Can “Bruno Memphis” finesse his way into a role?
The man famously labeled the prospect “Two years away from being two years away” during his draft process has now reached that time frame in his career, even if his production necessarily hasn’t. Bruno Caboclo is now in his 5th year and is still fighting for a roster spot, but now on a lottery-bound Memphis Grizzlies team. Now to be fair, the 20th pick of the 2014 NBA draft has made some progress in his development as of recent, so only so much judgement can be made on his career at this point, but him being in the G-league this time last year says a lot about his current value across the league if nothing else.
The Memphis Hustle first home game of last season was versus the Houston Rockets G-League Affiliate, and ironically I had the privilege of being there courtesy of Eli Suvoy. Bruno happened to be playing for the opposing team.
Lets just say, he didn’t stand out, despite being the only first-round pick on both teams’ rosters then.
Never the less of course, Bruno was eventually called up from the G League essentially by the Grizzlies when the team was desperate for active bodies. Caboclo beagn to really make an impression with his 34-game audition for Memphis to the tune of eight points, five rebounds, and roughly two assists in 24 minutes per game. This stat line may not jump off the charts for the novice fan, but keep in mind Bruno is likely the last option at best when on the court. So for a man whose weakest phase of his game is offense to still be nearly a double-digit scorer on a nightly basis, Bruno is a consistent shot and a little more muscle away from being a damn good role player and a rotational mainstay even then.
Bruno is a defender, if nothing else, partly due to having one of the longest wingspans in recent memory. He’s never to be confused with a tireless pitbull scorer. However, Bruno’s value is something that doesn’t necessarily measure well in basic stats. Despite an ironically forgettable performance, he’s like to play a decent role on this team, especially if he proves to be a reliable shooter, even if catch-and-shoot exclusive. Where Bruno is surely improved is his defensive versatility with now ability to potentially defend 2-5. If he can provide that sort of versatility along with a solid burner from distance, Bruno is gonna make some guys really become The Expendables & I’m not talking about the movie with Sylvester Stallone either.
Guys like Kyle Anderson need to cop a reliable burner from distance with the quickness, because Bruno could potentially be the much less expensive version that gets the job done and then some.
Bruno has also been experimenting with playing center. This development was at the request of Coach Taylor Jenkins in some of their small ball packages. It makes the Grizzlies stupid versatile in defensive switches, while still providing the same length of virtually any bug man in the league today except maybe Tacko Fall of course. Bruno can block shots with the best of them at times, not to mention his ability to pick pockets with his historical wingspan.
On the offensive end, he allows the Grizzlies to speed it up offensively, with his ability to not only float in the fastbreak like a gazelle, but also finish at the rim and potentially fade to the corners to knock down Ja Morant-assisted catch-and-shoot buckets. Bruno also brings willingness to set picks to give Ja & Tyus more space to create along with being another long & athletic cutter when directed.
2019-20 Best Case Scenario
Bruno Caboclo steadily improves on his basic stat line of 8/5/2 at an all around efficient rate. Part of the efficiency referenced would be his three-point shooting, thus increases his minutes to the 25-30 minutes per game range and becomes a certified double-digit scoring threat who can not only catch beautiful assists from Ja Morant on fastbreaks, but also serve as an elite (Top 15) defensive player that offers ultimate versatility defending various matchups. All of this will make him impossible to take out of the game.
His per-36 statline last season was essentially 13/7/3/2. So if he averages that, and does it within 30 minutes per game, Bruno would be a major steal that’ll be sure to get at least some Most Improved Player votes.
2019-20 Worst Case Scenario
Worst case scenario, the Bruno I saw in the Memphis Hustle 2018-19 home opener shows up and doesn’t capitalize on an obvious opportunity to secure a long-term future on a team searching for talent, especially versatile wing players.
Bruno comes in timid, waiting for opportunity versus taking his opportunity, and we all know the assurances of the latter. Bruno could also continue to struggle with his shot, or simply struggle to identify many ways he can help the team in games and doesn’t offer much impact as a leader to compensate. As a result, Bruno comes up short of the finesse game unlike his name twin Bruno Mars.
If hell burns all else, Bruno is a willing defender who should also be at least a reliable rim-runner, if nothing else, offensively. One can still get playing time as long as surrounded by sufficient shooters to balance the powers.
I know the sample isn’t ample at only 34 games, but Bruno produced across the board last season in terms of basic stats, defense, and metric impacts. Remember, 34 games is about the length of a college or overseas season anyway, and the league drafts those players based on said samples. If he can just produce at the exact same rate he did for the Grizzlies last season over say 25-30 minutes, then he would be a certified double-digit scorer, which is awesome coming from a bargain-bin pickup who’s mostly known as a defender and raw, low-priority offensive player. I can see him becoming “Diet Paskal Siakam” with a slash line of 10/5/3, which would be great for ME from Bruno, a guy I ridiculed when the Grizzlies first signed last season.