Bruno Caboclo is most famously known as being “two years away from being two years away,” but that was before Toronto had their own NBA D-League affiliate. Last year Caboclo had a terrible experience with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, but this year he’s been learning fast with the Mississauga Raptors 905. Pro Bball Report caught up with Caboclo at the Air Canada Centre recently and just maybe the 905 has put those first two years in the rearview mirror for Caboclo.
“The Mad Ants wasn’t a team from the Raptors, so they were focused on other guys, but here they are more focused on us and we can develop our game,” Caboclo said.
Last week we got a taste of just how far that development has come.
Caboclo scored 29 points and grabbed 11 rebounds against the D-League team that pretty much refused to play him last season. He shot 10-17 from the field and dropped 5-7 three-pointers. It was a game indicative of just how far he has progressed over this season.
With the 905 Caboclo gets to play, whether he’s having a good game or not. He has averaged 33.4 minutes, 14.1 points, 6.1 rebounds, a steal and 1.6 blocks in 30 games. His shooting has improved over the season to 44.8 percent from two-point range and 34.7 percent from three-point range (and those numbers were pretty terrible at the start of the season.) It’s been exactly what he’s needed to develop his game.
“I feel more comfortable,” Caboclo said. “We have more freedom in the D-League. (Head coach) Jesse (Mermuys) gives (me) a lot of opportunities there. I am trying to do my work, find out what I need to do, so I can improve.
“I always play(ed) on the outside, but now I have more opportunities. (It is) easier close to the basket, in the paint. Open shots are easy too, but it depends on the situation. Who is guarding you, if they are a good defender.
“I feel more comfortable playing small forward because I haven’t played much at power forward, but I am getting used to it now and I feel better at both small forward and power forward.
“If you are able to play at other (positions) it is better for you, you can get have more (of a) chance.”
Caboclo may have lost a year because the Raptors didn’t have their own D-League affiliate (as planned) last season, but this was never a short term project. Raptors president and general manager Masai Ujiri admittedly swung for the fences by taking Caboclo with the 20th overall draft pick two summers ago.
“It is going to take Bruno a little while,” Ujiri said after the 2014 draft. “I’m sure when you see him you’ll feel the excitement that we feel having a young player like that – that loves to work, is a basketball junkie, just loves to play basketball all day. I think that will be fun for our team, another young player like that. A 6’9 wing with a 7’ 6.5” wingspan, shoots the ball with good confidence. (He) needs to gain weight, there is some good upside there. In the 20s, he is a good risk to take.”
“(Caboclo) needs playing experience,” Mermuys told Pro Bball Report earlier this season. “He needs minutes and he needs us as a coaching staff to help him every single day and be able to live with some mistakes and growing pains.”
The big Brazilian kid won’t be 21-years-old until September, but he’s put on some weight since he was drafted and remains a physical specimen in terms of height and length. Add an improving shooting stroke and it’s still easy to project/imagine Caboclo as an impact NBA player at some point. The best news is Caboclo really is learning fast with the 905 and the improvement is obvious.