What does Raptors pick of Bruno reveal about Masai Ujiri?


The entire Toronto Raptors fanbase had a simultaneous myocardial infarction (a.k.a. heart attack) last night when Bruno Caboclo’s name was announced as the team’s draft pick at #20. The ESPN crew had no clue what to do or say when they heard the news – the poor sods were reduced to playing what little grainy footage they had on the guy playing in the Brazilian league. We who were expecting to hear “Shabazz Napier” or “K. J. McDaniels” had to scramble to Google, being sure we spelled his unusual (to me, anyway) name properly.

We don’t know much about Bruno, and we’re not likely to learn a whole bunch more until summer league, at the earliest. Instead, I want to focus on what the pick tells us about our GM, Masai Ujiri. In effect, what Masai did was say to the world “I’m not accepting what I view as scraps from the table – I’ll take my chances eating at that new place down the street”. He also said without words that he doesn’t view the draft as a chance to rework the Raptors’ roster. I’m happy to “see” this, as I don’t think we need to do much more than bring back the group which took us so far last season. Doing so is no easy task, but should that truly be his goal, I’m in favour.

To me, Masai is demonstrating consistency and independent-mindedness. He said prior to the draft that he would take the Best Available Player. Whether Bruno proves to be better than anyone else still on the board won’t be known for 3 years or more. What we know for certain today is Masai has the courage of his convictions. He and his team believed Bruno was the BAP, and they took him, regardless of criticism he had to know was going to shower down.

I’ll take a run at analyzing our pick at #37, forward Deandre Daniels of UConn, another time. For the moment, I’m content knowing our GM is nobody’s man but his own.


Tags: Bruno Caboclo Masai Ujiri Toronto Raptors

  • wileyvet

    Just when the Raptors turn the corner and are on the rise, they waste the first round draft pick on a guy who may or may not be ready to contribute in 3 or 4 years. I like what Ujiri has done so far, but this was his first big gaff and there’s no sugar coating it. While every other team was improving for next year the Raptors took a step back. Strategically a horrendous move, drafting a guy they would have gotten in the second round. Masai may be putting on a brave face, but he panicked at the draft and he knows it. If he’s not kicking himself for his brain-fart, he’s not being honest with himself.

    • Benjamin

      You don’t just “panic” at a draft. There is a lot of homework that is done leading up to the draft, which includes an extensive list of players they want to pick if available. You call this a “gaff” yet we have yet to see how good this guy can be. At the 20th pick you’re no longer looking to pick a player that can be an immediate improvement for an NBA team. Historically, 20th picks have more likely than not turned out to be 10th or 11th men on a team, if they manage to stay in the NBA. What Masai did instead was pick a lesser talent that no more than a handful of teams knew about at 20 because he knew that the Suns, Jazz, or Spurs would have picked him up before the second round. There’s a lot of news going around in Raptors nation about the circumstances of this move, so I implore you to do your research next time before you make such unfounded accusations. Bruno is actually a really intriguing prospect. 6’9″ with a 7’7″ wingspan who can shoot 3s and is very quick for his size. He lacks in certain departments but he’s only 18, so he could be something really special through internal development. This is a “go big or go home” type pick. Since you’re not really picking a knock-your-socks off talent at 20 anyway, there’s really no issue picking someone who could turn out to be one of the better players from this draft. Even if he doesn’t pan out, so what? It really is just a 20th pick. You only missed out on an Evan Fournier, or James Anderson, or Donatas Motiejunas, or -insert other past 20th pick-. It’s really not a “gaff”, dude.

      • Guy

        Amen to that brother. I find it hilarious that some call this a huge mistake as if it was a top 5 pick. Sure it was a gamble, but what pick at that spot is a guarantee? Joel Embiid didn’t start playing serious ball until he was 16 & four yrs later, if not for his injury, would have been the #1 pick. So for some to proclaim, quite matter-of-factly, Bruno was a wasted pick is ridiculous.

        • Newmarket_Brian

          Hi Guy, Benjamin & wv:
          [see my reply to wileyvet]
          The corollary to “don’t get cute” is “don’t force yourself to like a guy”. If Masai and his scouts weren’t thrilled with any of the conventional choices still available, and couldn’t find a trade partner on which to dump the pick itself, then I support the gamble.
          Guy’s point about Embiid being a huge risk is valid, as is Benjamin’s about how it’s only #20.
          Thanks for stopping by, and for keeping the debate civil.

    • Newmarket_Brian

      Hi wileyvet:
      I remember being at the 2012 draft party outside the ACC when Terrence Ross’ name was called at #8. Pundits immediately criticized Bryan Colangelo for “reaching”, i.e., not trading down for someone who likely would have been around in the mid-teens. Yet who knows if Ross hadn’t already been discovered and coveted by another team picking at 10 or 12? If you like a guy, don’t get cute – draft him. Same thing with Bruno.

      You are right that it’s going to take 3 years before we have any idea if this gamble will bear fruit. Let’s cross our fingers.
      Thanks for commenting.

  • Guy

    What does this pick say about Ujiri? It says he’s a man of his word & sticking to his plan. From the get-go, Ujiri has said he will make decisions based on what’s best for the long term rather than go for the quick fix. This wasn’t an uneducated pick. He & his staff scouted this kid for a year & saw enough to think he could be worthwhile. Yes Ujiri missed out on Ennis & could have drafted Shabazz Napier instead, but is anyone convinced a Pg with Napier’s limited size & athleticism would have been a real difference maker for the Raps? I’m sure not.