NBA fans will remember Bruno Caboclo from the now infamous draft night description; “Two years from being two years away”. This description proved to be relatively accurate, as Caboclo arrived in the NBA very raw. However at 6 foot 9 with a near 7 foot 7 wingspan, Caboclo clearly had the physical tools to be an NBA player. Over the last 6 and a half years, Caboclo has put in the work and gradually improved each year. He now looks to be an NBA ready role player, but he currently does not have an NBA team.
After largely playing in the NBA G-League for the first 4 years of his career, Caboclo got his first opportunity to play some real NBA minutes on the Memphis Grizzlies. During the 2018-19 season Caboclo averaged 8.3 points, 1.3 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 1.0 blocks in 23.5 minutes per game. He achieved this with a 42.7% field goal, 36.9% 3pt and 84% free throw percentage. These numbers are good for a young role-playing stretch 4.
During Caboclo’s 14 games for the Houston Rockets from 2020 through to early 2021, he averaged 3.2 points, 2.1 rebounds, 0.5 blocks and 0.4 steals. While these numbers are low, Caboclo was only given 6.3 minutes per game, making these stats much more impressive. His 48.6% field goal and 87.5% free throw were the highest of his career. However his 3 point percentage dropped to 15%. While this drop off in three point percentage is frustrating, his increase in free throw shooting is a good sign that he is improving his shot mechanics. If Caboclo’s Houston stats are adjusted to per 36 minutes, he averaged 18.3 points, 12 rebounds, 2.9 blocks and 2.3 steals. While these numbers don’t mean that Caboclo is a star (or ever will be), they show that even in limited minutes he is still improving and deserves a chance to prove himself on another NBA team.
What Caboclo brings to an NBA team
Caboclo’s largest strength has always been his impressive wingspan. At 6’9 with a 7’7 wingspan, Caboclo has the measurements to play center. What he lacks in strength, he makes up for with speed and length. Caboclo has been a very inconsistent defender at the NBA level. While Caboclo has great length and good foot speed for a 4, his defensive decision making isn’t always great. This can be seen with Caboclo biting on pump fakes and getting beaten with eurosteps. However Caboclo is good at contesting and blocking shots. This makes him a good power forward and small-ball center.
Caboclo’s shot blocking and length in my opinion could lead to him being a rim-protecting 4 to compliment a weak defensive center. This would be a similar role to the one that Jerami Grant played for Nikola Jokic. Grant is the rare player who can defend on the perimeter and protect the rim. NBA teams in this modern era of basketball can only really afford to play one big who can’t defend on the perimeter at a time. This is due to the frequency in which pick and rolls are used by teams to target these players who cannot defend guards. As was seen in the 2020 playoffs when the Portland Trail Blazers played Hassan Whiteside and Jusuf Nurkic at the same time. LeBron James destroyed the Blazers in the pick and roll. If the defenders went over the screen, LeBron would beat the players to the rim easily, and if they went under, James would have an open 3. Caboclo’s speed and length on the perimeter would help negate this problem. Bruno Caboclo is a solid perimeter defender and good rim-protector. With more coaching and playing time, he could grow into the role of being a rim-protecting 4.
Caboclo would be a good fit for a center who struggles to protect the rim. Centers such as Nikola Jokic, Karl-Anthony Towns (even though he has protected the rim well so far this season), Nikola Vucevic and LaMarcus Aldridge.
In the 2019-20 NBA season the Nuggets were the 11th best defensive team in the NBA. As of the 17th January, Denver has posted the 20th best defense in the NBA. A large part of this drop off is their lack of rim protection. Jokic offers practically everything you could ask for in a center when it comes to offense and rebounding, but he lacks perimeter defense and rim protection. Jerami Grant compensated for Jokic’s lack of these two skills. While Caboclo’s defense is far more inconsistent than Grant’s, Caboclo has only continued to improve each season, even if his improvements are gradual. The Denver Nuggets are very good at developing raw players, I expect that Jerami Grant would continue this trend. With Michael Porter Jr and Bol Bol’s development there will be less minutes available at power forward, however Caboclo is not at Grant’s level (yet) and will not require nearly as many minutes (at least not right away).
The Timberwolves are both in need of rim protection, and another power forward. Juan Hernangomez is a very poor defender. So far in the 2021 season he has also struggled to hit his 3’s, which is the main reason for playing him in the first place. Hernangomez would be a better fit for a team that already has a good rim protector. Vanderbilt has looked like a good rebounding backup PF who compliments a stretch 5 like Naz Reid, but his lack of jumpshot would take away some of Towns’ spacing. Bruno Caboclo could be the rim protector next to KAT the Timberwolves need. The Wolves’ Associate Head Coach David Vanterpool is known for being a good defensive mentor. This would explain Towns’ recent improvements on the defensive end. Vanterpool would be a good coach to help Caboclo develop into the NBA level defender he can be. Caboclo’s 7 foot 7 wingspan would provide a much needed boost to Minnesota’s defense. Caboclo would be both a good fit for the Wolves as they are in desperate need of defense at the 4, and he has the potential to develop into a key piece of their rotation. With an open roster spot, the Wolves have the room to add Caboclo without cutting anyone.
The Pacers need minutes at both the backup 4 and 5. Caboclo can provide rim protection next to Domantas Sabonis and play like a more traditional power forward next to Myles Turner. With so few power forwards on their roster, Caboclo could provide instant minutes, without requiring too many. For the most part the Pacers are not lacking floor spacing, Caboclo is a streaky shooter, who would benefit from the shooting of these teammates. If Goga Bitazde is to become the backup centre of this team, Caboclo would be a good rim protector to play alongside him. Caboclo’s age is very similar to the key players of this team, allowing him to fit within the timeline of Turner, Sabonis, Brogdon and LeVert.