If you're keeping count, Bruno Caboclo is now only two years away.
When Raptors GM Masai Ujiri shocked everyone by taking the unknown Brazilian with the 20th pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, Fran Fraschilla dropped the now infamous line that Caboclo was, "two years away from being two years away."
Fast-forward two years and we've supposedly cut the time on Bruno's clock to NBA readiness in half. Are we any closer to seeing what this kid can do?
Over those two years of NBA action, Bruno's playing time has been minimal, to say the least. He has played a grand total of 66 NBA minutes over 14 games, scoring only 13 points on 5-for-24 shooting from the field and 3-for-10 from three-point range.
Of course, Bruno's role on the team cannot be boiled down to mere statistics. If that were the case, this would be terrifying:
In very limited minutes, Bruno Caboclo had a -7.7 PER, -.283 WS/48, and -11.6 BPM https://t.co/KFomhsgC5V— Basketball Reference (@bball_ref) September 28, 2016
No, in Bruno's two years as a member of the Raptors, he has been our garbage-time hero, our mascot, and our victory cigar. Our love for him is not measured in efficiency statistics, but in moments.
In blowouts at home, fans cheer his name. Loudly. Sometimes, they get treated to this:
Ok, only once did they get treated to that.
Still, regardless of how his playing career pans out, Bruno has already cemented his status as a Raptors folk hero. Over the many lean years of this franchise, such players have almost owned a bigger portion of the fans' hearts than the stars. He might never become "The Brazilian Kevin Durant" and that's probably fine.
That said, will he actually get an opportunity to contribute real and meaningful minutes for the big-league club this year?
Caboclo spent most of last season with Raptors 905, Toronto's D-League affiliate. Over 37 games with the 905, Bruno averaged 14.7 points in 37 contests, while throwing in 6.5 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.1 steals, and 1.8 blocks, and shooting 40.3% from the field, 33.5% from long range, and 72.7% from the charity stripe. The scoring is still a work in progress, but his work on the boards and on the defensive end show some signs of promise.
Looking at the Raptors in 2016-17, there might actually be a spot for such a player. Well, maybe.
Last year, 926 of the Raptors minutes at the three and the four went to James Johnson, who is now a member of the Miami Heat. Most of those minutes will likely be spread out to a healthier DeMarre Carroll, an up-and-coming Norman Powell, and a hopefully still improving Terrence Ross, but their could conceivably be a place for Bruno should an injury befall one of those three.
In three preseason games (including one start), however, Caboclo has yet to separate himself from the pack. In 9.7 minutes per contest, he's averaging 1.7 points on 20.0% shooting from the field.
Truth be told, this player preview would probably belong on Raptors905HQ.com, if such a thing existed. Caboclo is likely in for another year of splitting time between sitting at the end of the Raptors bench, playing some occasional garbage-time minutes, and otherwise spending most of his time playing in the D-League.
An injury could pave the way for more big-league minutes, but Bruno's development is simply not a priority for the Raptors at the NBA level, since they are in the midst of the most successful run in franchise history. Fresh off their first appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals, Toronto is not a team that needs projects, they need wins.
But Bruno is still only 21 years old. There's still time for him to have his time. The raw, physical talent is as obvious now as it was then, the boy just needs to find some consistency. If he can start stringing some impactful games together at the D-League level, maybe he'll find a way to carve himself out a role on the NBA team. If that's not today or even tomorrow, that's still fine.
We've still got two years.