The Case For Bruno, and the book on Round Two

Masai Ujiri joined Tim and Sid to discuss the NBA Draft, specifically the decision behind the Raptors picking Bruno Caboclo 20th overall.

It became the line of the night, one that seemed more and more jarring as the extent to which the Raptors and GM Masai Ujiri gambled with their first-round pick grew apparent:

“He’s two years away from being two years away,” ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla explained to the rest of the basketball world, 99 percent of whom had—and still have—absolutely no idea who the hell Bruno Coboclo is.

In the immediate aftermath of the pick, a total shock to even the most plugged-in insiders, we learned that Coboclo is an 18-year-old athletic freak with less than 20 games in the Brazilian league under his belt. We also learned that the Raptors were one of only two teams who saw him play last year. Oh, and that he was a teammate of Rafael Araujo, the poster boy for Raps’ draft picks gone wrong.

It wasn’t exactly promising.

To make matters worse, the Raptors had more fans than ever tuned into the draft, as well as new followers sucked in by the contagious excitement and passion emanating from Jurassic Park during the team’s thrilling playoff run. And yet, with many recognizable collegiate names still on the board, players even the casual fan could get behind—Cleanthony Early, Rodney Hood, Shabazz Napier, K.J. McDaniels—Ujiri made his biggest gamble to date.

Sounds like an avalanche of reasons for Raptors fans and media alike to bring the GM under fire and dismiss our new friend Bruno as another in a long line of wasted picks, doesn’t it?

Think again.

In the light of day, there’s actually a lot to like about the pick.

To be clear, while there have been solid players plucked from the 20-30 range, it’s not common. And at No. 20, even in a loaded draft like this one, you’re taking a big swing with whomever you select. The Raptors didn’t pass up a consensus future all-star in order to go way off the board and take Mr. Coboclo (though I do think Rodney Hood may wind up haunting all the teams that passed on him). And if you’re up at the plate without any high lottery picks in the near future and no big-time free agents on the horizon, why not swing for the fences?

What we also learned last night was that Ujiri had been high on Coboclo for quite some time (don’t all GMs say that about the guy they pick?) and that the team is going to bring him in to play on the Summer League team in Vegas next month. Plus, he’ll be in Toronto this weekend to meet with the press.

Those moves don’t scream “draft n’ stash.” Instead, it would appear that Ujiri is following the Giannis Antetokounmpo-model that the Milwaukee Bucks established last year: drafting a raw athlete with little basketball experience and throwing him into the fire, letting him develop under your watchful eye against top-tier talent. It’s a ballsy move, no doubt, but if you’re putting your neck on the line regardless at that spot, why not go for someone you truly believe in?

For what it’s worth, I genuinely think we’re going to see Coboclo in a Raptors’ uniform next season. How far Bruno’s potential can take him and whether or not he comes close to Giannis as a prospect remains to be seen, but you have to admire that Ujiri went for it, Fraschilla et al be damned.

As for the second rounders, history suggests we won’t be hearing too much from them. If a guy like Quincy Acy couldn’t see the floor, I’m not too optimistic about DeAndre Daniels’ chances.

That said, the Raps’ second pick (37th overall) does bring with him translatable skills, like his ability to stretch the floor with his jump shot, kind of like a Pat Patterson-lite. But Daniels will need to add to his frame if he’s going to be as effective around the rim as he was down the stretch last season at UConn. He does bring a championship pedigree to the team, and for a club still shedding the stink of years of losing, those are the guys you need to go after. Expect to see Daniels in the Summer League as well, as he looks to try to crack the Raptors’ front court rotation.

All in all, an exciting night, with no shortage of talking points. So what say you Raptors fans? Can you get behind the Coboclo pick, or is the harsh fate of having played alongside Hoffa Araujo simply too much to overcome?

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