With the 20th pick in the NBA draft the Toronto Raptors select Bruno Caboclo….huh? Who?! What??!! BOOOOO!!!!!! That is likely the response you heard and perhaps said yourself after the Raptors made their first selection in the NBA Draft Thursday night. It was warranted, almost nobody knew who this guy was (including the analysts covering the event), and he worked out for exactly zero teams.
However, Raptors General Manager Masai Ujiri and his staff know exactly who he is as they made several trips down to his native Brazil pre-draft. They had to know that this wasn’t going to be a popular pick and he acknowledged at his post draft press conference that this is not a popularity contest. Also, Ujiri made it clear that Caboclo was a Plan B all along.
It was the Raptors intention to trade up to get Brampton, Ontario native Tyler Ennis. A deal could not be consummated and Ennis ended up going to the Phoenix Suns with the 18th pick. They had hoped to either make a trade to get Ennis or that he’d still be available at 20 and then get Cabaclo in the 2nd round. Wait what??!! If they thought he’d still be around then (they also held the 37th pick) then why reach for him in the first round?
Ujiri and company did think it was possible that he might still be there at 37 but they also knew of a few teams that were interested and they didn’t want to risk missing out on a player they consider to have a huge upside. Caboclo was the next player on their board after Ennis. The other thing to consider is after the lottery portion of the draft, it is a bit of a crapshoot. Since 1980, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Zach Randolph are the only All-Stars selected at #20. If you see a player who you feel has great potential at that spot, you might as well take a chance on him. It’s not like the Raps took this guy at #3.
My initial thought was, “why not take an international prospect who’s a bit more of a known commodity like Clint Capela?” He went five picks later to the Houston Rockets. Well, Caboclo has an enormous wingspan of 7’7″ and has obvious defensive potential and also possesses a pretty sweet shooting stroke. He projects to be an impact combo forward and reminds me a little of Nicolas Batum. What was surprising was hearing Ujiri say that the plan is to have Caboclo in training camp and give him an opportunity to make the team. He is only 19 and definitely seemed like a “draft and stash prospect,” a player that stays in Europe for at least a year to refine his game before coming over to the NBA. That still may very well be the case, but that in no way makes this pick a failure. Remember, Jonas Valanciunas was taken with the number five pick and he didn’t play for the Raptors in the season after he was drafted.
The fact is, this kid can obviously play.
My advice to Raptor fans is this: calm down, give this guy a chance, he has a lot of ability and upside. Even if he spends two years overseas (like 12th overall pick Dario Saric is expected to do) and comes to the Raptors as a more bulked up 21 year old and produces, this will be a great pick. Just because not much is known about him doesn’t mean he’s no good. Don’t feel bad if he turns into a good NBA player, it’s human nature to fear what you don’t know. And I won’t say I told you so.
Photo credit to blogosfera.uol.com