Raptors 2014 NBA Draft Recap: Upside is Key Word for Caboclo and Daniels

USA TODAY Sports

It was a strange draft night for Toronto Raptors fans and Adam Francis tries to make some sense of the whole affair.

It's pretty much at the point where when an NBA Commissioner, ANY NBA Commissioner, gets up on that podium on draft night and reads, "with the (insert pick number here) pick in the (insert draft year here) draft, the Toronto Raptors select," you cringe right?

You put down the pizza slice, you pick up the beer (or shot of Jager), and you pretty much prepare yourself for the worst.

It doesn't matter the era.

Stoudamire over O'Bannon, Hoffa over Iguodala, Villanueva over Granger, Valanciunas over Knight, just when you think the Toronto Raptors are prepared to make the consensus pick, things take a wrong turn at Yonge and Sheppard, and you end up in the Beaches.

Or in the case of last night's pick, you end up in another province entirely.

The Toronto Raptors threw not only fans, but an entire league and its media for a loop last night when with the 20th overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, the club nabbed unknown Brazilian Bruno Caboclo.

If you missed it, here's the videoclip so you can experience the complete and utter bewilderment for yourself:


Caboclo is a 19-year old big man standing at 6-9 (and perhaps still growing), possessing a 7-7 wingspan.

Ahhhh the allure of the wingspan.  Not many can refuse her sweet song.

This includes Raptors GM Masai Ujiri who stealthily made trips to Brazil to see Caboclo over the last while, and who acknowledged post draft that his draftee is loaded with potential, but extremely raw.

Yep, raw enough that ESPN.com's International Draft Expert called him "two years away, from being two years away, and then we'll see."

Not exactly the ringing endorsement Raptors fans were likely hoping for.

But let's be honest.  None of us really knows anything about this kid, and considering where the Raptors were picking, he's got probably as good a chance as anyone to turn into a solid player.  Masai Ujiri and company do their homework, and Sportsnet's Michael Grange does a great job breaking down the thoroughness of the process.

And it's not like Ujiri went completely off the rails here.  His first target was indeed Tyler Ennis but when Ennis went two picks before Toronto was up, and the club's other target, Gary Harris, had been selected as well, Ujiri figured he'd swing for the fences with their next option, Caboclo.  The ideal draft was to get him at 37 after taking Ennis first, but it sounds like things quickly went to hell, and they were worried Caboclo wouldn't last until their pick in the second round.

Could Caboclo have lasted till 37?  It's possible.  But given the sheer amount of foreign talent taken last night, and NBA teams' increasingly profound ability to sniff out potential future prospects, I understand the dice roll.  (Hell, for anyone that's played a fantasy sport and been involved in a draft, you've likely been down this road, being robbed of your first option, and then becoming dead set on ensuring you don't lose your second one as well.)  Masai felt he couldn't wait around, and pulled the trigger.  Good GM's in the NBA can't be afraid to take risks, and Ujiri so far seems to fit that mould.

The hope though is that this is a risk of the "calculated" variety as there are a number of red flags with this pick.

For starters, it mimics last year's situation with "The Greek Freak," Giannis Antetokounmpo, a player Ujiri went after but couldn't secure due partly to the fact that Toronto was without a first-round pick.  Like Caboclo, Antetokounmpo was seen as an extremely raw, yet physically gifted prospect, who was not exactly a top option on most teams' draft boards.

However Antetokounmpo was much more heavily scouted and played against superior international competition. In addition, while he did show a good deal of promise last season, let's remember that he was hardly the second coming of LeBron James.  He shot 41 per cent from the field and posted a PER of 10.8, well below the league average.

My hope is that after losing out on the potential of Antetokounmpo last season, Ujiri didn't reach this year to try and atone for last year's miss.  After all, Antetokounmpo and Caboclo share the same agent. (Who interestingly enough is also the agent for one Rudy Gay.)

I also hope that Ujiri didn't out-think himself with this one.  Going off the grid for a prospect is great if he truly is the best player available.  But don't do it simply to be different.  Many of the comments from NBA media regarding this selection remarked that it was "Masai being Masai," or something to that effect.

Which brings up an interesting point, one that many of our readers made last night.

Can you even imagine if Rob Babcock or Bryan Colangelo made this pick?  Would the ACC be on fire right now?  It's hilarious how much reputation and perception have to do with reactions in matters like this as most GM's would be burned at the stake for a selection like this but Ujiri so far, gets a bit of a pass.

The bigger issue to me is the macro view of this draft, in terms of what it means for next season.  The team is ready to compete now but their top pick isn't likely bringing them any benefit this coming season (and maybe not next season or the one after either) and their 37th pick overall doesn't exactly scream "steal" either.  With their first second-round pick, the Raptors ended up grabbing a much more local product, UCONN swingman DeAndre Daniels, a player we previewed at length pre-draft, but who I'm not super excited about.  He's got the potential to be a 3 and D guy in the NBA and had a good NCAA tourney run, but he didn't dominate the way I expected someone with his skillset would during his time at UCONN, and his advanced stats rank him as one of the draft's worst prospects.

The Dinos dealt away their second, second-round pick, drafting Xavier Thames but moving him to the Brooklyn Nets for cash, so the end result after three picks in terms of short-term impact, is probably DeAndre Daniels.  That's why it's hard not to come away from this draft feeling a bit empty, although I won't go as far as ESPN.com's Chad Ford and give the Dinos a D grade.

As fans, this is where you put on your "trust in Masai" caps and look forward to more immediate moves, like the upcoming free agency period.  This draft was likely never going to make or break the club anyways considering where Toronto was selecting, and hey, if Bruno turns into the potential stud the Raptors' brass is hailing him to be, then everyone forgets about last night's initial furor, in much the same way they forgot about preferring Brandon Knight to Jonas Valanciunas.

But if guys like Rodney Hood, Jordan Adams, Kyle Anderson and Shabazz Napier turn into key pieces for their clubs in the next few years, this one falls into the "Hoffa over Iguodala" category, and will be a tough pill for Raptors' fans to swallow.

For now though the hope is the "Brazilian KD" is at least more "Turkish Jordan," than "Aussie Shaq," all monikers Raptors fans are unfortunately quite familiar with.

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