Bruno Caboclo: Should Raptors have done better in draft than him?

TORONTO, CANADA - OCTOBER 19: Bruno Caboclo /

Bruno Caboclo, who was “2 years away from being 2 years away” 4 years ago, was the only player the Raptors moved at the Deadline. What did we learn?

The saga of Bruno Caboclo in Toronto ended with his departure from the organization on NBA Trade Deadline day, February 8. He was traded for Malachi Richardson, another player who hasn’t yet lit up the night skies with his on-court brilliance.

I say “saga” but it wasn’t, of course. The most exciting moment of this disappointing tale was at the beginning, a clear indicator that something is out of alignment.

To summarize quickly: Bruno was the epitome of an obscure player when his name was called (mangled, actually) by Commissioner Adam Silver as the choice at #20 of the Toronto Raptors in the 2014 NBA Draft. He was with the Raptors, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants and the 905 minor-league teams, but never managed to elevate his game. Bruno was being groomed as a stretch-4; it was his range from deep while playing in Brazil, his native country, which first caught the eye of Toronto scouts. However, he could neither shoot nor rebound skillfully with the big team during his extremely rare moments on the floor, and was just another player in the G League. The decision was made to cut ties.

“Regrets – I’ve had a few”

This draft has turned out to be one of Masai Ujiri’s few failures. The team’s second-round selection, DeAndre Daniels, has yet to play in the NBA, and is no longer with our club.

I have heard a story to the effect that the Raptors’ decision-makers were deeply disappointed at the selection of Tyler Ennis at #18 by the Phoenix Suns. A Canadian guard who played at Syracuse and is now with the Lakers, he would presumably have been groomed as Kyle Lowry’s backup. With Ennis off the board, the mood in the war room shifted to a “swing for the fences” mentality. Due to concerns that supposed hidden-gem Caboclo had already generated interest from the San Antonio Spurs, the suits were afraid he wouldn’t last until #37, and the gamble was undertaken.

SACRAMENTO, CA – JANUARY 17: Malachi Richardson
SACRAMENTO, CA – JANUARY 17: Malachi Richardson /

There were a significant number of undrafted international players chosen after Bruno who have made an impact on the NBA. Nikola Jokic, a humble #41 choice, pushed Josef Nurkic out of Denver. Another Serb, Bogdan Bogdanovic, has turned out well for the Sacramento Kings after being the #27 choice of Phoenix. Clint Capela, a Swiss taken at #25, has been the happy recipient of many of James Harden’s alley-oop passes in Houston.

This post is not a rant at Masai or his scouts. Everyone misses in the draft sometimes. Masai even took himself to task for bringing Bruno to the big team too quickly. The issue is quite involved, but boils down to the fact the Raptors drafted a project player but didn’t have an appropriate place for him to fast-track his growth. That problem is solved now. Interesting prospects can be dropped into Mississauga to get all the work they can handle with the Raptors 905. No more Mad Ants. Sadly, it’s too late for Bruno. Perhaps he would have flopped anyway – who can tell?

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We seem to have landed right side up

I defended Bruno’s risky selection at the time, even though I knew nothing about him. I liked the boldness displayed. Since that unhappy day, the Raptors have picked Delon Wright, Jakob Poeltl, Pascal Siakam, and OG Anunoby. Only one (Poeltl) was a single-digit pick, and all four are playing important roles on a winning squad. Whatever prestige Masai may have lost with the failed Caboclo selection, he’s more than regained.