Photo credit: Christian Bonin / TSGphoto.com
The Tronto Raptors are finalizing a deal to send Bruno Caboclo to the Sacramento Kings for Malachi Richardson, per Shams Charania of The Vertical.
With no other details to go on, this would appear to be a financially motivated deal for the Raptors. Caboclo is earning $2,451,225 in the final year of his four-year entry-level contract, while Richardson will earn $1,504,560 this year in the second year of his. Richardson is also owed $1,569,360 for next year with a team option for 2019-20, and that extra salary for next season, which is close enough to the minimum to not be a big impediment, helps save the Raptors $946,665 this season. For a team that’s flirting with the luxury tax, that’s a major impact – that could be the space necessary to sign a buyout candidate to the 15th roster spot, which remains open.
Richardson is also still an interesting prospect, a 22-year-old sophomore who was the No. 22 pick in 2016. He’s struggled to gain traction at the NBA level, averaging 3.5 points on 36.5-percent shooting and 29.9-percent on threes over 47 games. The Kings also haven’t utilized the G League much to help him along, as he’s appeared in just 17 games in Reno over two years, averaging 18 points. He hit threes at a much higher level there (42.1 percent) and projected as a potential NBA 3-point shooter coming out of college, so maybe the Raptors see something there in terms of prospect value, too.
They can see what’s there with Richardson over the remainder of this season and the summer months, make a decision on his 2019-20 option in October, and maybe this ends up extending the life of an end-of-bench experimental piece. If he doesn’t progress, then it’s essentially worked as a “stretch provision” of Caboclo’s salary this year over two seasons, with a small premium applied, to help them add a veteran for the stretch run here.
He’s currently dealing with a left ankle sprain, by the way.
It is hard not to be a little disappointed that this is the end of the glorious Caboclo experiment, though. Drafted out of nowhere at No. 20 overall in 2014, Caboclo has been a complete original over four NBA years, a prospect so raw no other team would have dared to have him on the roster. Pushing nearly 7-feet tall with a 7-foot-7 wingspan and a shooting stroke that looked passable-to-good from Day One, Caboclo was the prototype of what a modern, multi-position 3-and-D player might be built like, just without any of the actual tools or software required installed yet. It was an incredible gambit, the ultimate in high-reward lottery tickets outside of the lottery. The odds were long, sure, but this was a chance to mold a player from quite literally the earliest moments of his basketball development.
His rookie season was essentially a redshirt year while he learned English, watched NBA basketball for the first time, and was taught things like team defense. His first real NBA run remains the stuff of legend, an incredible few minutes against the Milwaukee Bucks in time that was meaningless to everyone but him and those wanting to know what the franchise was betting on. His second season was probably where the most room for optimism about his NBA potential was found – he appeared in 37 games with the expansion Raptors 905, averaging 14.7 pints, 6.5 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.1 steals, and 1.8 blocks in 34.3 minutes, even hitting 33.5 percent of his threes. He showed progress, and if he could continue to fill out his frame and learn the game, maybe something would click.
It didn’t early on in his third year, this time under Jerry Stackhouse. Stackhouse gave him a shorter leash and looked to toughen him up psychologically, and his numbers came down in response. Caboclo averaged 9.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.3 assists, one steal, and 1.2 blocks while shooting 33.1 percent on threes. There was no statistical growth, but there was physical growth and growth on the defensive end – by the time the playoffs came around, Caboclo was making a regular defensive impact and was maybe the team’s best player in Games 2 and 3 of the G League Finals, which the 905 won.
Again, there was room for optimism, but Caboclo struggled mightily in the preseason this year and any chance of him seeing rotation time with the Raptors was snuffed out. He accepted an assignment to the 905 when he didn’t have to and took nice statistical strides this year, averaging 14.4 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.3 steals, and 1.6 blocks, nudging his 3-point percentage back to 33.5 percent on over seven attempts per-game. From an advanced stats perspective, Caboclo was on track to be an All-G League Defense player, floating near the top of the league in several metrics and making a pronounced impact on the 905’s play when on the court.
Still, he hadn’t shown enough offensive growth to warrant a look at the NBA level, and four years in, the Raptors had to weigh continuing the experiment into the summer, when they’d have no intention of giving him a qualifying offer, against making their team better for the playoffs. It’s a disappointing end, if this is the end. And it’s no fault of anybodies, really. The experiment made sense, Caboclo was a good person who worked very hard, and sometimes these long-shot gambits don’t turn out. That’s why they’re long-shots. The gamble and the process were still pretty clear in their intent, and entirely justifiable.
Had the Raptors gone down the path of blowing things up, maybe this turns out differently. Maybe he gets more playing time right away, or at least intermittently. Maybe having Raptors 905 a year early, or sending Caboclo for an excursion year, could have helped speed up the earlier part of the development curve. Maybe there’s still time to experience a return on their investment, as Caboclo will probably be amenable to signing at the minimum somewhere this summer. Whatever the case, it’s the end of a grand experiment for now, and it’s worth pouring one out for. Caboclo didn’t become who the Raptors envisioned over four years, but he was maybe the most interesting player development project in league history in the interim, at the cost of a 15th roster spot that wouldn’t have mattered much anyway for a few years.
All told, Caboclo played 113 minutes with the Raptors over 25 games, scoring 27 points and being assigned to the G League 62 times.
For Sacramento, the move also appears strictly financial. Despite earlier reports that they would waive Caboclo, it now appears they’ll retain him and see what’s there over the remainder of the season. There’s almost no chance they’ll tender him a qualifying offer this summer, but it costs them nothing to take a look rather than paying him to walk. The Kings get themselves out of the money owed to Richardson for next year regardless, a low-cost means out of a small salary for a prospect they appear to have lost interest in very quickly, for whatever reason. It’s underwhelming on their end, but maybe they’ll get some fun Caboclo minutes in exchange.