With the trade deadline in the rear view mirror, it is a new era in Grizzlies’ basketball. It is very likely the emotion around those who left will take a while to transition to excitement about those who arrived. However, the time has arrived for many players to seize the opportunity to take the next step in their careers.
That opportunity is not limited just to the new players directly involved in the trades. Ivan Rabb has made the most of his expanded minutes and has earned a starting role. Justin Holiday has played his best basketball since earning consistent run as a starter. Many Grizzlies who were already in Memphis are seeing their importance increase.
Bruno Caboclo fits in this group. While he certainly has seen his role with the Grizzlies expand on the court, the recent flurry of transactions also impacted him off of it. Logically, much of the speculation leading up to the trade deadline was on who the Grizzlies would trade and acquire. In addition to that, there was some speculation on who could be waived if roster room was needed. While Caboclo seemed to be a potential candidate for being released, the Grizzlies wisely cut Omri Casspi instead.
This was a smart decision because Caboclo is exactly the type of player the Grizzlies should invest in. Today, Caboclo’s second ten-day contract expires. However, it makes perfect sense for both Caboclo and the Grizzlies to make him apart of the franchise’s future. Not only does it allow Caboclo to develop as a player at the NBA level, it gives the franchise a chance to evolve into a better form of itself.
Retaining and securing Cabolclo for the foreseeable future is a logical decision. However, this decision has more potential than just making sense. Memphis must invest more than money and a roster spot in Caboclo. That must invest time and effort into helping him become better as a player. Caboclo has the natural ability to make a significant impact on both ends of the court.
The Grizzlies must identify Caboclo’s strengths, and put him in situations where the strengths can be maximized. In appearance, Caboclo has a similar build and body type to Kevin Durant. He even was labeled the “Brazilian Kevin Durant” at the time he was drafted.
Any idea of comparing the two players was unfair then, and is basically confirmed now. Durant’s body chemistry and composition results in nearly unnatural quickness in his movements for a man his size. Caboclo does not seem to share that same trait. Furthermore, Caboclo is developing his basketball IQ and instincts. While there is certainly a lot of potential in his game, it will take time to materialize.
While he may lack Durant’s elite attributes, he still provides the same incredible length. Caboclo’s 7’6” wingspan is naturally a very unique and effective asset. Basically, Caboclo can make an impact on defense just by instinct or reaction.
During the Grizzlies loss to the Thunder last Thursday, Paul George was defended by Caboclo on the sideline. Because of Caboclo’s length, George struggled to find a passing lane, and dribbled the ball off his foot and out of bounds. When a player’s presence alone can cause turnovers, it provides a significant advantage for his team.
Caboclo’s statistics seem to indicate this impact. While the small sample size should certainly be kept in mind, it is carries relevance. This season, on a per-100 possession scale, Caboclo has produced 1.3 steals, 2.9 blocks and a 107 defensive rating. He is one of only 20 players to produce a defensive rebounding percentage greater than 12% and block percentage greater than 5% (min. 190 minutes played.) No one should peg him as a future defensive player of the year, but this certainly provides evidence he could be an effective defender on the court.
Caboclo also fits the mold of the type of player the Grizzlies’ were targeting this off-season. In Jaren Jackson Jr. and Kyle Anderson, the Grizzlies have two young players for the foreseeable future who possess the ability, intelligence, and desire to be elite on defense. Caboclo likely has the ability, but must develop the discipline and IQ to make the most of it.
Kyle Anderson could provide a lot of benefit to Caboclo. Anderson has made himself into a significant asset because of his elite mental approach to the game despite limited physical abilities. If Caboclo can improve his intelligence to combine with his advantageous length and physical skills, it would be a significant step forward in his career.
Beyond Anderson, another figure for the Grizzlies to utilize is Jerry Stackhouse. A few weeks ago, Stackhouse was praised for the impact he is making as an assistant coach. This impact mainly comes from Stackhouse directly competing and playing against the Grizzlies’ players. Caboclo and Stackhouse also have familiarity from Stackhouse’s time as a Raptors’ assistant. Caboclo was drafted by the Raptors and has spent much of his career with their organization. From his background as a player and coach, Stackhouse could be an excellent source to rely upon to successfully develop Caboclo’s offensive approach. He has also aided in the development of players who share similarities with Caboclo. Stackhouse spent two seasons as an NBA assistant and G league head coach for the Raptors. Over that time frame, Toronto has shown the ability to turn somewhat raw, international talents into valuable role players. Examples of this are Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby. Stackhouse played a direct role in their development.
Caboclo is leaner and more of a perimeter talent than either player. However, they could provide reasonable projections for Cabolo’s career. All three players offer significant defensive projection and ability due to their length, as well as the capability to be an asset on offense.
Siakam has become a starter and significant contributor to the Raptors success, while Anunoby is a key reserve. Caboclo’s per-36, per-100, and advanced metrics align closely with Anunoby this season. While Siakam is likely one avenue as a best case scenario, Anunoby is a very reasonable outcome for Caboclo’s development in the near future.
Bruno Caboclo is likely not a franchise altering talent. He likely has a ceiling as a 3 and D reserve in the second unit of a playoff team. Other than Siakam, If Caboclo’s skills were to mature better than most expect, he could turn into a Robert Covington type player in his prime. He is the type of player that a franchise should focus on to give them a better chance to maintain success.
The difference between Memphis and other successful franchises is player development. It worked for the Grizzlies in the formation of the Grit and Grind era teams. Now, Memphis must find what it takes to make it work again.
The Grizzlies have shown signs of improving in their player development efforts. Last year’s effort with Dillon Brooks and the recent emphasis on featuring Ivan Rabb are encouraging. It is not unreasonable to suggest Caboclo could have more natural talent than either of those players. All he needs is for Memphis to provide guidance and the opportunity to develop.
If that happens, it certainly will benefit Caboclo has a player. For a team likely starting an inevitable rebuild in the next calendar year, effective player development is a great way to start . As a result, investing in Bruno Caboclo is mutually beneficial for both the player and the franchise.