Let’s start here: This was a Summer League game. They matter little, and the Toronto Raptors played against a Los Angeles Lakers team that did not start top pick Julius Randle, instead boasting only Kendall Marshall, Jordan Clarkson (a pre-draft favorite of mine who looked terrific Friday), Rodrigue Beaubois, Kyle Murphy and DeAndre Kane as conceivable NBA players. This was not a strong opponent, and the situation has been systematically designed for young players to work on their games in a risk-free environment.

All of those are reasons to love LVSL from a development perspective, and while it’s necessary to take any performances with cubic meters of salt, it’s also the perfect place for a player like Bruno Caboclo to start his NBA journey.

Caboclo, as you surely know, was the Raptors’ No. 20 selection in this year’s draft, a pick that shocked many considering his limited professional and international experience. “He’s two years away from being two years away,” ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla famously said on draft night, as the panel labeled O Escolhido as “the Brazilian Kevin Durant.” (A quick aside: some have reached out on Twitter suggesting we try to kill the BKD name. That’s not happening, but it’s part of why I’m pushing O Escolhido so hard. It’s Portugese for The Chosen One and sounds cool as hell.)

The book on Caboclo was that he was all length and athleticism, and that his development into a useful NBA player would take some time. Instead, it took about four minutes.

Okay, so that was just one move, but it’s an impressive one and serves as a nice jumping-off point for Caboclo’s debut evaluation. We’ll get to others shortly, but I think I’m safe in assuming most want to hear about Caboclo first.

He was…impressive. Again, Summer League, and all necessary caveats, but this was decidedly not a player who looked “two years away from being two years away.” Was he the best player on the floor? Of course not. Was he one of the five or six best? Probably, and considering he doesn’t turn 19 for another two months, that’s something to be excited about. Optimism should always be kept in check, and I’m sure we’ll be accused of fuelling the hype train, but I’m being honest when I say this: I walked away from Caboclo’s debut far more intrigued and excited than I entered it.

His clearest path to making an impact is on the defensive end, where his near 7-foot-7 wingspan can be an appreciable tool. That kind of a wing span on a player under 6-foot-10 playing the three or the four jumps out at you as you watch, and it clearly confounded Lakers players on several occasions. His length allows him to make gambles on the defensive end that other players aren’t afforded, specifically when it comes to reaching in as a player drives by – that’s something Caboclo flashed good timing with, and something he can do safely since he can reach in more aggressively than most without leaving his man. It also allowed him to look like a wacky inflatable arm-flailing tube man when guarding someone in a face-up situation, something that maybe won’t be effective against savvier players but can at least disrupt proceedings.

Perhaps most impressively, Caboclo showed solid instincts as a help defender. His length and reach are such that he has major potential as a shot-blocker on the wing, and if he can capably help on drives (and again, his length will let him close back out to his man in the corner with a hand up more effectively than most), those should come. He altered several shots and forced a couple of passes at the rim in a help role. It wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops, however, as Caboclo learned right away that being a good help defender will occasionally mean getting put on a poster.

On the offensive end, the team didn’t ask Caboclo to do a whole lot. The first play of the game saw Caboclo lose his man on a cut, corral a pass and score a layup, a nice icrebreaker for him to be sure. He also hit the above step-back three early on and nailed another late in the game, right after getting crammed on, finishing the game 2-for-2 on triples and 5-of-7 overall for 12 points.

The team didn’t task him with dribbling much – his touches came primarily as a cutter or spotting up – but he did drive once for a layup off-glass. It wasn’t pretty, and Caboclo’s handle is understandably raw, with a high, looping dribble. He also tallied three turnovers, though one was probably the passer’s (I believe Dwight Buycks, but don’t quote me) fault, dishing to Caboclo on a bounce as he cut into traffic. He racked up five fouls in his 24 minutes, too, which is to be expected as he gets a feel for the speed and angles of the NBA game.

Overall, it’s really tough to be anything but excited from this outing. The turnovers, fouls and handle are concerns, but they’re concerns you’d have with most rookies, anyway, and ones that are more than understandable given his experience level. The bigger takeaway here is that Cabcolo can already do some things well – frustrate passing lanes, provide help defense, and shoot the ball. It’s unclear how much he’ll be relied on when the season gets under way and whether more experienced offensive players could take advantage of his inexperience, but we’re so early in the development path here that it’s okay to look mostly at the positives.

This was a really, really good first step.

Think it’s a one-game blip? You can see more video on Caboclo here.

The 2018 NBA Most Valuable Player was not content with his debut, mean-mugging like the boss he has following the game.

Think it’s just Raptor bias? Here’s an encouraging take from outside our echo chamber:

Since we’re already 1,000 words deep just from O Escolhido and nobody actually cares about the flow of the game, we’ll go through the notables, player by player.

Bebe Nogueira
While it wasn’t quite on Caboclo levels, I also walked away impressed with parts of Nogueira’s game. Let’s start with what he has shown he can do already: hit the 18-footer, pass in the pick-and-roll, dive hard enough to draw a defender. He can be an asset in the pick-and-roll already, and as he learns post moves and more intricacies beyond “pass, shoot or dive,” he could be a solid piece on that end. He shot 4-of-4 for 10 points in 20 minutes.

Here’s what he couldn’t do: read the floor very well on offense. He had four turnovers quickly, and I counted at least two that were just poor passing decisions, once trying to thread a needle that wasn’t there and once trying to pass cross-court, LeBron James style, from the block. He’ll (hopefully) learn what he can and can’t do in that regard, but a young big man is almost always going to come with turnover issues.

Now, the enticing part, what he could eventually do: Nogeuira has strong defensive instincts, and at a long 7-feet, there’s obvious potential here on the defensive end. He showed an ability to trap ball-handlers above the 3-point line in the pick-and-roll, and his recoveries into the lane were about as crisp and timely as you’d hope. He was also in the right position to block shots as a help-defender on multiple occasions. The issue, then, is that Nogueira doesn’t seem nearly as confident defensively as he does offensively, which is backwards. Several times he was in the right spot at the right time to make a play, but either kept his arms down or didn’t make a play on the ball, limiting himself to being just a body in the way.

Again, it’s one game, and all caveats apply, but it was evident why Nogueira was the No. 16 pick as a long-term project just one year ago.

DeAndre Daniels
Well, you don’t have to ask Daniels to shoot. That seems to be the only thought crossing his mind at all times on offence. While it didn’t fall much on Friday – he shot 2-of-8, though he hit 2-of-5 threes – and his release is very deliberate, he’s got some stones, at the very least. The odd time he put the ball on the floor, his handle looked better than I remember from U-Conn, and he hit the boards really hard on the defensive end.

I’m still on board with the Euro-stash plan for Daniels for a year to help him refine his game and continue his growth on defense (which is tough to evaluate in this one given the competition).

Dwight Buycks
If he wasn’t already a lock to be waived by July 22 when his contract becomes guaranteed, he tried his darndest on Friday. Buycks does some things well – he’s aggressive, he has a quick first step and a tight handle, and he likes getting to the rim. Unfortunately, he’s already 25 and still has no semblance of what he should and should not do as the initiator of a team’s offense. I don’t think it’s a case of him trying too hard to keep his job, either, because he played like that whenever he got run this past season, too. Overall he shot 4-of-12 in 28 minutes, scoring 14 points and dishing five assists with just two turnovers, but his 12 attempts mostly came at the expense of the team’s offense, and he played matador on defense too often (he was bullied in the post by Marshall and lost his man in transition at least two times).

Scott Machado
Sigh. This is my dude, and he disappointed. 12 minutes with LVSL reserves is a tough evaluation window, but Machado dishes two dimes, missed two shots and somehow managed five turnovers. It wasn’t what I had hoped to see from a guy I’ve liked a lot as a potential PG3 since college.

Myck Kabongo
Kabongo was a DNP-CD, with nothing apparently wrong keeping him out of the lineup. It’s possible the Raptors want to get long looks at Buycks, Kabongo and Machado separately rather than splitting minutes each game. I know some fans want Kabongo, but it’s worth keeping in mind he averaged less than 10 points a game in the D-League last season and didn’t stand out in last year’s Summer League, either.

The Others
Hassan Whiteside – He is enormous, he flashed a bit of range and he’s active, if a bit out of control, on defense. 11 rebounds and a pair of blocks in 17 minutes could get him a longer look later in the tourney.

Marcus Lee – UCLA what’s good! Lee didn’t fill the stat sheet in his 18 minutes but worked hard on defense and looked a better passer than I expected. Still, three points isn’t going to get you a job.

John Shurna – If this dude was Canadian, every reader would be clamoring for him on the team now. He shot 6-of-9 and hit a ridiculous 5-of-8 on threes, good for a team-high 21 points in 24 minutes. Dude can shoot, that’s for sure.

T.J. Bray – 12 points with three triples in 22 minutes. Poor man’s Shurna, move on. (Seriously, these two combined for 33 points with 8-of-11 long-range shooting in 46 minutes!)

Darington Hobson – Like Lee, he didn’t stand out as a positive or a negative.

The Raptors play again tomorrow night at 6 p.m. We’ll have coverage, but it won’t be me. Hopefully it’s someone more efficient with their words.

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53 Responses to “Raptors win LVSL opener, Bruno looks much closer than “2 years from 2 years away””

  1. rapierraptor

    Nice write up. A lot of intriguing prospects on the team. Shurna would help this team more than Hansbrough. It wasn’t just his shooting. He made some really savvy defensive plays too.

  2. leftovercrack

    I can’t remember a summer league that was more interesting and relevant for the Raptors. Maybe Bruno can learn directly in the bigs instead of spending time in Europe or the D-League. I didn’t believe it at first, but maybe giving him 5 minutes a game the first year while having him work with the trainer and practice with the Raps’ vets will work

  3. doncity

    Caboclo looked really impressive in terms of his basketball skill IQ. He has touch on that jumper which wasn’t what I was expecting at all. His game feels a lot more polished than previously advertised and just looking at him on the floor I’m wondering if he would have been a sure-fire lottery pick if circumstances were different.

    I’m not expecting him to tear up the league at 19, but he looks more like a legitimate prospect than a project already. Kudos to Masai!

  4. Rap fan 2

    John Shurna was impressive. If he continues playing well someone is bound to pick him up and give him a shot. With Bruno, he’s only going to get better. It’s just a matter of time. He’s got a lot of tools to impact the game already. He’s a natural already on the defensive end. Great start in a summer league game.

    • leftovercrack

      Much as I like Shurna, he is a forward, mainly PF, and we already have Amir, Patterson, Hansborough, JJohnson, Hayes, Bruno and even Bebe assuming he comes over from Europe this year. It’s not really a team need. The only remaining hole in the lineup to be filled is 3rd PG and Machado shit the bed. I’d like to see a lot of Kabongo next game

  5. Guest

    Blake, you shouldn’t be self-deprecating about your own use of words. The writing is appreciated.

  6. KuH

    You forgot to mention that Bebe really set some good picks. That impressed me: it’s a valuable skill for a big man to have. He’s almost an Amir Johnson Jr out there.

    • Heyjoe

      The pick and roll, that statistic that for some reason is never used by the media or used as a metric to “evaluate” an NBA players performance.

      I would love to see who the league leaders are in picks set per game 🙂

      • KuH

        Agreed. We’d also need a metric for pick quality as well.

        You don’t want to count those half-ass quasi-picks where the picker rolls too quickly (as JV unfortunately does too often). You want to see the defender thumping into the pick like a body-check, followed by the roll … a la Amir, and Bebe.

  7. raptorstand

    The kids first play lays up the alley oop , couple minutes later hits the step back 3 . Reggie Miller says the kids arms hang to his knees. Makes a couple jittery turn overs but recovers with a block and a nice jump shot . Shit , I thought this guy was going to be a bumbling fool. Bruno would be a major signing at Kansas or Kentucky with all the hype that entails , hes 18 hes still growing, he adds ten lbs, and gets some teaching this year there is no reason he isn’t a factor next year. Very impressed.

  8. asifyouknow

    The most interesting thing about this game was the half time interview with Kyle. He had some interesting comments.
    He mentioned that the reason he came back was because he had an opportunity to have a team that he could his own and also said -I have an opportunity to call it my team-

    WOW wonder if the rest of the team feel the same way…I had no idea this was his team…….Did LeBron come to Toronto? lol

      • asifyouknow

        I agree … but there are only three guys who can truly say that..in other words that they can dictate from what teammates to have to what kind of uniforms to wear : LeBron, Durant and Duncan.
        But yea he is the leader but this not “his” team , he needs at least two rings for that…lol

        • DDayLewis

          Are you just trying to troll? Dirk has one ring. Is he not the leader of the Mavericks?

          It’s just semantics. Clearly Lowry is one of the leaders in the locker room. He’s not being arrogant and overstepping any bounds.

          • asifyouknow

            You know dude fuck you and your fucking wed site !
            I’m tired of you low level writing and comments, I don’t know what a troll is ! I do know you and many of your friend are just idiots who don’t understand what a debate is so you just go into the insults . I’m out ….
            Have a great life..

              • Mexiballer

                A day or two is more like it. He has promised to go away before but he keeps coming back.

            • keith

              Fuck, it only took a couple months for you to get a fucking clue. We don’t want you here!

              Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way to go complain and say negative remarks to some other fan base. I hear the Cavs are looking for a Debbie downer.

              Good riddance. No loss on our part. Debate, you just want to say shit. You don’t debate anything. Just throw out BS predictions. I hope you never come back!

            • johnny moondog

              Good for you, my friend. I’ve noticed that the people here are a bunch of nasty pricks towards you… and for apparently very little reason.

              • feylines

                dude makes ridiculous claims, gets called out, then backtracks without acknowledging. rude

              • keith

                Little reason? Hr talks trash toward this team, this fan base, these players. He has never said anything positive about this team. He is also a self proclaimed fan of other teams, so he isn’t even a fan! He is just coming on here to say crap for no reason. Yes I curse, because he pisses me off when he always says the stuff he says. He calls it debate, there is nothing to debate. He just says factoids! Factoids=false facts.

            • Chewwy No Matthew

              The problem we have with you is that you seem to intentionally bring negativity to this site. You went on constantly “don’t worry, Vasquez won’t be back next year” to say we all didn’t want him back. Giving Vasquez criticism as with all Raptor players doesn’t mean hatred towards that player. Many of us are thrilled he’s back, regardless of what BS you say.
              You do have a habit of getting your panties in a bunch when called out for non sensical comments or when you are asked to elaborate to support your point. Here you contradicted yourself. You said that only 3 guys ( James, Durant and Duncan) can dictate in a way to say this is “his team”. Kyle needs at least two rings for that yet last time I checked, Durant has as many rings as Kyle.
              Kyle is clearly the leader of this team and many of us were thrilled to listen to him refer to this as his team. Players lead by example and to watch Lowry sacrifice his body diving for balls, taking charges and playing hard clearly proves him to be the leader. It is his team.

            • Chewwy No Matthew

              A troll is a person who sows discord on the internet by starting arguments or upsetting people by posting inflammatory, extraneous or off-topic messages in an online community ( Newsgroup, chat room, forum or blog) with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response, or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.
              This describes you 100%. You are clearly not a Raptors fan and being a Vasquez fan doesn’t qualify you. Capish?

            • Johnson

              Yo in the Greivis Vazquez re-signing comments i replied to your dumb post saying how you were completely wrong and said fuck you. You were offended (because you’re a bitch) and replied

              “Again great language choice, you will go far in life I’m sure ,,congrats..” -asifyouknow

              So what do i see here? This: “You know dude fuck you and your fucking wed site !”- asifyouknow

              Fucking troll do you know what a hypocrite is?

              K. That does it. I’m tired of trying to explain this to you bitch

              Get off this website no one likes you. Ima troll you hard af

            • Guest

              I’ve heard you say you were leaving and not coming back before. We’ll see if you mean it this time.

    • GoingBig

      While you have been focused on GV starring and Kyle Lowry supposedly leaving, Lowry has spent the last year making it his team by his leadership.
      Onions, baby! Onions !!!

    • Tamberlyn Richardson

      Not to be contrary but I cited that exact fact as the main reason I was 100% confident in Lowry returning. I’ll bet it was a key selling point for Masai who challenged him to take that role last season upon Gay’s departure.

      Remember Lowry felt he was mistreated in both Memphis and Houston where he was constantly put in a tandem PG position and didn’t like it. He would play with his usual 100% and when he’d get hurt wouldn’t automatically get re-inserted as the starter. I imagine it ticked him off and likely contributed to his reputation as being difficult. If we extrapolate that into our own lives; image you did a kick ass job on a project, went above and beyond what your co-workers delivered and then got sick. Upon return to work you’re told: sorry we’re going with someone else now. You’d be pissed right?

      To be fair DeMar and Kyle share the leadership duties, however DeMar is quieter, so leads by example. In the Raptor Press Conference, Kyle noted he called DeMar everyday & said he just let him talk and then chuckled saying well D doesn’t talk much anyway. Look at Kawhi Leonard the recent Championship MVP as an example. Even though Leonard won MVP the Spurs are not his team, nor are they Timmy’s team any longer, they are Parker’s team. Pop says it, Timmy says it, they all say it. (granted I’d say they really are Pops team if he wants the mantle).

      My point is point guards in basketball are like quarterbacks in football. They distribute the passes, get the plays put into initial motion, set the pace and take over when needed. Ultimately they are the on-floor coach. There are exceptions like LeBron James but for the most point the guards control the game. Kyle fills that role and then some.

      I get your perspective, however mine is completely the opposite, I grinned because he is OWNING it & it bodes well for the Raptors that he is, because it means he takes responsibility and will make sure to lead the team. And that’s a great thing for the Raptors.

      Suffice to say if we could take Kyle’s heart and passion and put it in every Raptor player now and in the future I’d be thrilled. But that’s just me.

      • tonious35

        I think Masai’s and TL’s hands-on meeting with Kyle in 2013 could of also possibly prevented another possible point guard controversy like TJ and Calderon back in 2008. I credit a chunk of our PG-Team relationship to a front office that is ACTUALLY taking proper responsibility of its franchise.

        • Tamberlyn Richardson

          Absolutely. Lowry references that meeting all the time when speaking of his respect for Masai. Obviously Masai laid the cards on the table and gave him objectives to reach as a player, leader and man. Based on Kyle’s style of play and what we can deem of his personality it stands to reason he would respect someone treating him that way more than ignoring him or like an employee i.e. just being TOLD what to do.

          It was a smart business decision by Ujiri and by Kyle in my opinion to develop this relationship and I honestly believe it has more to do with how Kyle plays now b/c it gives him ownership.

    • Heyjoe

      Wow your really picking apart what he’s saying here. For one thing, he is the leadership figure on the team, so in a sense it is his god damned team. For another, what he was probably trying to say is that this is his team, meaning the team that he represents and a team he plans to stick with. Kyle bounced around a bit before landing in Toronto and has never seen the stability he’s getting here with his contract. If anything I find it very likely that what he was saying by “my team” is more akin to “my home” than what you are portraying it as.

  9. DinoMex

    is the first time I write in this blog, I’ve been a fan of this team since childhood and just encouraged me to write because I have to say that next seasons will be the most exciting in our history, a great team is forming.

    Latinoamerica present in our team, I pride.
    pardon my English. Greetings from mexico.

    • Heyjoe


      Also, your English is great for it being your second language, better than the English that of some native speakers I know 🙂

  10. tonious35

    It took Caboclo 4 minutes to be this good and it took Austin Daye 4 years to only look this good

  11. CashGameND

    thanks for the writeup on the game. and the gif’s are soooooo muuuuch appreciated. As a fan who doesn’t have access to watching I am super excited to see anything I can on bruno & bebe. So the more gifs the better, thanks for doing them!

  12. Tamberlyn Richardson

    Like Blake I was pleasantly surprised by Caboclo’s initial appearance. I think coming to Toronto will help him as opposed to landing on a lottery team. True he’d get more minutes, but he’ll get what he needs more here: coaching. Reports say he is sponge and a gym rat, so every second he gets with the coaching staff and facing the starters will accelerate his growth.

    Something that stood out for me was his gazelle like gait, actually reminded me a little of Wiggins though not quite as bouncy.

    As noted Bebe had some pluses and some obvious areas requiring improvement. I hope he remains with the club though where he can get coaching from Magloire and mentorship from Hayes. It would be Ideal if he does stay in Toronto so the two young Brazilians can transition with the new language and culture together.

    Thinking about our young core and added depth it’s exciting to think Bruno and Bebe will likely be sitting in the seats Stone and Buycks were in last season. Funny how much can change in a year.

  13. M1GO

    Each summer for the past couple years I’ve been saying that Machado is gonna be a player, he just needs time to prove himself. And each year he manages to prove me dead wrong. I’m done with that guy… Dude sucks. Bring on Kabongo.

  14. kayl

    I think tomorrow is the day that we get a better look at what bruno brings to the table. I thought he did better than expected forsure, but as raptors fans in the moment of watching this crazy man hit a beauty of a stepback 3, we (or atleast I) got a bit ahead of myself in excitedness. He played well but needed to bring passing and rebounding (unfortunately I don’t think he has great hands yet) to the game.
    I’m Hoping he gets feedback from the coaches which will show up positively tomorrow. Also theres a good chance that he had some jitters of his first big game w/ lots of minutes so Its quite possible he can do better tomorrow. I’m hoping to see tomorrow some sound D and hopefully a few more shots that arent just corner catch and shoot 3’s

    Also gotta say I was dead wrong about this guy. He seems like a solid pick, god bless masai and thank god we didnt take Napier

    • LuckyMystery

      It’s not gonna be easy to fully evaluate Caboclo in summer league, He’s the only guy on the team with a guaranteed contract. Everyone else is trying to do whatever they can to impress all the scouts. Don’t get me wrong he should still get his touches, but summer league ball isn’t the most organized ball there is.

  15. IceManLikeGervin

    Bruno is about 2 years away…..DeAndre Daniels should be on the roster not stashed in Europe….



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