Photo Credit: Matt Azevedo/MattAzevedo.com
Raptors 905 117, Long Island Nets 83 | Box Score
Assignees: Bruno Caboclo, Fred VanVleet (905), None (Nets)
For those who have lost patience with the four-year plan or never understood the Bruno Caboclo experiment from the outset, Sunday’s Raptors 905 game against the Long Island Nets was a concentrated presentation on why the Toronto Raptors took the gamble they did. Caboclo was at his best, thriving as a secondary player and making a number of plays at both ends that not only felt well within the flow of the system, but that also seemed like plays he wouldn’t have been able to string together a year ago. In that sense, Sunday’s game was also a reminder of the potential efficacy of a more robust D-League system, as however long-term the lens and whatever the eventual finish line, it would be difficult to argue Caboclo hasn’t improved a great deal in the past calendar year.
Even ignoring the threes – Caboclo hit a pair as he scored eight of the team’s points as they opened up an 11-0 lead – because they were there at a league-average clip last year, too, Caboclo’s showing some new signs on offense. He also scored on a nifty up-and-under move below the free-throw line when he seemed dead on his spot, cut for a dunk late in a possession, and threw a terrific high-low pass to C.J. Leslie that didn’t ultimately work out but showed how much his vision had improved (he had three assists that actually worked out, too). He wasn’t forcing anything, he looked comfortable in the team’s sets – still an issue in the larger sense as he gets used to switching between two, and even three, positions – and his 17 points were almost quiet if Caboclo wasn’t the sole focus of a lot of people watching.
— Raptors 905 (@Raptors905) November 20, 2016
His defensive showing was even more impressive, and he would have been a serious threat for an unconventional triple-double had the 905 not been up by 30-plus for the bulk of the fourth quarter, limiting his minutes some.
Not only was he a major factor on the glass, hauling in 10 rebounds in 30 minutes, but he was a major deterrent around the basket, altering a significant number of Nets shots. Two of his blocks were quite notable – one was in help defense at the rim acting as the primary rim-protector, and another was back-pedaling in transition, where he ended up with the ball, pushed it in transition, and kicked it to a corner shooter for a three. He’d start the second half by blocking Egidijus Mockevicius at the rim twice, too, no easy task given the talent the Lithuanian has in the post. His seven blocks represent a new 905 record, which is encouraging no matter what qualifiers you want to throw on it.
Caboclo still occasionally struggles as the big in more standard pick-and-roll scenarios (the 905 had him blitz a little more as the game wore on), and he surrenders the baseline too freely trying not to let a player get middle on him from the side, but the way he’s reading the game off the ball and as a post defender has come a really long way. He was also incredibly active in loose-ball scenarios, making a couple of really heady plays (including the save of a ball going over half, where Caboclo leaped and whipped a terrific pass for a late-clock assist).
Best of all, Caboclo’s performance had a profound and tangible impact on the 905 as a whole. This wasn’t an empty performance or sideshow, or the team breaking stride to showcase him. Caboclo swung this game and may have been the best 905 player on the court. He doesn’t need to be dominant with the ball in his hands, controlling the offense and commanding the game. Some want to see that, and it’s understandable, but looking at what Caboclo could and would be in the NBA, it’s this type of multi-faceted secondary player – hitting open shots, pushing the transition game, making hustle plays, and playing quality defense across several positions.
And sure, occasionally crossing a dude up and banging on an entire team, apparently.
Caboclo wasn’t the only 905 player to shine, though, and the team’s most significant run actually came with him on the bench, with a bench-heavy unit running away with things on two occasions (C.J. Leslie was somehow a plus-35 in 15 minutes). After a first half in which the team struggled a bit defensively, the 905 locked down the Nets completely in the second half, holding them to 32 points on 25-percent shooting (!!). That’s more of what head coach Jerry Stackhouse wants to see, and it’s surely what he’ll be highlighting more in film sessions than the team’s 117 points or 51-percent shooting mark. The 27 assists on 41 field goals are likely to appease him, too, after he thought the ball got a little too sticky at times in Friday’s season opener.
With the victory, the 905 improve to 2-0 to start the year, rudely welcoming a pair of expansion teams to the D-League. They host one more on Wednesday morning before the difficulty starts to ratchet up, but these victories aren’t the result of poor competition – the 905 are a genuinely good defensive outfit, and they can lean on 10 or 11 different players to provide offense. Even on an afternoon when Fred VanVleet managed but a single point (he had eight assists), the 905 had 10 players score at least five points, and the somewhat unexpectedly rapid ascension of Antawine Wiggins and Negus Webster-Chan improves what was already expected to be outstanding depth. Even Jarrod Uthoff finally got it going after seven rough quarters on offense, finishing with 14 points in 17 minutes.
Overall, it was about what you’d expect for a D-League blowout. It was thorough, across-the-board kind of stuff, and Caboclo’s big day made for a really fun game. The 905 look to move to 3-0 Wednesday at 11 a.m. at the Hershey Centre.
- I don’t want to do the whole “entitled sportswriter complains about simple luxury” thing, but the D-League’s decision to switch from YouTube to Facebook Live for streaming is maddening. Set aside the emojis popping up or the lags or the fact that it’s freaking Facebook Live, FBL also doesn’t allow you the option of pausing and rewinding. That means no making GIFs for highlights (sorry), no re-watching sequences during commercial breaks, and, when they eventually overlap with the parent club again, no balancing both games using the pause & catch-up approach that made last year’s 905 coverage for me possible.
- And yes, that means I was watching on my computer rather than in-person today. I’m still pretty sick and figured two days of being out in public having people tell me how dead I look was enough.
- The 905 tweaked the starting lineup, bringing Brady Heslip and Jarrof Uthoff off the bench in favor of Axel Toupane and Bruno Caboclo. I think this will probably remain the setup for a while, as long as Caboclo’s on assignment, as it’s the mos logical. Heslip coming off the bench may raise some eyebrows, but considering he’s the de facto back-up point guard and can come in to carry the offense for bench-heavy units, it’s a great use of his strengths while also protecting his primary weakness (defense against speedy guards).
- I really think the 905 will benefit in unspoken ways from the amount of leadership and experience they have, as far as D-League squads are concerned. Not only is VanVleet already operating at a Kyle Lowry-like level of on-court extension of the coaching staff, but the international veterans are going out of their way to use every break in play to coach Caboclo and Moreira. Add a really strong, deep coaching staff, and it’s easy to see the development curve speeding up for some of the younger guys here.
- Will Sheehey and C.J. Leslie are really, really good. That these were expansion draft returning rights players coming in a year later to play in the second unit…man, talk about found money.
- Former Raptor Gary Forbes is playing with the Nets. Dude averaged 6.6 points for the Raptors in 2011-12. What a world.