Raul Neto

NBA Trade Candidate Watch: Atlantic Division

Over the course of the 2019/20 NBA season, up until February’s trade deadline, we’re keeping an eye on potential trade candidates from around the NBA, monitoring their value and exploring the likelihood that they’ll be moved. Each of these looks at possible trade candidates focuses on a specific division, as we zero in on three players from that division.

The Atlantic is perhaps the most confounding NBA division when it comes to the trade deadline. The Raptors, Celtics, and Sixers are all potential contenders to come out of the East and may theoretically be looking to make upgrades, but their contract situations make it tricky to identify specific moves that would help.

The Nets are essentially in a holding pattern until they get their full roster healthy next season. The Knicks as sellers appeared to be the only safe bet on the board in the Atlantic, but they’ve resisted that label to some extent.

As we wait to see how the Atlantic teams approach the deadline, here are three (or four) more potential trade candidates from around the division…

Dennis Smith Jr., PG
New York Knicks

$4.5MM cap hit; $5.7MM guaranteed salary in 2020/21; RFA in 2021

A report last month indicated that teams, including the Timberwolves, had expressed some interest in Smith. There are plenty of factors complicating a potential deal though. For one, he was sidelined for a month with an oblique strain before returning last night, and will probably have to show he’s fully healthy before the deadline to increase the odds of a trade. That means the Knicks will have to give him more playing time than the four minutes he received on Wednesday.

Even then, Knicks management may be reluctant to move Smith without a decent return, since doing so would represent a further admission that last year’s blockbuster with the Mavs isn’t working out. The team already failed to land a star with the 2019 cap room created in that deal, and the two future first-round picks owed to New York almost certainly won’t be as valuable as initially hoped, given Dallas’ improvement.

Considering how poorly Smith has played in limited minutes this season, it’s hard to see the Knicks netting more than a low second-round pick and salary filler in exchange for Smith. The club may decide it would rather take its chances on DSJ turning things around and recapturing some of the potential that made him a top-10 pick in 2017.

A trade before the deadline is a possibility, but I think it’d be more likely if the same executives who acquired Smith a year ago weren’t the same ones tasked to decide whether or not to move him.

Raul Neto / Trey Burke, PG
Philadelphia 76ers
$1.62MM cap hit; UFA in 2020

Neither Neto nor Burke has really been involved in any rumors yet, but they’re trade candidates in a roundabout way. The Sixers have been linked to point guards who could be on the trade block, and if the team actually acquires a point guard, either Neto or Burke would become expendable.

The 76ers have gone back and forth this year between Neto and Burke as the primary backup to Ben Simmons, so it’s not entirely clear who would be the odd man out if the team makes a move to fortify its backcourt.

Both players are on minimum-salary contracts that expire at season’s end, meaning there’s no financial incentive to move one over the other. Neto is the better defender and perhaps the steadier floor general, but he doesn’t possess Burke’s play-making or scoring ability. The on/off-court numbers favor Burke — the Sixers have a +7.2 net rating when he plays, compared to +1.2 for Neto.

If the 76ers end up standing pat or focus on improving another area, both Neto and Burke could certainly finish the season in Philadelphia. But if they go out and acquire another guard, I’d expect the Sixers to try to find a trade partner interested in acquiring Neto or Burke as a third point guard.

Rodions Kurucs, F
Brooklyn Nets
$1.7MM cap hit; $1.8MM guaranteed salary in 2020/21; $1.9MM team option for 2021/22

After a promising rookie season, Kurucs has taken a step backward in 2019/20. Despite a series of injury creating a path to a regular role for the Latvian forward, he doesn’t seem to have fully earned Kenny Atkinson‘s trust. His minutes per game have dipped from 20.5 to 13.3 and he’s received several DNP-CDs.

There are some promising numbers in this year’s small sample, including a .439 3PT%, and teams monitoring the Nets may view Kurucs as a buy-low candidate. However, off-court concerns may scare those teams away, since the 21-year-old was arrested during the offseason on a domestic violence charge.

We heard in December that there are teams doing their homework on Kurucs to see if he makes sense as a trade target. Presumably, that research centers on the domestic violence allegation — if it’s credible, clubs will be less enthusiastic about the idea of making a deal for the former second-round pick.

Kurucs is due back in court on February 11, meaning there will be no resolution in his legal case by the February 6 trade deadline. As a result, it’s hard to see him being moved.

Revisit the rest of our 2019/20 Trade Candidate series right here.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Sixers Notes: Thybulle, Korkmaz, Neto, Richardson

It hasn’t taken long for Matisse Thybulle to become recognized as one of the NBA’s best defenders, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Defense was the calling card for Thybulle when he was selected with the 20th pick in this year’s draft, and his impact has been immediate. He leads the league in steals at 2.8 per game and is second on the team in blocks with 1.4 per night

“I try not to look at the numbers, because for me all the defensive (ones) just come from hustle and just getting lost in the game,” he said. “So it’s exciting to see the numbers. But do I really worry about them? No.

Sixers Notes: Thybulle, Horford, Richardson, Milton

Ben Simmons has seen enough of Matisse Thybulle in practice to be glad he won’t have to face him in the regular season, writes Rich Hoffman of The Athletic. “I hate him on defense,” Simmons said of the rookie guard, who displayed his defensive prowess in Saturday’s intrasquad scrimmage. He forced turnovers throughout the afternoon and had an impressive block on a shot by Josh Richardson.

“I’m just chasing the ball every chance I get,” Thybulle said. “Deflections are just a side effect of hustle for me. … It’s fun to get out there and get a little feel, wreak a little havoc.”

It’s not clear how much the Sixers are planning to use the 20th overall pick, but he provides a disruptive force that can be useful to shut down perimeter scorers. Hoffman notes that Thybulle comes into the league with both a “high motor” and a quick recognition of what opponents are doing, two things that usually take time for rookies to develop.

There’s more Sixers news to pass along:

  • Players recognize the commitment that Philadelphia’s front office has made by handing out so many long-term contracts, Al Horford told Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports. In addition to adding Horford as a free agent for $109MM for four years, the organization re-signed Tobias Harris this summer and gave a five-year extension to Simmons. “It helps tremendously because we can focus on playing and doing some special things,” Horford said. “Knowing the organization believes in this core and this group. They’ve showed it by giving us all long-term deals.”
  • Richardson is quickly emerging as a team leader, notes Lauren Rosen of NBA.com. Acquired from the Heat in the Jimmy Butler trade, Richardson has been working with younger players, particularly Zhaire Smith. The fifth-year swingman sees it as part of his overall responsibilities to help make the team better. “I’m kind of a guy that can morph into any role that I need to on any nightly basis to give us the best chance to win,” he said.
  • The battle for the backup point guard slot remains competitive, relays Marc Narducci of The Philadelphia Inquirer. New additions Raul Neto and Trey Burke are vying for the position, but coach Brett Brown suggested Shake Milton may be considered as well.

Atlantic Notes: Smart, Neto, Burke, Richardson

Celtics guard Marcus Smart has been cleared to return to action with Team USA, tweets Marc Stein of The New York Post. Smart has been sidelined for more than a week with a calf injury, and getting him back will help offset the unexpected loss of De’Aaron Fox, who withdrew from the team today.

Smart expressed confidence that he was close to playing again in an interview with Jared Greenberg of NBA TV during Friday’s exhibition game with Spain (video link). “Like I said, the calf is feeling amazing,” Smart said. “And, right now, we’re just taking it slow and making sure I’m a hundred percent and (then) get back out there.”

Smart appears to be in great position to earn a roster spot after the departures of Fox and fellow point guard Kyle Lowry in the past week. Team USA has 13 players left on its training camp roster, with just one cut to make before the FIBA World Cup begins.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Celtics should honor Smart by making him the team captain this fall, writes A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston. Smart’s leadership has been evident for a long time, Blakely observes, adding that the organization has an opportunity to recognize him in an official way. Boston hasn’t had a captain since Rajon Rondo in 2014, and Blakely contends that Smart, who is the longest-tenured Celtic and still has three years left on his contract, is a natural choice.
  • Derek Bodner of The Athletic examines the expected battle for backup point guard minutes between Sixers newcomers Raul Neto and Trey Burke. Both veterans signed minimum salary contracts this summer and both will try to fill the void created when T.J. McConnell left for the Pacers. Bodner notes that Burke has received more playing time than Neto over his career, but he has also been on worse teams that offered greater opportunity. He adds that Neto prefers to read the defense on any given play, while Burke tends to seek his own shots.
  • Malachi Richardson, who saw infrequent playing time for the Raptors last season, has signed with Hapoel Holon in Israel, relays Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Richardson appeared in 22 games for Toronto before being traded at the deadline to the Sixers, who waived him.

Atlantic Notes: Sixers, Burke, O’Quinn, Smart, Fizdale

Despite the loss of J.J. Redick, the Sixers have plenty of perimeter shooters on their current roster, as Derek Bodner of The Athletic details. Tobias Harris, Josh Richardson, Mike Scott, Al Horford, James Ennis, Trey Burke and Raul Neto loom as long-range threats but mainly in catch-and-shoot situations. That means Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons need to create and open up space for their perimeter players.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Point guards Trey Burke and Raul Neto could be useful members of the Sixers’ rotation but big man Kyle O’Quinn will have regain the form he showed earlier in his career with the Knicks to make a meaningful contribution, Mike O’Connor of The Athletic writes. O’Connor breaks down the strengths and weaknesses of the incoming reserve trio and how they’ll fit in.
  • Marcus Smart admits the Celtics were a dysfunctional team last season, he said on ESPN’s The Jump this week. Many players were uncomfortable with their roles, according to Smart. “It’s hard for anybody to have to look themselves in mirror and sacrifice something,” Smart said.
  • The fact that the Knicks didn’t re-sign any of their nine free agents reflects poorly on coach David Fizdale, the New York Post’s Marc Berman opines. The teams sold player development over the team’s win-loss record last season, yet didn’t consider any of those players worthy of another contract, Berman notes.

Sixers Sign Raul Neto

JULY 12: The Sixers have officially signed Neto to his new contract, the team announced today in a press release.

“By adding Raul to our roster, we’ve gained an experienced and valuable veteran who is a tremendous passer with great court vision,” GM Elton Brand said in a statement. “We’re fortunate that he’s now a member of the 76ers and we’re eager to integrate him into our team.”

JULY 3: Raul Neto, who was waived Sunday by the Jazz, will sign with the Sixers when the moratorium lifts on Saturday, tweets Eric Woodyard of The Deseret News. It will be a one-year deal at the veteran’s minimum, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Utah had to get rid of Neto’s $2.15MM salary to open enough cap space to complete a trade with Memphis for Mike Conley. Neto’s contract for next season would have become fully guaranteed on July 6.

Neto, 27, had spent his entire four-year career with the Jazz after they acquired his draft rights from the Hawks. He has been a valuable backup point guard at times, but has only played 40, 41 and 37 games the past three seasons. He averaged 5.3 points and 2.5 assists this year in about 13 minutes per night.

The Sixers need a new point guard off their bench after losing free agent T.J. McConnell, who will sign with the Pacers.

Jazz Waive Raul Neto

4:52pm: The Jazz have officially waived Neto, the team announced today in a press release.

12:37pm: The Jazz plan to waive point guard Raul Neto in order to create space for the Mike Conley trade with Memphis, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Utah agreed to send Jae CrowderKyle KorverGrayson Allen, the No. 23 pick in the draft and a future first-round pick to the Grizzlies for Conley in June, revamping their franchise with hopes of contending for a championship next season.

The Jazz also agreed to deals with free agents Bojan Bogdanovic (4-year/$73MM) and Ed Davis (2-year/$10MM) at the start of free agency. Utah has competed in the playoffs in each of the last three years, losing to the Rockets 4-1 in the opening round this past April.

Neto, 27, will become a strong option on the market for teams seeking a back-up guard, according to Charania. He’s spent all four of his seasons with the Jazz, holding career-averages of 4.8 points, 1.9 assists and 14.2 minutes per game.

Jazz’s Dante Exum Undergoes Knee Surgery

MARCH 28: Exum underwent surgery today to fix the patellar tendon, tweets Tony Jones of The Athletic. Rehab will start right away, but Exum remains out of action indefinitely.

MARCH 15: Jazz point guard Dante Exum has a partially torn patellar tendon in his right knee and will be sidelined indefinitely, according to a team press release.

Exum’s latest injury was uncovered during an MRI on Friday. He will continue to seek opinions on how best to treat the injury, according to the release, which suggests that he hopes to avoid surgery.

Exum is averaging 6.9 PPG and 2.6 APG in 15.8 MPG through 42 games this season. Exum just returned to action earlier this week after being sidelined 25 games with a sprained ankle and bone bruise. He suffered his latest injury during Utah’s game against Minnesota on Thursday.

The snakebit point guard missed all of the 2015/16 season with a torn ACL and was limited to 14 regular-season games last season after undergoing shoulder surgery in October 2017.

Raul Neto will see his minutes increase behind starter Ricky Rubio in Exum’s absence.

Sixers, Jazz Express Interest In Nikola Mirotic

Behind the Anthony Davis drama, the Pelicans are ready to start taking their current roster apart in exchange for future assets, according to Sean Deveney of Sporting News. He adds that their most enticing trade piece is stretch forward Nikola Mirotic, who is drawing interest from both the Sixers and Jazz.

New Orleans is seeking a first-round pick in exchange for Mirotic, who has been sidelined for the past week with what Deveney calls “a so-called calf strain.” A league source tells him that the Sixers, who have needed forward help since sending Dario Saric and Robert Covington to Minnesota in the Jimmy Butler trade, have contacted the Pelicans about Mirotic. Philadelphia owns all of its future first-rounders, along with Miami’s in 2021, and a wealth of second-rounders, including the Bulls’ this year, the Knicks’ and Nets next season and four in 2021.

The Jazz, who were considered frontrunners to wind up with Mirotic when the Bulls were looking to move him last season, are also in the mix, Deveney adds. It’s uncertain whether Utah is willing to part with starting forward Derrick Favors or would offer young players such as Raul Neto and Tony Bradley in addition to a first-round pick.

Deveney notes that other teams could still enter the race for Mirotic, such as the Trail Blazers, who are seeking to add roster depth, and the Rockets, who have been eyeing him for a long time.

Mirotic, 27, is averaging 16.7 points and 8.3 rebounds through 32 games and is shooting 36.8% from 3-point range. He is making $12.5MM on an expiring contract.

Free Agent Stock Watch 2019: Northwest Division

Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we turn our attention to the Northwest Division:

Raul Neto, Jazz, 26, PG (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $4.4MM deal in 2018
Neto’s $2.15MM salary for next season becomes guaranteed if he’s still on the roster after July 6. Even though it’s not much money, Neto has given the Jazz little reason to keep him around. He’s not in the rotation with Dante Exum backing up Ricky Rubio. Except for a blowout win over the Knicks in which he played 20 minutes, Neto has either been benched or seen fewer than four minutes over the past 10 games. With Rubio headed to unrestricted free agency, it’s conceivable Utah could exercise that option as insurance. The Brazilian native is more likely to continue his career elsewhere, probably overseas.

Trey Lyles, Nuggets, 23, PF (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $10.4MM deal in 2015
Lyles has received rotation minutes but his offensive numbers have declined. He’s shooting just 41.1% from the field and 24.1% beyond the arc, compared to a 49.1/38.1 slash line last season. He was mired in a terrible slump last month, making just 32.3% (18.6% from distance) of his field goal attempts. Lyles will be a restricted free agent if the Nuggets extend a $4.63MM qualifying option. That may depend on some other factors. They hold a $30MM team option on Paul Millsap‘s contract. It’s also predicated on whether they believe Michael Porter Jr. will contribute significantly next season.

Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Thunder, 23, SG (Down) – Signed to a three-year, $4.26MM deal in 2016
Luwawu-Cabarrot, a 2016 first-round pick by the Sixers in 2016, got some opportunities in his first two seasons with Philadelphia. His court time has diminished considerably in Oklahoma City. After playing in 69 games (19 starts) in his rookie year and 52 last season, Luwawu-Cabarrot has languished at the end of OKC’s bench despite Andre Roberson‘s injury issues. He’s played just 12 minutes since November 28. The Thunder didn’t pick up Luwawu-Cabarrot’s option during the offseason, so he’ll be unrestricted in July. It will be interesting to see if any team believes he has untapped potential or whether he’ll have to seek overseas opportunities.

Taj Gibson, Timberwolves, 33, PF (Up) — Signed to a two-year, $28MM deal in 2017
Gibson has become a more efficient offensive player in recent years while providing his usual toughness in the paint as well as rebounding. Gibson remains one of the top offensive rebounders in the league (2.7 per game) and has kept a positive attitude despite the addition of Dario Saric, which has cut into his minutes. If Tom Thibodeau remains in charge, the Timberwolves will likely try to re-sign him. Otherwise, Gibson will find work as a 25-30 minute option at power forward for a suitor looking for an upgrade at that position.

Nik Stauskas, Trail Blazers, 25, SG (Down)– Signed to a one-year, $1.6MM deal in 2018
Stauskas is playing for his fourth organization in five seasons. He will be on the move again if his shooting doesn’t perk up. After a strong start, Stauskas has gone into an offensive funk. He made just 24.3% of his 3-point attempts in December and went scoreless in a nine-minute stint against Sacramento in his first 2019 appearance. Stauskas reached double figures in five of his first eight games with the franchise but has hit that mark just twice since that point. With first-rounder Anfernee Simons showing no signs of taking Stauskas’ rotation spot, the Blazers may try to acquire a wing player before the trade deadline.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.