Sometimes the risks a team takes in the NBA draft really can come back to bite you years later and in Toronto there may be no better example than when the Raptors took a flyer on Bruno Caboclo instead of the more proven young prospect Clint Capela.
It isn’t easy drafting in the twenties and a team doesn’t expect to get a player as good as Capela has turned out to be for the Houston Rockets who took the 20-year-old center five picks after Raptors president Masai Ujiri selected Caboclo, but the analysis from his own Director of Scouting Dan Tolzman at the time has proven to be beyond accurate.
“(Capela) is a big time vertical spacer which is guys that can catch alley-oops – it is like a different kind of spacing on the floor,” Tolzman said after Capela’s predraft work out in Toronto. “You have the corner three shooters who space it out for the bigs and you got guys like him that kind of drop into the short corner area and because they are so deadly with catching alley-oops it makes the defense worry about them more than worry about penetration. So he is a guy that can really do that and he can really run the floor well for a big. He changes ends really well and I think that his athleticism and length and the fact that he is so young too, it’s pretty intriguing with his potential.
“One of the main things that (Capela) is so good at is defending the pick-and-roll. He uses his quick hands and his length and he gets in a nice defensive stance. He really jumps out and hedges ball handlers. It is one of things that if he has any skill that could get him in a game early in the NBA it will be (his) pick-and-roll defense.”
Capela has proven he has plenty of skill at both ends of the court and will be in for a huge pay day as a restricted free agent this summer. Caboclo, on the other hand, will be lucky to find another NBA team to take a flyer on him for next season.
The Raptors knew Caboclo wasn’t NBA ready when they drafted him and the plan was to develop the 18-year-old prospect from Brazil with almost no competitive experience at any level in the NBA D-League, but things didn’t exactly go as hoped.
“Bruno is a tough one because I think I want to almost blame myself for bringing him too soon to our team,” Ujiri responded to Pro Bball Report when asked about his project player last summer. “We wanted to see his development and it’s the price we pay. The price I pay.
“I wanted to see his development and it’s almost like he’s gone thru college on our team.”
It was a $7 million mistake in terms of tying up cap space over four seasons as Caboclo struggled with his consistency in the D-League and never showed any level of confidence or competency at the NBA level. He may end up owning some Raptors 905 records as he did have seven blocks in a game and he showed flashes of hope as a long lanky “3-and-D” combo forward with above the rim hops, but he could never put it all together for any length of time even in the D-League.
“He’s hearing me over there yelling go at him. (Caboclo) can do everything, it’s not that he can’t do anything, he can do everything so it’s about giving him the confidence to know that we want him to do it,” Raptors 905 head coach Jerry Stackhouse said last summer.
But the confidence never came and Ujiri finally moved on at the trade deadline last February.
“It was difficult for us because I thought it was just time. We tried to, we started the process a little late, which is something we failed at but I think we will learn from,” Ujiri said after trading him to the Kings.
If you remember, the Raptors didn’t want to draft Caboclo at 20, they had their sights set on a young Canadian point guard Tyler Ennis who the Suns scooped up two picks ahead of Toronto leaving Ujiri to debate if he should risk his first round pick on the second round talent he liked in Caboclo. It’s a decision, in hindsight, he’d obviously like back.
It’s a lot easier to like the raw prospect taken in the second round that does their development in Europe instead the one of taking a spot on an NBA roster.
Fortunately Ujiri did learn from that blunder and in subsequent drafts he took Delon Wright at 20 in 2015, Pascal Siakam at 27 in 2016, and OG Anunoby at 23 last year. None of these picks were “flyers.” However, it has to be hard watching Capela, who averaged a double-double (13.9/10.8) with 1.9 blocks for Houston this season and repeated that performance in 17 playoff games thru to the Conference Finals (12.7/11.6 and 2.1 blocks) and realizing he could have been yours.