I have to go back to the time we drafted Tracy McGrady to find an example of the Raptors selecting a player they truly didn’t expect to contribute in the near-term and were content developing on the side, solely because of his potential. Since then, from Morris Peterson to Terrence Ross, there’s always been a certain expectation that the player selected would be a meaningful part of the roster the next season.

Seventeen years after McGrady was drafted, the Raptors picked Bruno Caboclo. Whereas McGrady was chained to the bench by the villainous Darrell Walker and only got to develop once the latter was fired, Caboclo enjoys the full support of his GM and coach and can pursue a development path set by an organization that is committed to him.  Both players were positioned as side-projects with no near-term expectations being set, one just happens to arrive in a more organized and vastly less chaotic situation than the other.  Looking far into the future, perhaps it’s this organized context and improved relationship that will ultimately prove to be key if Caboclo does pan out. The hurt McGrady felt in his early years in Toronto considerably fed his decision to leave, which is something we won’t have to worry about with Caboclo, if it does come to that.

The McGrady comparison isn’t just limited to the development situation and can be extended to player similarities.  They play the same position, were 18 years old at the time of drafting, Caboclo is an inch taller at 6’9″ and McGrady was 12 pounds heavier at 212.  McGrady had a big 7’2″ wingspan for his size, Caboclo’s is at 7’7″.   Both were raw talents which had not played any NCAA or international basketball, were not considered NBA-ready, and were drafted solely based on upside.  McGrady’s draft stock had been made high, not because of any extensive scouting, but due to the success high-schoolers Kobe Bryant (1996) and Kevin Garnett (1995) were having in the league.  It was a time where the NBA had yet to implement its age restriction rules and drafting high-schoolers was what the cool teams did, and so McGrady’s stock rose.  If this was 1997 and the craze about young, raw, high-school talents were at its peak, Caboclo just may have surpassed McGrady on that 1997 draft board.

The Raptors organization, despite their considerable failings in every regard over the last decade, has been fairly adequate at player development which gives us some hope for Caboclo. Players such as Terrence Ross, Jonas Valanciunas, DeMar DeRozan, Chris Bosh, Morris Peterson, Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, and others saw their games improve under the Raptors watch, whereas low-talent fodder such as Joey Graham and Rafael Araujo never had much of anything that could be developed. Given this history of bringing up young players, Caboclo should feel somewhat at ease that his future is in competent hands.

From a fans perspective, there really isn’t anything to lose and Caboclo gives us a sidebar to focus on throughout the season. In past years we’ve half-heartedly monitored the likes of Solomon Alabi and Roko Ukic in their quest to prove themselves to be something special, fully knowing in our hearts that that was very unlikely. In Caboclo, the equation is a little different. He possesses superior physical tools, is raw to the point where he can be molded through coaching, and is by the accounts we’ve heard, a dedicated individual who takes the game seriously. He appears to have the foundational elements that make a player successful, making it a matter of instruction, personal development, and above all, commitment from the player.

I feel it’s important to contrast the opportunity cost of the pick, i.e., drafting a rotation player, with what many ‘tank nation’ members wanted from this draft. There was a strong belief that the Raptors should have targeted a high pick in the draft to get a shot at the likes of Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and Joel Embiid, players who are viewed as being NBA-ready and having a high-ceiling based on extremely impressive physical attributes and a short college resume. Though the Raptors 2013-14 season changed its course once Rudy Gay was traded, meaning that a high pick was no longer in view, the drafting of Caboclo should please those fans, at least to a certain degree. Rather than take a player with a decent floor and an above-average ceiling in any of the players that went between 21-30, the Raptors swung for the fences for a guy with potentially a very high ceiling but at the cost of near-term profit, which is what many fans who despite the road to mediocrity prefer. Instead of getting a guy who is NBA-ready and has a high ceiling, we settled for someone who might never even make it to the NBA but who, if he does make it, could be one of the most high-impact players around. I believe this is exactly how gambling works and when it comes to the crapshoot that is the draft, a gamble isn’t a half-bad option, especially if the alternatives are less exiting, albeit more stable.

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  • robertparish00

    I thought of McGrady too on draft night. He is just so young, same stature, same hops, same lack of competition. Love the article. BTW anyone catch Brooklyn fans booing just the name of the Toronto raptors before the selection. Rivalry brewing.

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  • Alex Vostrikov

    not exactly a good comparison.
    mac did play in north America through his teens….. and if not mistaken, he did win “best high school player of the year award”. and just look back at his annual adidas performance before the draft…..
    you have to dominate at lower levels in order to became something.
    summer league will say it all… where he is, and WHO he is.
    so my friend, you just compared “d1ck” to “finger”

    • Roarque

      Charming comparison – thought of a career in journalism? Forget it.

      • grammarpatsy

        Article could also have used some editing.
        “More organized and vastly less chaotic”? My high school English teacher would’ve failed me for such redundancy.
        Also wtf is “out surpassed”?

        • kofheartz

          its a blog, not a f*cking high school essay

  • KJ-B

    Agreed. Good read and well said Arse. Roll’ em dices!

    Bruno has an uncanny look to a young tenaged Wilt Chamberlain when he worked at that hotel lifting up suitcases from the ground floor to 2nd level suites. Hopefully he pans out–with good coaching who knows how good he can really be.

    All in with this pick!

  • mountio

    I see where you are coming from, but the big difference is that TMac already had crazy all around basketball skills. The word right away was this guy could win the dunk contest with the stuff he was doing in practice. He lacked the BBall IQ for sure .. but Im not even sure that Bruno can beat his man off the dribble in a pick up game and dunk on him, let alone at the NBA level.
    So, while I hear ya .. I think its a pretty big stretch. The questions on Bruno are will he ever develop basketball skills, period (ie jumpshoot, first step, defense, etc), whereas with TMac, he had all that against high schoolers or guys at the park .. the question was whether he could translate that to the NBA (and learn schemes, etc.). While both guys are raw in their own way, there is a big difference between TMac raw and Bruno raw.

  • Mexiballer

    Tracy McGrady was considered the best high school player in the country and was drafted with the 9th pick. Everyone knew who he was. He was a good asset who had trade value from day one.

    • johng_3

      Well thats unfair. Bruno is the best player at Basketball Without Borders. That counts for something right?

      • Mexiballer

        No. Not really. It may mean something in ten years but right now it means very little when you are assessing a player to play against the best players in the world.

        • ckh26

          The kid is who he is. What you see when you view it through a filter is what he becomes.

          ESPN didn’t know SFA about him so he’s an unknown stretch and the subject of a punch line.

          The Raps scouted him and draw parallels to Tracy McGrady.
          He could be either. We will know inside of 18 months.

          • Mexiballer

            ESPN did know something about him. Fran Fraschilla is ESPN’s analyst specializing in international players. He knew more about him then anyone else did when Brunos name was called. He predicted the day before that Bruno would be drafted. But not until the second round.

            I agree…Bruno is an unknown.

        • johng_3

          so what does being the best high school player in the country mean? nothing either then right if we are assessing a player entering the NBA. Just because he is an unknown and you or many others may not have heard of him, doesn’t mean he is complete shit.

          • Mexiballer

            Being the best high school player in the U.S. means a lot. Its huge. A short list of players who jumped directly from a U.S high school to the N.B.A are… Kobe Bryant…Lebron James…Kevin Garnett…Dwight Howard…Amare Stoudamire…Shawn Kemp…Tracy McGrady…Darrell Dawkins.

            Three current players that could have gone from high school to the N.B.A. if it were not for current rule restrictions are Kevin Durant…Derrick Rose and Kevin Love. At least 90% or more past N.B.A. superstars are from U.S. high schools.

            Im not sure if any player from Basketball without Borders has ever had a participating player become an N.B.A. regular. So being the best basketball player at Basketball without Borders means very little.

            I did not say that Bruno Cabloco was complete shit. I said that he was unknown.

            • johng_3

              And there has been a lot of top high school prospects who jumped to high school who haven’t been so good (ex. Jonathan Bender, Sebastian Telfair, Darius Miles, Kwame Brown). So don’t forget to mention the one and done and many high school to NBA fails. I am pretty sure KD, D Rose and K Love will say they were happy they went to college even though they had to wait an extra year

  • Milesboyer

    It seems like you may have cherry picked your data. Joey Graham, Ukic and Alabi didn’t work out and therefore we “half-heartedly monitored their progress”. If Bruno doesn’t pan out, he gets thrown into the same category. If he does, then he was more like McGrady, i.e. we all knew he would become good. The fact is, this is a huge role of the dice which for the 20th pick, isn’t so bad. I don’t think anybody including Masai knows how this is going to work out.

    • SR

      I think you misread that – we halfheartedly monitored their progress because those players always had a much lower ceiling. Alabi was never going to become Bosh, and Joey would never become Vince. We all knew that. In that context, fan interest in player development is only “halfheared.” Interest is going to be much higher in Bruno’s development.

      • Milesboyer

        The draft position creates expectation. Had the Raptors taken Bruno in the second round (which very well could/should have happened) the expectation for his development wouldn’t be any higher than that of Roko Leni Ukic. We project all this stuff based on draft position which can be somewhat random.

  • Louvens Remy

    Bruno is the Raptors baby egg

  • dino4life

    Good article but 1 thing: only Parker & Randle are considered NBA-Ready. Very few high upside picks are considered NBA-ready because they are freshman, they are only expected to play defense because of their physical gifts so it becomes only a question of effort & dedication, and juniors & seniors are considered ready & expected to contribute on the stat sheet but low upside which is what tank nation didn’t want.

  • IceManLikeGervin

    This is not a logical comparison at all……

  • Steverino

    Full support of the coach? We all saw Casey chain certain players to the bench this season. I doubt Caboclo will be any different whenever he joins the team (if Casey’s still around). Remember how long it took Valanciunas to play significant minutes? And he was way more polished than Caboclo.

  • dave9t5

    I think a more apt comparison would be the Brazilian Jamario Moon, ha ha.