before the shot clock. For someone who looks like he might be a combo guard, this was a big step towards establishing himself as a true point. All of his teammates on the court were older than him, but it was Neto who was able to steady the offense and turn chaos into some solid offense.
Neto wasn’t perfect, but he was the starter at point guard for a team that hung with the upper echelon of the ACB for the entire game. He and fellow point guard Javier Salgado always kept Lagun Aro under control and neither guy committed many mistakes on offense. Neto finished the game with eight points, five rebounds, and one assist
As Neto grows he will become one of the hardest guys to take off the dribble in Spain (if he stays there) and will be the lead guard for your team. He needs to get more adept at playing half court defense and figuring out a better plan for his offensive game when it doesn’t involve barreling towards the basket.
Overall Neto plays a solid brand of basketball for a 19 year old and with this much tough experience coming so early in his career, it will only help his career trajectory. He can really get to the rim and finishes well for such a slight frame, it should be his defining skill. And for those that have never seen Neto play, here’s a highlight video, enjoy.