It’s not a stretch to suggest that the Raptors made the most shocking pick of the 2014 NBA Draft on Thursday. With the 20th pick, they selected a young gentleman named Bruno Caboclo from Brazil, a prospect almost no one knew anything about, and certainly not one expected to be taken that high. As soon as the pick was made, Raptors fans and media members went into overdrive, trying to find out more about this mysterious player, as well as trying to figure out why he was taken so early.
Raptors GM and resident apostle Masai Ujiri apparently had good reason to supposedly reach for Bruno, as ESPN’s Marc Stein later tweeted that there was a chance Caboclo would’ve been taken by the time Toronto’s first 2nd round pick rolled around. As for Caboclo’s actual basketball ability, little is known. Most of the information on him comes from DraftExpress’s video scouting report, which only shows footage from a single game, a game where Caboclo happened to perform well. A few tidbits can be gleaned from the tape, along with various grainy YouTube videos detailing other moments of playing time Caboclo received throughout his time in the Brazilian pro leagues.
The first thing to strike you is the insane length of Bruno’s arms. He’s supposedly got a 7’7” wingspan, and a height of just 6’8”, and the disparity between the two is starkly evident. When you see his arms, before you see him actually handle a basketball, it’s easy to see why the ridiculous Kevin Durant comparisons happened. There’s something distinctly familiar about Caboclo’s gangliness. During gameplay, however, the similarities between the youngster from Brazil and the reigning NBA Most Valuable Player vanish.
Caboclo shows none of the ball-handling skills or vision that have separated Durant from other transcendent scorers. and in fact his offensive game is limited, even in the shallow pool of Brazilian professional basketball. Caboclo is capable of dunking with those long arms, and he’s got a surprising stroke from behind the arc that belies his awkward length, and every once in a while, he’ll make a straight line drive to the rim to attack a closeout, dribbling once or twice the entire time. Otherwise, he’ll swing the ball around the perimeter and refuse to overextend himself. It’s on defense where most of his potential lies.
Watching highlights of his defensive plays, it’s easy to project a defensive terror who erases passing lanes and shots without discretion, but fans must pump the brakes. Bruno is not even 19 years old, and as such, knows next to nothing about the defensive nuances of the NBA. Some players never learn these nuances. For even the best, becoming smart, effective defenders takes time. Right now, Caboclo is neither of these things, as evidenced by his paucity of playing time in Brazil. What he is, is an extremely long player, one who’s still growing, with a wide frame that seems capable of adding weight, and with all the athleticism an NBA big man would need.
It will be up to Raptors fans to temper their expectations regarding Caboclo. Yes, he’s seemingly overflowing with potential. But he’s also incredibly raw. Odds are slim that he’ll ever reach his potential. But at #20, that’s not so bad. What we know for sure is that Masai Ujiri has swung big with this pick. Now we’ve got to wait and see if the ball clears the fences.