Heading into USA Basketball‘s first exhibition game against Brazil, there was a lot of discussion among Utah Jazz fans and media concerning Gordon Hayward‘s chances of making the final roster for Team USA.
Unfortunately for them and Hayward, Coach Mike Krzyzewski surprisingly elected not to play the Jazz forward in the game. On the bright side, Utah’s second-round draft pick in 2013, Brazilian PG Raul Neto, gave the Jazz faithful something to talk about with his performance in the contest.
Neto was impressive off the bench for Brazil, and played a large role in keeping his team close for parts of the game. On several occasions, Neto’s court vision was on display as he found open shooters for jump shots and cut teammates through traffic. His shooting form was also featured when he was able to connect from 3-point range on more than one occasion.
Chances are that the 6-foot-2, 170-pound point man won’t be making the transition to the Jazz and NBA basketball anytime soon. With Trey Burke entrenched (for now) as the starter and Dante Exum taken with the fifth overall selection in this summer’s draft, there isn’t a lot of opportunity there for Raulzinho at the moment.
But the Brazilian is only 22-years-old, and if his workouts in recent weeks with Utah’s player development coach Johnnie Bryant in Salt Lake City are any indication, he remains in the team’s plans for the future.
For his part, Hayward may be facing an uphill battle to make the United States’ team after all. Given the injury to Paul George and the departure of Kevin Durant, he seemed a great option at forward for coach K with a terrific chance of staying with the team for the FIBA World Cup. But with Rudy Gay being added to the roster and with the DNP-CD against Brazil, it looks like Hayward could still have a tough time sticking around.
Thankfully for Jazz fans, Hayward could be in for a big season in Quin Snyder‘s system for the Jazz whether he makes it with Team USA or not. Moreover, Neto has provided a potential sneak preview of things to come. So despite the DNP-CD, there is reason to be excited for Utah and its fanbase.