By Frank McLean
For Raptors President Masai Ujiri it was time to pull the plug on the experiment that was Bruno Caboclo. It was something where the team finally realized it wasn’t going to work for him in Toronto four years after they took him 20th overall in the draft out of Brazil.
Ujiri was doing some outside the box thinking. He saw a kid with raw basketball skills and at the time the Raptors were not even close to being a contender so he saw someone he thought they could make into an NBA player.
If you remember, this pick by the Raptors was so off the board that during their draft night telecast ESPN college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla said he was “two years away from being two years away.”
But Toronto liked this kid so much they hid him from the other 29 NBA teams so they wouldn’t work him out knowing when they got him he needed a lot of grooming.
Unfortunately, during his first year in Toronto they did not have the Raptors 905 in Mississauga so they sent him to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants of what was then the D-League, but they were independently owned and he sat on the bench and missed an entire year where his development was stagnant.
The only benefit of this first year fiasco with Caboclo was Ujiri convinced the Board of Directors of MLSE to pony up the money for their own G-League franchise, and as they say the rest is history.
Immediately after trading Caboclo to the Sacramento Kings for 22 year old guard Malachi Richardson at the trade deadline, Ujiri did not make himself available to the media, but the next day he talked about what was the thought process about the move.
“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.
“At some point, I think there needed to be some separation where he goes and learns something different somewhere else. On that part right he is a real talented kid.”
Ujiri did confirm that because of Caboclo they hurried the process of starting up the 905 team.
“But in the process we got the D-League team a couple of years later and it’s a question from me whether he should have stayed over. There were little things Bruno needs to deal with that I think he’ll get better at.
“But at the end of the day, I thought this was better because for where we are with our young guys and for where he is to come and try and break through, it would have been like a challenge for him.”
With that last quote Ujiri was being very politically correct. If you read between the lines he is saying that he is just not good enough to beat out anybody on the current Raptors roster. And if you have watched their last four games where the starters have not played the fourth quarter because the leads are so big the bench is good enough to not blow a lead, so who is Caboclo going to beat out to get playing time? This is a luxury the team has never had in its history.
So where does Caboclo’s career go now? Well there is no answer to that question right now.
When he did get into an NBA game with the Raptors, which was rare, he looked lost and just couldn’t keep up. When he would dress in a G-League game for the Raptors 905 he looked more at home, but consistency was his problem. He would have one amazingly good game and then have three bad ones for a player on an NBA contract.
So it looks like it could be back to the G-League, maybe Europe or even a return to Brazil for Caboclo in the future.
Should Ujiri be condemned for the Caboclo draft pick? No. Not every move a GM or President makes in professional sports works.
Caboclo is a great kid. Very polite and friendly to everyone he ever came across.
It was a move that didn’t work for the Raptors and it was time to turn the page.
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.