TORONTO (AP) The Toronto Raptors made a surprising move during the first round of Thursday night's NBA draft, selecting relatively unknown international prospect Bruno Caboclo with the 20th overall pick.
The Raptors, however, believe the Brazilian forward will pay dividends in the coming years, but one that was met with skepticism.
"I'm not here trying to be popular," Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri said. "I'm trying to look out for the organization long term."
While Caboclo is not a household name, the Raptors are convinced he has the skill set and upside to become one. Though they know he's raw, the Raptors don't believe many players in the draft have his offensive potential. Caboclo stands at 6-foot-9, 200 pounds, can shoot from long range and has a 7-foot-7 wingspan.
"He has a chance to hit it big," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "He's probably one of the most athletic guys in the draft - in fact, I know he is."
Casey said the Raptors went into the night hoping to land Syracuse point guard Tyler Ennis, a Canadian who was born just west of Toronto. Toronto was targeting Caboclo with its second pick at No. 37 overall - where it selected Connecticut forward DeAndre Daniels - but the Phoenix Suns took Ennis off the board with the 18th pick.
Once Ennis was gone, the Raptors didn't want to take a chance on missing out on another player they coveted.
"Sometimes it gets frustrating when you don't get the picks that you want and you lose a guy, and that happened to us early," Ujiri said. "Bruno was one of our next guys and we decided after we lost one we're not going to lose the second one. We jumped on it."
Other teams were in on Caboclo, Casey said, but none had as much extensive knowledge of the 18-year-old as Toronto did. Casey was blown away after seeing him a week before the draft in Houston and the youngster was on Ujiri's radar long before that.
Ujiri went to Brazil on three different occasions to watch the forward play and came away a believer. The general manager credited team scouts with finding Caboclo, whom the Raptors first saw win MVP at a Basketball Without Borders tournament in Argentina.
Casey applauded Caboclo's smarts and ability to learn fast. Although some feel he is years away from being a contributor at the NBA level, Casey - who likened him to sharp-shooting forward Rashard Lewis when he came up with Seattle - shot that notion down. So did Ujiri, who said he expects Caboclo to be a member of the Raptors this upcoming season.
Caboclo, who is working on getting his visa, will come to Toronto on Friday and will then head to Los Angeles shortly after to workout with fellow Raptors DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross, and Amir Johnson. The team believes he will benefit by meshing with three integral pieces of Toronto's 2013-14 Atlantic Division-winning roster.
"I think this development is important for him where he's getting used to the facilities, used to the training," Ujiri said.
Toronto didn't have any picks in the 2013 draft, making Caboclo the first player Ujiri selected since becoming the Raptors general manager.
Daniels, meanwhile, has some upside, Ujiri said, and could be a fit to play overseas or in the NBA Development League.
The Raptors rounded out their draft night by trading San Diego State guard Xavier Thames, the No. 59 overall pick, to the Brooklyn Nets for cash considerations.