What if Bruno Caboclo Came to Toronto Two Years Later?

Bruno Caboclo still seeking NBA stardom six years into career

It's been six years since NBA commissioner Adam Silver took the podium and announced the Toronto Raptors 2014 first-round pick.

"With the 20th pick, in the 2014 NBA draft, the Toronto Raptors select Bruno 'Cuh-BAH-low.'"

"What just happened," Bill Simmons remarked after the pick.

Then, ESPN turned to analyst Fran Fraschilla who then made the statement that would forever be associated with Bruno Caboclo.

"This is the all-time swing for the fences pick," Fraschilla said. "He's two years away from being two years away."

Today, Caboclo says he used Fraschilla's quote to motivate him. But six years into his NBA career and things haven't panned out exactly as Caboclo had hoped. He spent four years in Toronto with the Raptors and Raptors 905 G-League team teams before being bouncing around from Sacramento to Memphis to Houston.

“When I got on the Raptors, Coach [Dwane] Casey was playing 7 or 8 players a game. They weren’t looking to me very much,” Caboclo told Sports Illustrated's Will Laws over a recent Zoom call. “They said I was going to play every season, but I really didn’t play most of the time. I could see how it was going.”

He had a brief breakout during the 2018-19 season with Memphis, averaging 8.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists while shooting 36.9% from 3-point range over 34 games (19 starts). But then came a Grizzlies rebuild and Caboclo found himself stapled to the bench again.

Had Caboclo waited another year or two before coming out of Brazil, he admits things may have been very different. He would have come in with more respect and a longer leash.

"With my journey, not everyone can understand how it’s been,” Caboclo said. “The first time I played in the NBA, I felt good. I felt like I belonged there. But you need to gain respect. They don’t pass to you very much at first. But after you start making some buckets, they start to give it to you more. … In my first Summer League, I was playing maybe 30 minutes and got the ball in my hand four times. The thing I learned was to be patient and not change how I play even if I’m not getting the ball—to always play hard.”

In the years since 2014, the Raptors have become one of the NBA's premiere developmental teams. The organization has turned later picks like Pascal Siakam into NBA stars and undrafted players like Fred VanVleet and Terence Davis into key contributors. Maybe in that way, Caboclo was too early. Two years later, he would have been coming up with Siakam and hit that first two-year mark on a Raptors team destined for an NBA Championship. Instead, Caboclo was the first of Ujiri's Raptors draft picks and one can only wonder what might have been had Caboclo waited in Brazil a little longer.

Aaron Rose covers the Toronto Raptors and Canadian basketball for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter @aaronbenrose or on Facebook @AllRaptors.

Correction: May 24, 2020

An earlier version of this article incorrectly spelled Pascal Siakam's name.