Bruno Caboclo will go down as one of the most beloved Toronto Raptors ever. Not for his play, not even for his personality, but because of the narrative surrounding him while here.
In the three and a half years Caboclo was in Toronto, he appeared in a total of 25 games racking up 113 minutes played per Basketball-Reference. That’s an average of four and a half minutes per appearance. Just about all of them were in garbage time.
Coming into the 2014 NBA Draft, Caboclo was rarely featured on draft boards as a second-round pick, let alone a late first-round selection. What was known about him was that he had a raw skill set and that he was going to be a project for whoever picked him up. He was an ultimate swing for the fences pick.
Masai Ujiri, the man in charge of drafting Caboclo, is known for his interest in drafting international players and has found a fair amount of success doing so. Just look at what Pascal Siakam has become.
How Siakam has turned out is essentially what they hoped Caboclo would end up as. However, you can’t always win with these types of guys.
His long and lanky body type shaped the idea he might be a “Brazilian Kevin Durant” as stated by Fran Fraschilla the night Bruno was drafted. When you hear that type of comparison as a fan, you immediately get excited by the prospect of what the player can grow into.
Out of the gate, at 18 years old, Caboclo was two years away from being two years away and I’m sure there are people to this day who still stand by that. At first, the comment was a legit observation made by smart NBA people. After a while, it became a running joke that has loosely defined his short NBA career.
The relatively unwarranted hype that surrounded Bruno was the main basis for the early love many fans had towards him. The aspiration of him turning into an important part of the Raptors future was enough to excite the fanbase. Frankly, people wanted to hop on the Bruno bandwagon before he reached a certain status.
Generally speaking, late first-round draft picks don’t garner a lot of love from fans in their city until they make some sort of splash. It could be a big performance, a highlight play or something that shows them in a good light off the court. Bruno never really needed that.
Before he even played a second of NBA game time, “Bru-No” chants broke out in the Air Canada Centre (now called Scotiabank Arena).
When his time finally did come, fans in the arena made it seem like he really was a Brazilian KD. By the time he touched the floor, the Raptors were up 34 points and the crowd hadn’t been louder than when he was gearing up to take his first shot, a wide-open three.
This would become somewhat of familiarity for fans.
By the end of his time in Toronto, he went from being loved for his potentially high upside to fans just wanting him to do well. Even as he’s moved from team to team, Raptors fans are still eager to see if Caboclo can take a step in the right direction.
His career numbers with the Raptors are far from outstanding. He averaged 1.1 points on just over 26-percent shooting, 0.6 rebounds, 0.2 assists, and 0.4 turnovers per game.
Generally speaking, that type of production doesn’t yield any sort of fan base but, it somehow worked for Bruno. He came in during the perfect era of Raptors basketball where he had very little pressure to succeed and a happy fan base. After realizing this might not work out, there was an endearing narrative that made him even more lovable.
Do we wish things went differently for Bruno in Toronto? Of course, but it’s not positive Raptors fans would have liked him anymore if they did.