Though 2014 was projected as the deepest draft in years it could just as easily have been described as the draft of uncertainty.

Three prospects from 3 different countries were heralded as franchise changers, but no one could mutually agree on the top pick.

In the next tier were more quality prospects and more questions. Two players within this group sat at opposite ends of the spectrum: Australian point guard Dante Exum perhaps benefited from a lack of exposure while Julius Randle suffered from over exposure.

Additionally, there was a group of young budding athletes projected as future stars (Gordon/Vonleh).  While others had excelled in college, yet left uncertainty if they could perform in the NBA or had already reached their ceiling (Napier).

But it was the Raptors selection of Bruno Caboclo at 20 that sent reporters, social media and the fan base into a frenzy. The question was simply: who?

Raptors GM: Masai Ujiri and his staff had worked tirelessly to secure home grown talent Tyler Ennis, but Chicago’s action to move their 16th and 19th picks ironically to the team Ujiri had left for Toronto may well have set the dominoes in motion for Phoenix to steal Ennis.  Reports said Caboclo had a guarantee from the Raptors at 37, however Toronto heard rumblings *4 other teams were interested in acquiring Caboclo prior to that.

* The Starters: Tas Melas reported Oklahoma City and San Antonio were both interested and Ryan Wolstat tweeted Utah and Phoenix were hot after Caboclo and would have selected him with their next picks.

Prior to posting this article I decided to wait for Saturday’s press conference just to see if my initial instincts shifted (they didn’t).

Ironically, Ujiri touched on a similar point to my thoughts below, so I’m not sure if that means I’m thinking like a G.M. or it was just a fortunate coincidence. Regardless, here was my preliminary response to the frenzied reaction of the trade:

Question: What do the following players have in common with Bruno Caboclo?

  • Donatas Motiejunas
  • James Anderson
  • Alexis Ajinca
  • Jason Smith
  • Renaldo Balkman
  • Julius Hodge

Answer: They all were selected 20th in the NBA draft in the last 10 years.

I’m sure most fans would agree players such as Ibaka, Batum, Dragic, Pekovic, Asik, Arenas, and Ginobili are all better talents than the listed players. Amazingly all of them were drafted after 20 and were considered projects or chances.  In fact the first 5 names on this second list were drafted in 2008. For the most part these 5 have outperformed many of the picks selected before them.

The point is, when it comes to drafting a prospect certainly skill and ceiling are factors but equally important is the player’s drive. It’s why so many teams consider intangibles like motor, basketball I.Q. and the player’s commitment to improve.

I get why some of the Raptor faithful get anxious especially given duds like Caboclo’s countryman Rafael Araujo .  To those fans let me remind you of Oden, Beasley, Porter, Yi, Flynn, Morrison and Thabeet who were all selected in the top six of their drafts.

Past Raptor picks Damon Stoudemire (Rookie of the Year) was not a popular choice and many were disappointed we selected Terrence Ross over Austin Rivers.  The bottom line is drafting isn’t an exact science and sometimes you swing for the fences and get lucky.

As fans we want the best for our team especially after their most recent success, but remember it’s the current nucleus that got the team there.  Let’s return to December; how many of you thought the Rudy Gay trade signaled the Raptors entry into tank mode? Well, in fairness I didn’t, but I’m the eternal optimist.  Keep in mind Ujiri landed in management due to his prowess in scouting.

Yes the Bruno Caboclo pick surprised virtually everyone on the set of the draft, the media and the fan base, however as highlighted above he was on several other teams’ radar. Given there was interest from the Thunder and Spurs we can assume this wasn’t a complete wild card pick. Kenneth Faried wasn’t as high on most GM’s lists either and he made Ujiri look brilliant.

The next step for Caboclo will be heading to Los Angeles where several players are spending their off season. Assistant Coach and player development specialist Jesse Mermuys is also living there to assist the players in their individual off season homework. Caboclo will undoubtedly be given an extensive list of areas to focus on, meet his new teammates and more importantly be shown the work ethic required by team leaders Johnson and DeRozan in order to succeed in the NBA.

Brazilian Basketball player Bruno Caboclo drafted 20th over all by the Raptors arrives on Porter Airlines  from Newark NJ at Billy Bishop Airport in Toronto. Toronto Star reporter Isabel Teotonio (in Red) talks to Bruno as he arrived.

As mentioned, I had wanted to see our new recruit prior to finalizing this piece and I’m glad I waited. In live footage we are treated to the young colt sinking three consecutive 3-point shots and 3 consecutive free throws. Immediately you see his length, basketball body (albeit one he needs to grow into and add muscle) and his raw potential. An excerpt from Open Gym provides some additional insight.

In his first media throng Bruno Caboclo definitely looks as young as his 18 years; however there is a certain endearing quality to him. In his best English he responds to questions of what he can bring to the team (3 & D), his favorite player (Durant) and how he feels about the ESPN correspondents over repeated 2 and 2 assessment. This last question draws a quick look at the interpreter for verification of what he heard.  He replies this is probably accurate, but stresses he intends to work hard to lower that timeframe.

As news broke late Sunday, Ujiri had traded John Salmons to Atlanta for Lou Williams and Lucas “Bebe” Nogueira it reminded me of Valanciunas first year with the club. At that time Linas Kleiza was a teammate who offered Jonas another Lithuanian speaking teammate.  If Nogueira remains with the club this would be a similar situation.  Side Note: For those feeling Ujiri whiffed on fulfilling specific needs of the team this acquisition offers a solid option at shooting guard in Lou Williams and potentially explains why the Raptors didn’t select either Canadian center Bachynski or Bhullar or invite either to summer league since this deal may already have been in the works.

When speaking to reporters Ujiri submits he knows the pick wasn’t popular but takes the stance that Caboclo is a long shot he was willing to bet on.  Then he masterfully uses the ESPN timeframe comment and stretches the terms out to five years. In one fell swoop he has flipped the script to remove any pressure from Caboclo’s timetable to meet specific deadlines as well as state he doesn’t care if it’s a popular decision, rather it’s simply his job and part of that is taking chances on talent.

Let’s face it there are no guarantees when it comes to the draft.  Just as the Raptors are taking a calculated risk, so too are the Sixers with Joel Embiid who could suffer a similar fate to Greg Oden or be plagued perennially with foot injuries like Brooke Lopez.

Though we really only have the brief footage we saw in Bruno’s introduction Saturday (and some grainy Youtube footage), there are a few stats which stand out to solicit some excitement regarding his upside. There’s the fact Caboclo’s estimated reach is measured at 7’7” that’s more than highly touted Noah Vonleh. There is his ability to hit the 3 pointer with ease and his propensity to want to play defense. Above all there are the reports from interviews in his native Brazil where he speaks to wanting to be the best player in the NBA and wanting to make his family and country proud. That and the fact he is just 18 point to Ujiri and Casey’s excitement.

Sure, Caboclo may never pan out and may never play significant minutes or contribute. On the other hand, he might be one of those rare talents who exceed expectations, matures rapidly and becomes the missing piece in our core group.  For those who are still unsure, remember Nic Stauskas went from being a player not even projected to be drafted to being selected eighth or the much hyped Joel Embiid who, up until four years ago hadn’t even played basketball.

Personally, I’ll take my chances on a prospect with unlimited raw talent over a bench player who might not even play or translate to the pros. I’m betting on the odds of Caboclo succeeding based purely on his obvious potential, what appears to be a drive to  make it  and our development staff who’ve worked wonders with the core youth on the Raptors.  If and when he does I’ll add another jersey to my collection. I’m just hoping we can convince the Marketing department to put his first name on it too because come on, how cool would a jersey with the name Bruno on it be?

  • Dev

    Sim Bhullar on the kings isn’t he?

    • Tamberlyn Richardson

      Yes, you are correct Sim was offered an actual contract by the Kings however it is not guaranteed. My guess is the Kings wanted to lock him down and then see what he brings in summer league.

      Based on what I’ve seen reported, several other Canadians have been invited to play in summer league. As I said, this doesn’t guarantee a signing but gives opportunity. If you recall that was how we picked up Dwight Buycks last year.

      Here is the list of who I’ve seen that received invitations and from which teams:

      Hornets: Jordan Bachynski
      Wizards: Khem Birch
      Kings: Nick Wiggins (Andrew’s Brother)
      Spurs: Melvin Ejim (I’ve also seen he was invited by the Sixers but more reports say Spurs)
      Raptors: Myck Kabongo (sorry but the thought of Matt Devlon and Jack Armstong calling a game that includes Kabongo to Caboclo for the dunk is is just too enticing)

      • IceManLikeGervin

        Ejim is playing for both the 76ers & Spurs summer league teams one plays in Orlando the other in Vegas. Brady Heslip (Baylor) is on the T’wolves summer league roster.

        • Tamberlyn Richardson

          Thanks, I knew I missed one. Good catch on Brady. :-)

    • Matteemo

      I really think Sim will be the equivalent of hot steamy garbage in the NBA until he can shed another 40-50 lbs and actually move around on the court. I think Ejim and Bachynski both have better shots at carving out a niche for themselves in the NBA.

  • truth be told

    “Kenneth Faried wasn’t as high on most GM’s lists either and he made Ujiri look brilliant”

    No one questioning that Ujiri has made good picks. With the Faried example however he was the leading rebounder in the NCAA’s that year so his actual basketball abilities and skills were on full display for many a scout to see against good competition. Rebounding is a skill that translates very well to the pro game from college so Faried had shown some flashes of being an NBA player in college.

    Caboclo appears to be getting drafted more on measurements and possible development than actual basketball skills. There is a huge difference between those 2 players and their selection.

    I respect that Ujiri came out and acknowledged its a straight gamble. What gets me is the media consensus that this selection, “possessing unlimited raw talent” is a much better option than picking a “bench player who might not even play or translate to the pros”. Caboclo arguably doesn’t know the game and is learning it on the fly yet the possibility of him not ever playing any minutes in the pros is not explored even though he has further to go than many of the other prospects drafted. Be objective with this. I know everybody loves Masai and he can do no wrong but he can be questioned.

    • Tamberlyn Richardson

      That’s fair. I appreciate everyone’s opinion. I took the perspective of examining who had been selected at 20 in the past 10 years as well as the prospects who excelled who were selected after 20. The argument can be skewed either way.

      It is said Ujiri’s forte is spotting new talent and granted I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt which could be viewed as naive. He was however reported to have been either the first (or one of) to discover Giannis Antetokounmpo and tried to get into the draft to get him. Unfortunately in this day and age of social media, news got out and he was no longer a secret. Bottom line: I buy the hype he’s got an excellent eye for raw talent.

      The fact OKC who drafted several prospects ahead of where they were slated to go (Westbrook, Ibaka and Adams who everyone said was a bust) and San Antonio were also looking at Caboclo means there was quality teams who agreed with Ujiri. Since we’ve been told he didn’t work out for anyone else, either rumors got out, other scouts saw him play or Masai’s reputation was enough for them to consider selecting the young Brazilian.

      I also factored in Embiid had never played the game until four years ago and we saw his rapid growth this year in the NCAA with constant coaching at his disposal.

      The article was meant to point out it’s a gamble either way and it’s simply my opinion Ujiri made the right decision.

    • IceManLikeGervin

      Exactly, questioned everything especially since they are charging money to get inside the ACC for games, for merchandise and the like….nothing is free in Raptors land…..they don’t cut ticket prices they raise up….Masai said he doesn’t care what people think about the Bruno pick well some of those people are cash paying fans & supporters of the Raptors….potential gets folks fired!!

  • Ade

    I always find it so funny that some many people (Fan and media) who do not have the resources, time or evaluation skills are dissing this pick…the truth is he was picked 20th, is young and has some upside, what more can you as for. For all of those Shabazz Raptors fan please remember Ed O’Bannon, Brandon Knight and Austin Rivers to this day i am glad we got Might Mouse, Big V and T-Ross. Our current GM’s and BC have done a great job at scouting and drafting players so lets all breath and give it some time to develop..i am betting that he turns out better than most of the guys picked after him.

    • Tamberlyn Richardson

      Exactly, we could be looking back in 4 years saying Caboclo was the steal of the trade! That’s the thing with raw talent, anything is possible. What I really like was reading how determined he is to succeed and he’s a gym rat which will mean he’ll kill himself trying. Some of the picks who get selected higher expect to get minutes or don’t put in the work upon induction simply because they made it. This kid strikes me as someone who has bigger goals in mind.

      • Andrew

        Well said

      • IceManLikeGervin

        Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiittttttttttttttttt…(Clay Davis voice)

  • robertparish00

    Interesting how at 20, the vast successes were unknown international players and the Americans (minus Arenas) were pretty busty.

    • AJBecker

      Idk about everyone else, but I like busty Americans!

      • robertparish00

        Me too! Busty 19-20 year old americans…lol.

  • JC

    I was surprised that Ujiri passed up on Napier at the 20th pick, but I am hopeful that Bruno will be one of those diamond-in-the-rough gems.

    • IceManLikeGervin

      Napier, Rodney Hood, CJ Wilcox or Kyle Anderson would have made sense @ #20. I wouldn’t get you hopes up too high on Bruno…..he may be a good kid but the NBA is a man’s game…

  • why

    Bill Simmons has an article on grantland on how much of a crapshhoot the draft is.
    Would rather take a risk like this at 20 where the potential opportunity cost is small vs. number 1 with a guy like Bargnani where the opportunity cosy is high (i.e. LeMarcus Aldridge)

  • IceManLikeGervin

    Yes, for the most part the draft is a crap shoot but that doesn’t mean that you actually go out and actively draft crap. NY Daily News : Try finding a GM who thinks that Toronto made a good move by taking Bruno Caboclo with the 20th pick. It’s virtually impossible. It’s not that scouts didn’t know about Caboclo, a 6-9 Brazilian forward. “Don’t even know if he’s a second-rounder,” said one personnel man who studied Caboclo on tape. I would rather draft players that can actually contribute this season and save the projects for 2nd round picks or unsigned free agents. SNapier, RHood, KAnderson (who the Spurs drafted)- it’ll be interesting following the careers of those taken after Bruno. 2 Brazilians of questionable NBA level talent but no Canadians- Raptors can’t be Canada’s team with no Canadians on the roster I’m sure there are some raw as sushi Canadians that can be developed as well- if that’s the course to be taken by the franchise. This pick still gets ‘The Gas Face’ (MC Serch voice)…..

    • rebag

      That’s funny, cause I couldn’t care less if there was a Canadian on the team.

      • IceManLikeGervin

        Fair enough but you are unlike many that I speak with in the Vancouver area basketball community who all want to see Canadians on the Raptors. I can’t imagine a Canadian based NHL team with no Canadians on it.

        • Jason LeBel

          Maple Leafs a couple of years ago had no Canadians (Don Cherry made a big stink about it)

    • Tamberlyn Richardson

      You won’t get an argument from me regarding having Canadian talent on the team. If you read my pre-draft article you’ll know how hyped I was. Honestly I was so psyched to hear Adam Silver say “And with the 20th pick the Toronto Raptors select Tyler Ennis from Toronto”. Up until Phoenix picked at 18 I was viewing the draft like a playoff game. I experienced the same momentary sick feeling I do when we suffer a tough loss once Tyler was taken by the Suns. Depending on what happens with Bledsoe we may still see him in Toronto which would be great, but we won’t get to jump and down and have that special moment I was thirsting for on draft night.

      I was surprised the Raps didn’t select Khem Birch at 59 b/c he seems to be the type of player Ujiri would like.

      However, having said that Ujiri did say there WILL be Canadians on this team but we don’t know what the coaching staff/Ujiri knows about the prospects or their other plans. Perhaps the Hawks deal was already in the works on draft day and the thinking was the Raps would draft Ennis. Based on early reports Lucas “Bebe” Nogueira could be a suitable back-up to Jonas though he’ll need to gain weight. Raps need shot blocking at the position which he’ll bring and the reality is we need a center who can guard agile centers (the area of JV’s game where he has the most trouble).

      I want a Canadian(s) on the team, but they need to be the right fit, Tyler was the perfect fit. And let’s not forget this draft class wasn’t an anomaly, rather it signaled the sign of things to come. There are copious Canadians coming down the pipe for years to come so it’s only a matter of when not if.

      • IceManLikeGervin

        The Cleveland Cavaliers are Canada’s team I hope TSN shows all of their games this season I’m most certain that most basketball fans/supporters in Canada will be too……

        If the Raptors truely wanted Ennis (& Ennis stated that he wanted to play in the TDot) they would have had to trade up in order to ensure his selection but they didn’t they sat pat and the Suns drafted a solid rookie @ #18 to play behind Drago & Bledsoe ala Steve Nash playing behind Kidd & Kevin Johnson as a rookie.

        The Raptors won’t know who is the right fit until they start to bring them in a serious manner not a token gesture. Masai’s words are just words until it actually happens… and I don’t see summer league invitee Myck Kabongo making the Raptors roster in 2014-15 (I hope that I’m wrong).

        Bachynski or Bebe (who is still under contract in Europe for 2014/15- I don’t know if there’s a buyout)?

        Bruno or Ejim/Birch/Powell?

        Want a project take in Sim Bhullar that will get the fan base hyped up instead of feeling BC’d once again with the Raptors talking media heads acting like Masai knows more about basketball than anyone else ala BC- follow the script.

        • johnn_19_2000

          Bebe has a $600K buyout at Estudientes in the ACB in Spain that Raptors can pay off, and a 4 year contract as a 16th pick starting at $1.5K whenever he comes over.

    • Nathan

      Did you really just post an article about putting together a basketball team and drafting well from New York? Their team’s a mess and has been for a while. You must be a knick fan. Enjoy Bargs and Calderon buddy.

  • DerekHologram

    Anyone opposed to this selection doesn’t have a single shred of evidence to base their opinion on and a sea of failed analogs for their preference of a known quantity, whereas those in favour are quite confident he “possesses unlimited raw talent”. There are so many stories like this it is as if MLSE wrote them itself. Do they send out talking points?

    • IceManLikeGervin

      MLSE has memo’d talking points that go out just like under BC……the TDot media is out in full force trying to spin this Bruno pick as being good for the Raptors while the US media is saying this kid was a fringe 2nd round pick at best….do the math..

      • DerekHologram

        Even the Raptors were going to take him in the 2nd round. One question I have is what happened to the other 4 players, besides Ennis, they were going to take in the first round? They claimed they had whittled the first round down to 5. Were they not rated higher than the guy they took?

        • IceManLikeGervin

          The Raptors are in supersonic pr spin mode who knows what is the truth coming from that camp it’s all about image not reality. That being said I do know that Capela was one prospect and he went to Houston @ #25. Kyle Anderson has to be one since San Antonio drafted him @ #30- you know how the Raptors try to emulate SA right down from stealing their ‘Pounding the Rock’ saying……. The other 3 could be from anywhere around the globe…

  • javalog

    Worth a punt at 20th pick – ppl are delusional thinking a conservative pick was a better choice.

  • Andre

    great article Tamberlyn! Keep them coming!!

  • Pyron

    I feel like a lot of fans are treat Bruno like he was a top 10 pick. If he was then yes everyone would hands down blast Masai but he wasn’t. If everyone is brought back playing time is pretty much already determined.

    The part I’m really happy about is taking a kid who’s only played ball for 5/6 years and are bringing him in now. He’ll have proper North American coaching (to get use to the NBA style of game), trainers (to work on that body), facilities, english teacher and gets a chance to know his team mates, coach, GM and our amazing city of Toronto (ranked 4th as best city of opportunity in the world

    I’m usually too optimistic for my own good for the Raps and hopefully Bruno is the Ace that we stash in our back pocket that we get to pull out in a few years.

    If not… he was a 20th pick.

  • relax don’t do it

    Bunch a Debbie downers on the pick. Be funny trying to guess their new posting handles in a couple of years. Spin the wheel of cynicism round and round.

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