Last season, Raul Neto adapted his game to fit with Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook by filling a long-standing NBA archetype — low-usage, efficient guard who tries on defense and avoids mistakes. This type is often in the mold of a caretaker point guard or a small shooting guard, who’s role is to provide competent ball handing, and to spot up and hit open shots when their better teammates are double-teamed.
Probably not by coincidence, last season was also the best of Neto’s career by a significant margin. It was his best shooting season, and the reduced playmaking duties slashed his turnovers per 100 team possessions in half. And, while his size (just 6-1) reduced his defensive effectiveness and failure to execute the team’s force rules (true of every perimeter defender on last season’s roster), the Wizards were marginally better defensively when he played.
How common is Neto’s archetype? The top 17 comps according to the Statistical Doppelgänger Machine rate as 90% similar or higher. More than 200 scored 85% similar or higher. Don’t worry, I won’t make you read that long a list.
Reminder: The Statistical Doppelgänger Machine works by comparing a player’s performance across 14 different categories that include age, playing time, pace-neutral box score stats and scores from my PPA metric. All that’s rolled up into a single score that (in theory) provides a list of NBA players since 1977-78 with similar production at a similar age.
- Steve Kerr, Chicago Bulls, 1994-95 — Small, efficient, care-taker guard who shoots well, tries on defense and avoids mistakes. Kerr was a better shooter, but the stylistic similarity is strong...
- Steve Kerr, Chicago Bulls, 1993-94 — See above.
- Charlie Bell, Milwaukee Bucks, 2005-06 — Bell was a 6-3 guard, who played seven games for two different teams as a 22-year old rookie, and then was gone from the NBA for three seasons. He returned at age 26 for a couple solid seasons with the Bucks (PPA: 94 and 89) before slumping back towards replacement level.
- Steve Kerr, Chicago Bulls, 1997-98 — Kerr’s last season with the Bulls. If Neto’s this similar to Kerr, teams should be clamoring for his services as head coach.
- Trent Tucker, New York Knicks, 1988-89 — Tucker never cracked average in my PPA metric (average is 100 and higher is better), but he was a solidly productive player for the better part of a decade.
- Kyle Korver, Utah Jazz, 2009-10 — Korver is bigger and wasn’t much of a ball-handler, though he produced more assists than the 3&D prototype. His career does not fit the “normal” arc — after a 110 PPA in his second season, he had seven straight seasons that rated below average. Then, a 100 PPA at 30 with the Bulls, followed by seasons of 129, 132 and 154 with the Hawks...at ages 31, 32 and 33. Then back to below average. The comp season was Korver’s age 28 year — a respectable 90 PPA.
- Ledell Eackles, Washington Bullets, 1995-96 — In no way would my brain ever come up with the burly, no-neck Eackles as a comp for Neto, but this was the only efficient season of Eackles’ career. He even shot 42.2% on 5.3 three-point attempts per 100 team possessions.
- Shammond Williams, Denver Nuggets and Boston Celtics, 2002-03 — More potential than production, Williams bounced around for seven seasons before exiting the NBA for good. His second season (93 PPA) was his best. Neto was more efficient than this comp season, but their numbers are otherwise similar.
- C.J. Watson, Indiana Pacers, 2013-14 — Watson was 29 in this comp season, which was his seventh year in the league. He was a decent enough backup (PPA by season: 55, 89, 92, 63, 78, 83, 86). At 30, he had the best season of his career (PPA: 105) and immediately cratered to replacement level. Neto is entering his age 29 season.
- Chris Quinn, Miami Heat, 2007-08 — This was the high-water mark for Quinn, a 98 PPA at age 24. He followed it up with a 69 and then three more seasons below replacement level.
Other names showing up as comparably similar to Quinn:
- Eldridge Recasner, Houston Rockets, 1995-96
- Francisco Garcia, Sacramento Kings, 2009-10
- Lucious Harris, New Jersey Nets, 1999-00
- C.J. Watson, Brooklyn Nets, 2012-13
- Derek Fisher, Los Angeles Lakers, 2003-04
- Shelvin Mack, Memphis Grizzlies and Charlotte Hornets, 2018-19
Next up: Anthony Gill.