By Frank McLean
It’s decision time for the Toronto Raptors this season when comes to their first round draft pick from 2014 Bruno Caboclo.
For the last three years it’s been evident by his lack of playing time from head coach Dwane Casey that he is still not ready for regular minutes at the NBA level and as a result has spent most of his time in what is now known as the G-League trying to hone his skills at the professional level.
During his first year with the organization the Raptors did not own their own developmental team so he was sent to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants which at the time was an independent operation and as a result he sat on the bench as they were trying win basketball games and sell tickets and there was no room for a rookie from Brazil with no pro experience.
With the Raptors owning their own team in Mississauga the last two years Caboclo has been able to get a lot of time to work on his skills at the G-League level, but he has received very sparse playing time in the NBA.
Now, with one year left on his contract and no room for him with the big club, Caboclo has volunteered to play with the Raptors 905 because it’s the only way he can stay sharp and hopefully get a chance with the big club. After three years of service a player cannot be sent to the G-League without his approval.
Raptors 905 head coach Jerry Stackhouse was happy to get him back in time for their home opener last week saying, “it was good to have him home and we can get him some reps.”
“There is a logjam there right now and there are a lot of young guys in the mix”, Stackhouse said regarding the Raptors roster right now. “They are still figuring the rotation with everybody there. He has been on the outside looking in.
“We are still high on Bruno. We believe he has unbelievable potential. We just got to find a way to tap into it.”
And here lies the problem for Caboclo. Sitting on the bench in Fort Wayne the first year set his development back a whole season and it was hoped that by now he would be a factor on the Raptors roster. The way Caboclo was handled in Fort Wayne provided a convincing reason for president Masi Ujiri to get the MLSE board to come up with the cash to buy their own G-League team so they can develop their own talent and not leave it to a third party.
Dwane Casey will tell you that you can learn skills in the G-League, but in order to learn to play the game you have to do that in the NBA.
To start with in Mississauga this season, Stackhouse has played Caboclo at center out of necessity.
His original plan was to use the returning Edy Tavares at the five spot, but Tavares was offered a contract with Real Madrid so the big man headed to Spain. With Andre Washington his only other option at center and Kennedy Meeks the former North Carolina star who is a natural center but is being used at the four, Stackhouse has been trying out Caboclo in the middle.
“I want to find out a few things,” Stackhouse said about the experiment. “I want to see how they (opponents) will adjust to him, and see if they can hang with him. We feel with his length he will be able to hold his own in rebounding the basketball.”
Four games in Caboclo is averaging 31.8 minutes 17.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2 steals and 1.5 blocks while taking 4.3 three-pointers and hitting on 58.8 percent of them.
Talking to NBA scouts on opening night they felt there is no way the 6’9 forward could play the five at the NBA level, but in the G-League it will probably work.
And these scouts are the people Caboclo needs to impress this year. If the Raptors decide to cut ties with him, he needs to show the other 29 NBA teams that he can offer them something at the NBA level.
Playing the five maybe some team will give him a flyer by using him as a utility player. If not in the NBA, then there are European scouts to impress or those back in his home country of Brazil.
On draft night ESPN college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla said that Caboclo was two years away from being two years away. Do the math, two plus two equals NOW for Bruno Caboclo.
Veteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.