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The Bruno Caboclo Experiment may be running out of time

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After Toronto’s off-season moves, Bruno Caboclo may be heading into the most critical stretch of his fledgling NBA career.

NBA: Preseason-Toronto Raptors at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Back in the 2014 NBA draft the Raptors were on the clock with the 20th selection, and then came the bombshell: the Raptors selected Bruno Caboclo out of Brazil, and the famous Fran Fraschilla quote on him being “two years away from being two years away” was born.

Well, here we are four years later and Caboclo has played a total of 23 NBA games, in which he’s averaged a mere 4.6 minutes per game, while adding 1.2 points and 0.6 rebounds, almost entirely in meaningless stretches of games. It is fair to say Caboclo’s development has been slow.

When Caboclo was drafted, he didn’t have much basketball experience. In the three years since, he has matured personally, while also improving on the court with the Raptors 905. Caboclo is one of the better defenders at the G-League level, using his lanky arms to disrupt passing lanes, and force turnovers. There is no question his defense is NBA ready. It is his offense that needs work.

Watching Caboclo play in the G-League last season. you could see him take strides with his offensive game over the course of the year. At the beginning of the season, Caboclo would often get visibly upset after he’d miss a shot, and let it linger with him for long stretches. Near the end of the year and into the playoffs, he wouldn’t get mad at a missed shot, rather he would hustle back on defense. Last season with the 905, Caboclo averaged 27.1 minutes, putting up 9.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.2 assists while shooting 41.3 percent from the field and 33.1 percent from three. Those numbers aren’t the best, but aren’t a disaster, and if he can keep that shooting percentage in the NBA, there’s a chance he can become a rotation player with the Raptors. What he needs is an opportunity to carve out that role.

With DeMarre Carroll and P.J. Tucker now gone from the small forward position, that opportunity may come this season.

Caboclo has all the athleticism in the world, and his defensive ability at both forward positions could help make up for losing Tucker in free agency. Even if his offense doesn’t translate to the NBA, his defense should make him playable.

Competition will be tight among the Raptors’ collection of young combo forwards, though. Alfonzo McKinnie looks likely to be on the 15-man roster, and OG Anunoby should return from his knee injury some time around the New Year. If Caboclo can’t get a foothold early, his opportunity to make an impact might disappear. Seeing as this is already the final year of Caboclo’s rookie contract, not cracking the rotation at all could signal the end of the Bruno experiment.

Caboclo’s shot might last two or three months while Anunoby finishes he rehab. With just 106 NBA minutes to his name, this off-season’s moves might have sped up the timeline and put Bruno on the verge of the most important stretch of his young career.