Bruno Caboclo the Latest Raptors Draft Pick to Raise Eyebrows, Which is Cool

The cloud of mystery that surrounds Bruno Caboclo is thicker than any other Raptors draft pick. What was Ujiri’s rationale in making this self-admitted reach?

Bruno Caboclo.  BAM! First reaction is a flashback to Rajael Araujo, which you’ll forgive me for.  Foreign? Check. Unknown? Check. Takes a full minute to pull up the highlights? Check. Highlights are blurry? Check. ESPN rips the pick? Check.  Add to it the “in 2 years he’ll be 2 years away” comments from the pundits and you got to be shaking your head while at the same time showing tentative faith in Masai Ujiri’s judgement.  At the end of the day the front office scouts the players from top to bottom, processes the workouts, looks at measures and metrics that you and I can’t even dream about having access to, and makes a decision which they firmly believe is the best for the franchise.

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In the flesh, though, you’re watching the Raptors pass over Shabazz Napier, Rodney Hood, Clint Capela, Kyle Anderson, P.J Hariston etc.  At this point you have two options: 1) raise your hands and tweet out “Fire Ujiri” or, 2) take the saner ‘time will tell’ approach.  Of course, time always tells so that can never really be a wrong answer.  I chose to view it as either Ujiri being very crafty and seeing through all the other GMs, or wasting a pick on a guy everybody seems to have slotted for the second round, if that.  The comparisons to Araujo are a bit misguided because Araujo was a known quantity at the time which people had heard of and written off, nobody has even heard of Caboclo.

The bottom line is that we don’t know much about him except that he’s got a Draft Express profile thinner than he is.  He’s in the US right now and is trying to get a work permit so he can be here for summer league.  He’s a 6’9” swingman playing in Brazil against shoddy competition, and you can check out some of his highlights here.  Dwane Casey has spoken in glowing terms about what they saw of him, and considers him a “stealth move” steal, essentially implying that they pulled one over other teams.  The Raptors, supposedly, had the best intelligence on the player and executed effectively, and feel that he has the highest potential of anyone in that part of the draft, while acknowledging that there are more finished products out there.  Read the bullet-point recap of Dwane Casey’s presser (will take one minute) and you’ll get the sense of what the Raptors were thinking.

Then there were the Tyler Ennis rumours, started by Stein and fuelled further by TSN conducting an interview with him and blankly asking him whether he’d heard the trade rumours.  Personally, I thought it was a done deal just because how open they were about it and the multiple sources tweeting about it all day.  Later, Casey confessed that getting Ennis and Caboclo was always part of the plan and once trading up for Ennis didn’t work, they simply couldn’t take a chance at Caboclo not being available at 37.  It’s a self-admitted reach, but they’re so high on this player that they potentially took him 17 picks early!

The Raptors also picked Xavier Thames and traded him away promptly to Brooklyn for future second-round picks and possibly cash considerations but nobody really cares about that.  In between was DeAndre Daniels, a junior wingman from UConn who was ranked 64 in DX’s Top 100 prospects.  Given Salmons’ imminent exit, the dearth of options at small forward, Daniels’ low salary, it’s conceivable that he gets a legitimate shot at making the team come training camp.  Daniels is a distraction, though, this draft was about either who the Raptors would get at #20, or how they could maneuver to get something higher.  They couldn’t do the latter and reached on the former.  I accept that.  And since the draft is a crapshoot anyway, all this was is a roll of the dice.  The frustrating part of this is that we got a player nobody has seen, which makes us fans feel that we’re barking up the wrong tree entirely.  By the same token, it’s liberating to know that we’ve picked an unknown player that nobody has any expectations for, and considering the Raptors have apparently scouted him extensively, albeit over a brief period of time, he is poised more to surprise than disappoint.

If you truly view success in drafting as intractable or unpredictable, then going with the upside angle every time is a fair ploy.  Ujiri has clearly done that.  He’s acknowledged that there were plenty of other options that could produce in the now, but has chosen to swing for the fences knowing that he doesn’t have much to lose.  My guess is that he views players taken from 21-30 as rotation players at best while seeing Caboclo as having a chance to do something greater.  Time will tell, it always does.

Though I’m disappointed that the Raptors didn’t grab a point guard like Napier when they could have, the Raptors did clearly go into the draft with a very focused plan and pivoted once their primary target could not be acquired.  The night spoke to Ujiri’s ruthlessness and confidence in that he was willing to take the risk of reaching that far across to get the man he, and only he, believed to be a top-20 prospect.  A couple years from now we’ll look at this pick as a total waste or total genius.

The draft also told us something about Ujiri’s approach to free-agency.  The targeting of Tyler Ennis, a deal that could still happen given Phoenix’s point guard situation (Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic), speaks to Ujiri potentially planning a replacement for Kyle Lowry. Not drafting a rotation player when you had the chance to do so could speak to the comfort-level Ujiri has with the current roster, and that he didn’t feel he had to make a move.  Judging by every analysis out there, Bruno Caboclo has close to zero value on the trade market so the idea of packaging the pick for something more meaningful isn’t even on the table (not that Ujiri would go through these lengths to just trade him).

All in all, this was a typical Raptors night.  The last time we picked a player everybody expected us to pick was DeMar DeRozan and he turned out to be an All-Star.  Ed Davis was a fairly predictable pick as well.  Surprise picks like Rafael Araujo, Charlie Villanueva, Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross have all met with mixed results, and Bruno Caboclo joins that bunch, only with a more dense cloud of mystery surrounding him.  For fans, they have no option but to give the benefit of the doubt to Masai Ujiri as he is amongst a very few set of NBA eyes that have actually seen Caboclo in-person, worked him out, clocked him, and evaluated him.

Being a Raptors fan is never easy.

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