Former Toronto Raptor, Bruno Caboclo, signs with the Houston Rockets

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 11: Bruno Caboclo
LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 11: Bruno Caboclo /

Bruno Caboclo‘s career has not turned out as many would have hoped. However, Caboclo has been given another opportunity after signing with the Houston Rockets.

Bruno Caboclo is one of the most polarizing players in Raptors’ history. It feels like Caboclo has been around forever, but he will be just 23 years old in September. Caboclo rose from relative obscurity to become a first round draft pick.

At this point in his career, Caboclo’s claim to fame is rather limited. During ESPN’s coverage of the 2014 draft, Fran Fraschilla proclaimed that Caboclo was two years away, from being two years away. That statement has gone on to infamy.

Caboclo has also been dubbed the Brazilian Kevin Durant. That statement stems primarily from the similarities in their physical statute. Durant stands 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-4 wingspan. Caboclo by comparison is 6-foot-9 with a 7-foot-6 wingspan.

That is where the similarities end. Durant is one of the three best basketball players on the planet. Caboclo will likely never reach that level.

Adrian Wojnarowski recently reported that entering the 2013 draft, Masai Ujiri had his sights set on Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Raptors did not have a first round draft pick due to the Kyle Lowry trade. However, Ujiri was working on a deal to acquire a pick from Oklahoma City.

As per Woj, the deal fell apart when Steven Adams fell to the Thunder at 12. The Milwaukee Bucks would go on to select Giannis at 15.

Fast forward to the 2014 draft, the Raptors had two picks (20 and 37). The fans and front office alike, wanted to select Tyler Ennis out Syracuse with the 20th pick. The Raptors needed a backup point guard and Ennis was from nearby Brampton.

Ultimately, the Phoenix Suns took Ennis at 18. Ujiri had interest in Caboclo, but was concerned that he would not be around at 37. As a result, Ujiri decided to swing for the fences and use the team’s first round pick to select Caboclo. Even though he was seen as a project, Ujiri was intrigued by Caboclo’s length and potential.

Ujiri recently admitted that he made a mistake by bringing Caboclo to the NBA too fast. Caboclo was not ready to contribute to the team, but Ujiri wanted to oversee his development.

In retrospect, it would have benefited everyone for Caboclo to stay in Brazil for a season or two. For Caboclo, he would have gained more experience playing against more appropriate competition. Whereas for the Raptors, they would not have wasted a year of a cost-controlled, rookie scale contract.

The Raptors, like most teams, did not have the infrastructure in place to develop a player like Caboclo.  They did not have a G-League affiliate team. The Raptors only option was to assign players to the independently owned Fort Wayne Mad Ants.

Caboclo played seven games for the Mad Ants. He averaged 3.4 points, 1.9 rebounds and 0.7 blocks in 8.9 minutes per game.

Before the start of the 2015-16 Season, the Raptors acquired their own G-League affiliate franchise, the Raptors 905. This would allow Caboclo, and others, to play in nearby Mississauga to gain experience. The proximity of the 905 allowed Ujiri and his staff to monitor Caboclo’s development.

The Raptors are at the forefront of the league when it comes to assigning players to the G-League. The team has used the 905 as a training ground for their young players. Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam in particular gained valuable experience and have developed into key members of the Raptors’ rotation.

Caboclo’s development has not followed the same path as VanVleet or Siakam. They had more experience entering the NBA than Caboclo. VanVleet played four years at Wichita State. Siakam played two years at New Mexico State. Caboclo by comparison played 17 games with Pinheiros of the NBB in Brazil before he was drafted. As such, Caboclo would have to work even harder to crack the Raptors’ rotation.

Caboclo has shown glimpses of his potential during his time in the G-League. Through 114 career games, Caboclo has averaged 12.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 1.5 blocks, while shooting 33.6 percent from three-point (5.9 attempts). His best all-around performance game came in the 2017 G-League Championship game. Caboclo scored 31 points, with 11 rebounds and four blocks. He shot 13 for 19 from the floor, including 5 for 7 from three-point range.

Entering the 2017-18 Season, the Raptors had a difficult decision to make. Caboclo was in the last-year of his rookie contract. Despite his success at the G-League level, Caboclo had only played in 23 NBA games for a total of 106 minutes.

During the preseason, Caboclo was given the opportunity to earn regular playing time. Caboclo struggled. His best game came against the Los Angeles Clippers. Caboclo scored 6 points, along with 3 rebounds and one assist in 20 minutes of action.

After Caboclo failed to earn a spot in the rotation, he was left with few options. The collective bargaining agreement states that teams are only allowed to assign players with three years of experience or less to the G-League. Caboclo decided that playing time was more important than sitting on the end of the bench and requested that the Raptors send him back to the 905.

Through 34 games, Caboclo averaged 14.4 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.6 blocks, while shooting 33.5 percent from long-range (7 attempts) per game. Caboclo was solid, but not dominating as one would expect from a fourth-year player.

On February 8, 2018, the Bruno Caboclo experiment came to an end. Caboclo was traded to the Sacramento Kings in exchange for guard, Malachi Richardson. This was primarily a salary dump for the Raptors. For the Kings, it was an opportunity to get an up close look at an intriguing young player.

Caboclo saw time in only 10 games with the Kings. He averaged 2.6 points and 2.1 rebounds in 10 minutes of action. The Kings did not tender Caboclo a qualifying offer, making him an unrestricted free agent. Caboclo has spent some time in California this summer working on his game, hoping to get another opportunity.

Now that opportunity has presented itself. Chris Haynes of ESPN reported that Caboclo has agreed to a contract with the Houston Rockets, which includes an Exhibit 10 provision.

An Exhibit 10 contract can be converted into a two-way contract prior to the start of the regular season. It also includes a bonus, if the player is waived and opts to sign with the team’s G-League affiliate.

The Rockets may be hoping to keep Caboclo on a two-way contract. Around the same time Caboclo’s deal was announced, it was reported that the Rockets had waived R.J. Hunter. Hunter was also on a two-way contract. NBA teams are permitted to carry up to two two-way contracts for the season.

Caboclo is an interesting pickup for the Rockets. The team is over the luxury tax threshold. The Rockets lost Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute in free agency. They have been replaced with James Ennis and Carmelo Anthony.

The Rockets featured a switch-heavy, small-ball focused lineup last season. Ariza and Mbah a Moute were two of the teams best perimeter defenders. Losing both will significantly impact the Rocket’s rotation next season. Ennis and Anthony may be able to replace some of what has been lost. But the Rockets need to find creative ways to fill out its perimeter rotation.

Caboclo fits the Rockets’ style of play. He is long and athletic. Caboclo’s 7-foot-6 wingspan makes him a terror on defence. He should be able to guard smaller players on the perimeter, while also providing weak side shot blocking in the paint.

Caboclo continues to put work in to become a more efficient three-point shooter. He has good mechanics and a high release. Caboclo needs to increase his percentage to at least 37 percent.

However, he is a volume shooter and the Rockets encourage their players to shoot if they have any daylight. Playing with James Harden and Chris Paul would provide plenty of opportunities for Caboclo to knock down wide open threes.

If Caboclo were to end up on a two-way contract, he would only be permitted to spend a maximum of 45 days with the Rockets. Most of his time would likely come with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. However, if Caboclo is able to take his game to another level, the Rockets would be able to convert his two-way contract to a standard NBA contract.

A number of people want to label Caboclo as a bust. There is no doubt that he was a reach as a first round pick. But Caboclo’s physical tools continue to make him an intriguing prospect.

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At just 22 years old, it is too early to write him off completely. He is 18 months younger than Siakam. Caboclo will likely never develop into an All-Star, but there is still time for him to turn his career around and become a solid rotation player. Only time will tell, but I for one am glad that Caboclo will be given at least one more opportunity.

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