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Rockets’ restart could be golden opportunity for Bruno Caboclo

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The NBA restart will grant the Brazilian prodigy a golden opportunity to prove his worth in the league. 

Memphis Grizzlies v Houston Rockets Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images

Bruno Caboclo did not see much of the court this season prior to the league’s suspension in March. A knee injury limited the Brazilian prodigy to 22 games with the Memphis Grizzlies, before he was dealt to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Jordan Bell in February. Since his re-arrival to Clutch City (he was also here in 2018 for a few months), Caboclo has appeared in five games averaging 5.6 minutes — only touching the floor when the game was well in hand.

Caboclo’s lack of minutes was the result of not having the proper amount of time to entrench himself into a rotation full of veterans with championship aspirations. However, with a second training camp set to begin June 30, the NBA restart could be a golden opportunity for Caboclo to prove he is a big-game player and a game-changer.

“He’s going to be a problem. He’s a veteran as far as his mentality. He works extremely hard, and when his name is called.....he is always ready to go.” — James Harden on Bruno Caboclo in February.

Although he did not receive a spot in Houston’s 48-minute rotation, the Rockets remain high on Caboclo. Why? His size alone makes him an attractive prospect. The 24-year-old forward has a 6-foot-9 stature with a 7-foot-7 wingspan. But outside of his coveted measurements, Caboclo has the potential to blossom into one of the league’s best two-way players if given an appropriate amount of playing time.

In 2019, he appeared in 34 games, averaging 8.3 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1 block for the 33-49 Grizzlies. While helping Memphis close out the season with a 4-5 record, Caboclo scratched the surface of his potential, averaging 14.4 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 30 minutes of play. Although the nine-game stretch is a small sample size, his play at the end of the season was an immense testament that Caboclo’s on-court production could translate from the G-League — where he averaged 16.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.0 blocks for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

His defense — especially given his skill-set as a rim protector — could make him a decent reserve for the Rockets, but Caboclo’s ability to create floor spacing is the most desirable way for him to seize the opportunity in Orlando.

With the exception of Russell Westbrook, it’s no secret that the Rockets do not merit anyone who cannot shoot the three-ball at a contestant rate. They have led the league in three-point field goal attempts in four of the previous five seasons, shooting a combined 35% percent from behind the arc. For a team that possesses a pair of the league’s most proficient sharpshooters in the likes of Eric Gordon and Ben McLemore, it’s possible the most lethal three-point shooter is buried at the end of their bench.

After shooting 42.1% from behind the arc in the G-League, Caboclo shot an efficient 36.9% on three-point field goals with Grizzlies — averaging 3.8 attempts per game. During the final nine games of the 2019 season, Caboclo increased his three-point field goal attempts (5.3 3PA), connecting on 49.2% of his shots from the outside. His best performance came during the Grizzlies’ 115-103 victory over the Thunder, where Caboclo drilled four of his seven attempts from behind the arc (57.1 3P%) for a career-best 24 points in the win.

As a player who depends on his teammates, Caboclo shot 39.1% on triples in catch-and-shoot situations — making him a suitable fit playing alongside Westbrook and James Harden.

On Tuesday, the Rockets made their first move during the NBA’s transaction window ahead of the season restart. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, Houston signed swingman David Nwaba to a two-year deal following the jettison of Isaiah Hartenstein.

Unless a rotational player declines to return to play in July, Houston’s roster is nearly set as they continue to make preparations for the league’s resumption. The Rockets do not have much financial flexibility to improve their roster, and not too many players available in the free-agency pool fits their on-court persona.

Amidst the Hartenstein release, Tyson Chandler remains the only player on Houston’s roster who stands 7-feet tall. But given their full commitment to small-ball, the chance of Hartenstein falling into Houston’s rotation in Orlando was an improbable situation to start. Now Caboclo has a slight window to contribute as a back-up big man, and all he ever needed to find his footing in the league was the right opportunity on the right team. Hopefully, that chance can take place where many consider to be The Most Magical Place on Earth.