When the Toronto Raptors picked Bruno Caboclo with the 20th pick of the 2014 NBA Draft, ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla coined one of the great draft night phrases of all time, saying the 19-year-old Brazilian was, “two years away from being two years away.”
In an era of exhaustive draft coverage — where middle schoolers are ranked as prospects and Croatian teenagers are hyped for years — Caboclo was a true unknown. He wasn’t in any mock drafts. He didn’t go to the NBA Combine. His only YouTube highlights were grainy clips against hilariously overmatched high school kids.
After the Raptors picked him, the reaction from fans and media was a hearty LOL:
Caboclo might not make a meaningful impact for the Raptors this year. He might even play exclusively in the D-League until he’s NBA-ready.
But judging by his performance at Summer League and the stories coming out of Toronto, he’s better right now than anyone realised in July.
Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix reports that Caboclo blew away the team’s low expectations at Summer League:
“At 18, Caboclo is obviously raw. But there were flashes of potential. Privately, Toronto coaches didn’t expect Caboclo, in his first experience against NBA-calibre competition, to average more than a point or two. In five summer league games he averaged 11.4. His three-point shooting was so-so (30.8 per cent) but Casey says he was impressed with his effectiveness from the corners. And both Casey and Ujiri cited Caboclo’s toughness and desire to go right back at a player that scored on him.”
Caboclo is 6’9″, with a freakishly long 7’6″ wingspan. A solid comparison might be Giannis Antetokounmpo — a long, athletic, raw player who can play on the perimeter. In a best-case scenario, he’ll be able to shoot threes like this:
Caboclo did a great interview with Canada.com where he talked (in the third-person, no less) about all the accomplishments that people have overlooked. He also revealed that he turned down a chance to play for Brazil at the FIBA World Cup so he could train with the Raptors.
“You don’t know the Bruno Caboclo that was playing ahead of his time,” Caboclo said.
Here’s his full defence of himself:
“You don’t know the Bruno Caboclo who dominated the under 19 league in Brazil, 30+ minutes, 20+ points, 10+ rebounds, 5+ blocked shots per game.
“You don’t know the Bruno Caboclo who scored 39 pts, 20 rebounds, 9 blocks in a final game for the Brazilian under 19 Championship game.
“You don’t know the Bruno Caboclo that was playing ahead of his time. When I earned a spot in the Senior team (Pro) due to injuries at the starting 3 position, I got some playing time in the big league and kicked butt. I had barely turned 18 at that time.
“You don’t know the Bruno Caboclo who contributed to the Senior team that eventually became Champion of the Americas and Co-Champions of the FIBA World Cup.
“You don’t know the Bruno Caboclo who got a late call from the Brazilian National Team to be in the roster to defend Brazil on the FIBA World Cup in Spain but opted to decline it to be in a full-time training program with the Raptors during the whole summer.”
You don’t know Bruno Caboclo!
Caboclo made his Raptors debut in a preseason game on Tuesday. He scored six points in 15 minutes, and exhibited that incredible wingspan with a block from behind on Omri Casspi. This guy is long:
Raptors GM Masai Ujiri is widely regarded as one of the smartest executives in the league. Caboclo was a gamble, but it seems like he’s already further along than expected.
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