• Welcome back, Hoop Ballers, to our International Spotlight weekly feature where we will be revisiting emerging Brazilian forward Bruno Caboclo, the newest member of the Grizzlies on a 10-day contract who has put a couple impressive performances on display already.

    Mike Conley wasn’t quite sure of the name of his new teammate when he debuted with Memphis last week and we wouldn’t blame him as, through four seasons and two franchises (Raptors and Kings), Caboclo has played in just 35 NBA games, spending most of his time in the G-League and the Rockets’ affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers this year.

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    “Two Years Away From Being Two Years Away”

    The Raptors made little-known Bruno Caboclo the No. 20 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft after he stood out at the Basketball without Borders camp in Brazil in 2013, earning MVP honors. The pick was so off-board, it caused ESPN college basketball expert Fran Fraschilla to proclaim how “he’s two years away from being two years away,” a phrase that would long stick to the youngster.The Caboclo team reportedly didn’t want to be stashed so the agreement was that he would spend the beginning of his career on the bench, getting mentored by the vets and practicing with them while at the same time being integrated into North American society, learning the language and adding some much needed weight.

    To criticize Caboclo’s production in Toronto is unfair. He endured a horrific rookie year which did little to improve his skills but don’t forget that prior to the 2015-16 season, the Raptors did not have a G League team and shared the Fort Wayne Mad Ants with 11 other NBA franchises. They had no influence on the coaching staff and the development of their players, while the Mad Ants were more concerned with winning than developing Caboclo, who played a mere 62 minutes in 8 games as the assignment proved difficult and isolating.

    A sophomore season was expected to be easier with Raptors 905 in place and his overall G League stats did show progress as the minutes were there, but he played in just 116 minutes with the Raptors before being traded to the Kings last February.

    What We’ve Seen So Far

    Bruno is an outstanding physical specimen, standing at 6’9” with a 7’7” wingspan. The word “upside” was written all over him due to his impressive wingspan, his broad shoulders, his big hands and long legs. On top of thait he is also a good leaper with explosive jumping ability, an athlete who runs the court like a guard, while his fluidity helps him take advantage of slower and less athletic players. He is a complete nightmare guarding the inbounds and with all the athleticism in the world his defensive ability is what makes him stand out. Look at how he denies Andrew Wiggins on back to back possessions either coming from the weak side or rejecting him straight up on a dunk attempt.

    Bruno has long been able to establish himself as an exceptional offensive rebounder, averaging a career-high 2.5 per gamer this season in the G-League by using solid awareness, which he was able to develop in recent years, and his ridiculous athleticism. Opponents often forget to put a body on him and he’s able to easily manufacture putback opportunities every time he hits the glass. Look at how flawlessly he scores by attacking the glass from the corner after a missed Marc Gasol triple.

    Caboclo’s natural position is probably small forward since he is fluid enough to stay on the perimeter and he lacks the power to be effective as a four at the NBA level, but he still struggles against quicker opponents. This has been a major point of emphasis at the NBA level as Bruno has lacked the necessary concentration to stick to his defender and often thinks he can recover with his length and athleticism. Here is a bad defensive possession where he got too close to Karl-Anthony Towns, allowing him to blow past and score with the easy dunk on a game-tying possession.

    This Year’s G-League Transformation

    Before signing with Memphis, Bruno was in the middle of a breakthrough season in the G-League, developing into one of the league’s best 3-and-D players and finally putting the complete package on display while averaging 16.4 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 3.0 blocks on 52 percent from the field and 43 percent from beyond the 3-point line. What really made the difference was the 3-point shooting as he evolved from a streaky shooter who struggled with consistency to a reliable solution beyond the arc, converting on 68 out of 159 triples. Caboclo has a great natural touch but his form finally looks fluid and it remains to be seen whether he can maintain the confidence in his shot. Look at him launching this off-balance catch-and-shoot three from the corner after a nice offensive possession by his teammates where the ball moves around.

    The Grizzlies appear to have given him the green light to shoot from anywhere on the floor as he has attempted 3, 4, 6 and 5 triples in four games so far even though he has only converted in 28 percent of them. Shot selection has always been questionable and he should develop better habits as he learns the game more but I believe Bruno is at the point where he understands that he can’t let his shot affect the rest of his game. At the end of the 3rd quarter against the Pacers he was able to hit a crucial triple but he managed to stay focused and run back all the way to alter Cory Joseph’s shot as the time expired.

    Defense the Biggest Question Mark

    The Brazilian forward has been a defensive menace in the G-League this year and he is expected to easily win the Defensive Player of the Year award since he is averaging 3.0 blocks and 1.2 steals per game. He has shown tremendous defensive versatility as he can switch on pick-and-rolls, guard all positions, protect the rim and provide help defense. Look at how he uses his length to come out of a weak screen and disrupt one of the top shooters in the game in Bojan Bogdanovic, who is clearly surprised and launches a brick as the time expires.

    1-on-1 defense, though, is still a work in progress as even though he has all the makings of a good defender with his length and athleticism, he often has to deal with the best athletes in the world that blow past him. Look at Andrew Wiggins easily creating separation against the Brazilian forward but opting for the long jumper instead of driving to the lane. This is an interesting possession where the blame has to fall more on Memphis’ coaching staff that decided to put Bruno on such a tough assignment that also led to the team missing the rebound and allowing KAT to beat them at the buzzer.

    Upside Turning Into Cash Counters

    Coboclo was the ultimate swing for the fences type of pick, similar to taking a promising high school player who lacks any real experience or polish but the truth is he never developed as teams had hoped. Here’s what Masai Ujiri had to say after the Raptors shipped him to Sacramento last year at the trade deadline.

    “It was difficult for us, because I just thought it was time. On the part of talent, I think we got that part right. He is a real talented kid. But in the process we got the D-League team a couple of years later and it’s a question from me whether he should have stayed over.”

    His progress this year has been undeniable and there is definitely hope as Jermaine O’Neal averaged only 11 minutes per game in his first four years in the NBA before becoming a six-time NBA All-Star. Expectations though should be kept low though as Bruno still struggles to create points for both himself and his teammates, settling for contested jumpers and often stoping the dribble too early, causing the offense to become stagnant.

    With the uncertainly currently surrounding the Grizzlies I would definitely pick up Bruno in deeper leagues as the minutes have already been there and the team looks committed to developing their young players.

    Hope you enjoyed reading this article and please free to reach out to me on Twitter @philysstar for any fantasy or dynasty trade talk. With the trade deadline rapidly approaching stay up to date on all the breaking news and rumors posted on our website and on our Twitter account @HoopBallFantasy.

    Stats are courtesy of NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com and are accurate as of February 1st .

Fantasy News

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    Source: Dontas Urbonas on Twitter

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