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The Bruno Caboclo Index

Nathan Bush, Columnist

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During the 2014 NBA Draft, the Toronto Raptors made one of the most mysterious picks in recent memory. With the twentieth overall selection, the Raptors selected Brazilian forward Bruno Caboclo. The NBA world smirked at the pick, and perhaps the most famous line came from ESPN international scouting czar Fran Fraschilla when he was asked about the pick.

“[Caboclo] really doesn’t know how to play yet,” Fraschilla said. “He’s two years away from being two years away.”

Years later, people still reference Fraschilla’s disbelief and doubt of Caboclo. It’s become a popular phrase when describing young teams or unproven players. After much thought, I have created a power ranking, slotting which teams have the greatest potential and which ones are true “Bruno Caboclos.” To prevent trying to compare the future of the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Philadelphia 76ers, I decided to organize the teams into distinct sections.

Contending Teams

These are the two teams that are obviously the prohibitive favorites to rule the NBA for the rest of this decade. It’s a sad truth, but hey, the NBA is a league of dynasties, so we might as well appreciate this.

  1. Golden State Warriors

Of course I have Golden State! They are the greatest team ever, and will remain a dynasty barring some catastrophe. And it would have to be ultra-catastrophic. While many Warriors haters try to create this narrative that one of the Warrior’s core players will leave to get paid in the summer, it’s ludicrous. The Bay Area has become one of the greatest markets in the league, the personalities on this team are very complementary, the new collective bargaining agreement helps retain superstars and the Warriors’ ownership has proven they aren’t afraid of going into the luxury tax. So whether you hate the Warriors or not, they are going to be here for a long, long time.

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers

LeBron James is very good at virtually everything, and if you are in the Eastern Conference, it’s stupid to even try to beat him for the next four years. He is that good, and when it’s all said and done, he’s going to surpass Jordan. If my dad is reading this, he just jumped out of his seat in protest. Calm down old man, it’s going to be okay. As long as LeBron stays healthy, which has never been an issue, the Cavs have a bright future with no intentions of slowing down anytime soon. There is just no way around beating Golden State. Downer.

Note: This all could change if these weird conspiracy theories of LeBron leaving Cleveland turn out to be true. If that happens, all bets are off, LeBron will be my least favorite player of all-time, and I would wish the very worst for his career. He would also forfeit any chance of surpassing Jordan, as MJ would never do something this blasphemous, twice.

Knocking on the Door Teams

These are the six teams that are super close to playing in the Finals. These teams exist between the divisional and conference final rounds and are the prime candidates to be the next squads to rule the NBA.

  1. Boston Celtics

I’ve done a whole lot of thinking the past few weeks. I’m very torn. On one hand, I love Isaiah Thomas. He’s efficient, and as a fellow vertically-challenged person, it makes me happy to see someone with similar stature becoming one of the NBA’s deadliest weapons. However, his height is what makes him such a liability on defense. Thomas isn’t the Celtics’ only question mark, as many have pondered trading the number one pick for Paul George or Jimmy Butler. After much consideration, I am completely against this idea. I believe it’s pointless to build a contender in today’s climate, so the Celtics should just try to peak after LeBron’s decline. It’s going to be hard to do, but drafting Markelle Fultz and acquiring Gordon Hayward this summer will help Boston remain relevant while also gearing the franchise for the eventual overthrow of “The King.”

  1. San Antonio Spurs

San Antonio proved a lot with their playoff run. Kawhi Leonard made his case as the best two-way player in the league while LaMarcus Aldridge showcased his obvious decline and inability to be a reliable second option. It’s only June, and Chris Paul to San Antonio rumors have already began to heat up.I hope it happens. What’s a more natural fit with Popp than CP3? A squad with Paul, Leonard, and Aldridge with hit or miss veterans like Gasol and Parker could prove to be an exciting team. My greatest fear with this team is its shelf life. Outside of Kawhi, the team could only have two prime years before it becomes obsolete. However, we are talking about the Spurs, so they’ll probably be just fine.

  1. Houston Rockets

To all the in-the-moment imbeciles out there, James Harden is still a great, MVP-caliber player, even after that grotesque Game 6 loss to the Spurs. The Rockets’ exciting, fast-paced style of play is one of the most evolutionary styles of offense this game has ever seen. I respect the Rockets, and I trust Mike D’Antoni to lead them to the promised land. There’s just one problem. They have little to no cap flexibility, which means adding an even mid-tier free agent will be very hard if they plan to keep all their pieces from last year.

  1. Washington Wizards

The Wizards should’ve played in the Eastern Conference Finals this year. They were much better than Boston and would’ve put up more of a fight than my Celtics. If it wasn’t for Kelly Olynyk going totally bonkers, Washington would have certainly been in a good spot. Sadly, the Wizards’ role players cost them the series and now they must look to this offseason and beyond. Luckily, it’s an easy fix. They need depth. Desperately. In the Wiz-Celtics series, I seriously don’t know if I’ve ever seen a player as tired as Bradley Beal. The only kink in the Wizards diabolic plot is Otto Porter Jr.’s impending restricted free agency. If a team decides Porter Jr. is worth a max deal, the Wizards are going to be forced to either let him walk or double down on their current starting lineup and lose virtually all salary cap freedom. Oh, and one last thing. PSA to all Wizards fans: Demarcus Cousins is never coming to play in DC with John Wall. Get it out of your brains.

  1. Utah Jazz

I liked what the Jazz had coming into 2016, so I wasn’t surprised when they made the playoffs this year. I was surprised, however, that they managed to win a game seven on the road against a much more experienced Los Angeles Clippers squad. If the Jazz manage to hold on to Hayward and George Hill, they will continue on their pace as one of the most complete teams in the league. The best thing Utah’s GM Dennis Lindsey could do this summer is call every team in the league and assess Derrick Favors’ trade value. Moving Favors for a draft pick or a scorer would be by far the best move for Utah this offseason.

  1. Toronto Raptors

The measly Toronto Raptors. The Raptors are structurally flawed and will never be successful with this core, and the sooner their front office realizes this, the better. There’s a good chance this team loses all-star point guard Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka this summer along with key bench players like Patrick Patterson and PJ Tucker who also have contracts ending this summer. It could be an abysmal summer for the North, and I fear this could be a replication of Portland’s summer in 2015. Yikes.

Capable Teams with Bright Futures

These four teams have the capability of making the playoffs in 2018 while also remaining serious contenders for years. While it’s not certain with all these teams, they definitely seem to have what it takes to be competitive in today’s NBA. Fantastic draft outcomes, obvious identities and brilliant front-office strategizing has put these teams in the position they are in today. If these teams time their respective primes right, they can become the rightful heir to the Finals throne that Cleveland and Golden State leave behind.

  1. Milwaukee Bucks

I respect this Bucks team a lot. I honestly thought they were better than Toronto this year, and I would have loved the Gianis-Lebron matchup in the second round. The Bucks have proven me wrong time and time again, whether it be Thon Maker or Malcolm Brogdon. I love their length and how unique they are. If they can get a point guard in free agency (Where you at Kyle Lowry?), they can be very competitive and can further complicate the Eastern Conference.

  1. Philadelphia 76ers

Thanks Hinkie. I’m all-in with Joel Embiid, and while Simmons still has some question marks, Dario Saric is a homerun and even T.J. McConnell seems like a serviceable guard. Don’t forget, the 76ers have the third pick in this year’s draft and were only outside the playoffs by 6.5 games during January. If it wasn’t for the unfortunate deactivation of Joel Embiid, the 76ers may have made the playoffs. Now they enter this amazing draft with fantastic draft position and a chance at another great player. If the 76ers finally finish declogging their frontcourt by trading Jahlil Okafor, they will be on the perfect track for greatness. Kyle Lowry could return to his hometown and make the young Sixers a playoff team. I’d like that a lot.

  1. Minnesota Timberwolves

I’m not as obsessed with this Timberwolves team as most, however I see the obvious formula for greatness. I love Karl-Anthony Towns, as he is the perfect embodiment of a modern NBA bigman. However, Andrew Wiggins one-dimensionalism is what really trips me up with loving this team. While he can average 23.6 points per game, his empty statline of 4.0 rebounds per game accompanied with a lowly 2.3 assists per game aggravates me. Besides that, even with his obvious defensive potential, Wiggins can’t play defense. Zach Lavine has many of the same strengths and weaknesses as Wiggins and Kris Dunn had a very rough rookie season. If Minnesota will feed Towns the ball more often and find a way to access Wiggins’ immense defensive potential, the sky’s the limit for the young Wolves. If they are able to land Lowry, it could bode well for their playoff chances and beyond.

  1. Denver Nuggets

This team came out of nowhere. I thought Denver was just a wasteland of young, late lottery players going into this season. When they made the Nurkic trade, I honestly thought it was a mistake. I didn’t believe in Nikola Jokic and couldn’t believe they pulled the trigger. I was totally, 100% wrong about Jokic. He’s legit. Denver was so close to beating out Portland for the eight seed this year, and I feel like they are on the fringe of becoming something really special. If I’m the GM of the Nuggets, I’m going for some defenders to help balance out this team. Perhaps a guy like Kyle Lowry could fit nicely here.

Note: I’m totally aware that I put Lowry in all four of the capable teams with bright futures because he is perfect for a veteran role on a young team. On these teams, he would be the second or third scoring option, a role Lowry plays very well. He said he wants a ring and these four teams are dream scenarios. If Lowry signs with Toronto this summer, I’m really going to resent him for a while.

Limbo Teams

These 11 teams make you scratch your head. They have found a way to be exceptionally mediocre and I imagine they remain this way for a while. While maybe there is a light at the end of the tunnel for a few of these teams, most are structurally flawed or just simply untalented.

  1. Oklahoma City Thunder

Westbrook has what I call the Kobe Complex. Obviously, I coined this term from the great basketball black hole that was the Kobe Bryant led Lakers. It was very difficult for the Lakers to sign free agents due to Bryant’s style of play mixed with his humongous contract. However, Bryant played well enough to keep the Lakers out of the lottery, robbing them of any help from a young star. The Mamba became The Parasite. It’s a vicious cycle and I expect the same thing to happen to Westbrook’s Thunder. Because of this, Westbrook is going to be crushed routinely in the playoffs, as one man can’t win a playoff series in the Western Conference. Westbrook’s only hope is possibly signing Oklahoma’s own, Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers. Even with Griffin, contending is not a guaranteed due to Griffin’s injury history mixed with the toughness of the Western Conference.

  1. Miami Heat

Hold on to Waiters Island, Miami. I’m trying to stray away from this becoming a love story from me to Pat Riley, but just know, I think he’s a fantastic team builder. He’s got the eye for talent and the rings to show for it. He’s made Miami a contender for any free agent and I have to say, I love their core. While Goran Dragic may not be my favorite player, he looks great beside guys like Whiteside, Waiters, and Winslow. If Miami can just hold on to the late season form, ending the season 30-11, I envision them remaing relevant while also preparing for the future.

  1. Portland Trail Blazers

I’m not completely sold on Lillard and McCollum. While it’s fun to watch these two score-first, undersized guards compete against the upper-echelon of the NBA, it has a short shelf life and I fear it’s not going very far. They simply can’t guard anyone, and have long-lasting contracts with below average players like Allen Crabbe and Evan Turner. Nurkic helped them defensively, but they are still a piece away from becoming anything extraordinary, and that last piece may be very hard to obtain.

  1. Dallas Mavericks

Shoutout to Rick Carlisle. I’m not going to lie, the Mavs get overlooked often. While in most senses, I hate their owner Mark Cuban, he seems willing to go after anyone. While the Mavericks must accept the fact that they will never be able to sign big names, ex. Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, or even DeAndre Jordan, they are at least aggressive. Their pickup of Nerlens Noel for literally two second round picks and Justin Anderson was simply a steal, and I love their draft position. While the 2016-17 season didn’t give them a playoff berth, don’t be surprised next year when they sneak into the eight seed. As far as their chances, assuming they draft a guard, I love the idea of developing whoever he is, whether it be Frank Ntilikina (not a typo) or Dennis Smith Jr., alongside Noel and Harrison Barnes. While they might not ever contend, I have a lot more respect for them than most teams in this section of the league.

  1. Chicago Bulls

The Bulls are one of my least favorite teams in the league. The amount of incompetence ownership allows to exist is mind boggling. The source of all the problems is the Windy City’s best Dumb and Dumber impersonators, team managers Gar Forman and John Paxson. The partnership between Gar-Pax has led to the running off of two quality coaches, Thibs and Vinny Del Negro, along with the casting aside of Chicago favorites Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose, and most recently Taj Gibson. Perhaps the greatest travesty Gar-Pax has committed in their reign of tyranny has been the constant shopping of Bulls superstar Jimmy Butler. Butler has been apart of trade rumors for almost two years now, resembling the constant turmoil that exists in Chi-Town. The Bulls have one mission, to sell tickets, and are willing to put together any form of hosh-posh burnouts as long as the United Center sells out. Their future is very unpredictable, as a rebuild feels unlikely, and so does a big name free agency signing. However, I’m done talking about the atrocious Bulls until Forman and Paxson are both gone.

  1. Memphis Grizzlies

I know this team is going to die out one day, and I have absolutely no idea what is on their horizons. Every significant player on their team is aging and the Grizzlies can’t draft well at all. They’ve picked up young role players like Andrew Harrison and JaMychal Green, but players like these two have no business one day taking the reigns of a team. The Grizz are the quintessential limbo team, but I do hope they break out of this mediocrity rut. With big money tied up in virtual no-show Chandler Parsons, Memphis’ road to contending is very difficult.

  1. Atlanta Hawks

So I think the Hawks may be doing something right. I absolutely love Taurean Prince, and I’m not completely anti-Dwight Howard. Budenholzer is still a great coach, and the Hawks have been very vocal about the importance of resigning all-star power forward Paul Millsap. Dennis Schröder is a quality talent as long as he keeps his head on straight. Bottom line, this isn’t the worst team on the list, but it isn’t the best either. I respect their ability to draft well, so I may believe in the Hawks more than most.

  1. Detroit Pistons

The constant shopping of Andre Drummond and the lack of identity mixed with the inability to consistently perform landed Detroit at this spot. If you shop your best player for more than six months, it’s an indicator that you are a definite limbo team, as you don’t know if you want to spurn a rebuild or hold onto your star. Whatever the case may be, the Pistons are among the worst limbo teams. Without an obvious strength or weakness outside of center, fixing Detroit is very complicated. This awkward compilation of average players has created a predicament for Detroit. If I was GM of the Pistons, I would do everything in my power to emulate the 2008-09 Magic, AKA that one time Dwight Howard was surrounded by shooters and took them all the way to the Finals literally only running the pick and roll.

  1. Indiana Pacers

This Paul George to the Lakers commotion is really hurting the Pacers’ capital to make moves. They can’t build around George as it seems he may leave relatively soon, yet, they can’t just wait and see what he decides. While Myles Turner seems to be a fantastic NBA big, he’s the only young star on the team. Go ahead, try to name one other player under 25 on the Pacers… bet you can’t do it! So unless they manage to rob the Lakers of everything in a Paul George trade that consists of the rights to Luke Walton’s first-born son, the future is dark for Indy. Yet with all of these question marks, Indy still found a way to make the playoffs this year.

  1. Charlotte Hornets

When someone looks up mediocrity in the dictionary, a picture displaying Steve Clifford howling on the sideline appears. They are horrendous. Kemba is a cute story, but their excessive amount of below-average big men is definitely a turn-off. I like Batum, but in general, this team is totally below average and very underwhelming. I do not see them making any type of noise for the foreseeable future. Besides, Michael Jordan is a terrible owner and an even worse drafter.

  1. Los Angeles Clippers

When I was making this list, I had no idea I was going to put the Clippers this low, but it’s well earned. Between poor roster construction and bad luck, the Clippers era of relevance I fear is running out. They haven’t picked a serviceable player in the draft since 2009, Doc Rivers can’t manage and coach a team at the same time, Blake can’t stay healthy, and the Clips can’t pay Reddick. There’s a serious chance of CP3 jumping ship to join San Antonio. Honestly, I don’t think the Clippers will make the playoffs next year. It’s that bad. I could see Paul, Reddick, Crawford, and Blake all signing with other teams this offseason, leaving DeAndre Jordan and Austin Rivers as the franchise cornerstones. That’s a nightmare.

True Caboclo Teams

These two squads are the truest Bruno Caboclo teams in the entire league. They both have chances to be competitive, but only in the deep future. Total Caboclos.

  1. Los Angeles Lakers

The Luke Walton Lakers! I love it. This team is getting more and more interesting by the minute. Many presume that Lonzo Ball of UCLA will be their selection with the second pick in this year’s draft. I say bring it on! What’s a better fit to Walton’s fast-paced Warriors brand of offense than Ball’s aggressive push-the-ball approach. Showtime is back, people. The future is so bright for this team, but it’s definitely not coming soon. While Lavar Ball is already guaranteeing Lonzo will take the Lakers to the playoffs, I don’t buy it. You hear that, Lavar? Your outlandish, Trumpian media shockwaves don’t work on me! At any rate, Magic Johnson must stay away from trading his entire young core for Paul George. Wait a year, and PG13 will be yours in free agency. Patience Laker fans. Patience.

  1. Phoenix Suns

I’m going to be totally honest. I cannot figure out if the Suns have zero hope or if they just have a lot of guys with low floors and high ceilings, but I think that’s the beauty of the Bruno Caboclo Index. Devin Booker is amazing, they have the fourth pick in this year’s draft, and the Suns possess Caboclo-like players in Croatian big man Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss. Most mock drafts have the Suns selecting Josh Jackson out of Kansas, a beautiful fit. If they do get Jackson, they have a possible lineup of Bledsoe-Booker-Jackson-Chriss-Bender. Not half bad, Phoenix.

No Future Teams

I hate having to classify these teams as “no future,” but they aren’t even two years away from being two years away. They are light years away from even competing. I feel bad for fans of these five teams.

  1. Sacramento Kings

This is the highest I’ve ever been on the Kings since I began my journey as an NBA junkie. Willie Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere had great games at the end of this year, and Buddy Hield showed flashes. The main reason the Kings lead this pack of the league’s worst is their draft picks in this loaded draft. With the fifth, tenth and thirty-fourth picks, Sacramento could become a young team with hope, a trait that’s rested dormant in Sactown for years.

  1. New Orleans Pelicans

I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a Sunday night, I had poured my cup of Dr. Pepper and my TV was set to watch the All-Star game. The game itself was super lame, so I decided to whip out my phone and check Twitter. I opened the app and saw where Yahoo Sports reporter Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted about “advanced trade talks” between the Kings and Pelicans for Demarcus Cousins. It consumed my entire evening and when the trade finally became official I couldn’t sleep. Turns out that was a total overreaction and this isn’t that groundbreaking. I feel like Cousins is going to leave the Big Easy by the end of next year, and current Pelicans GM Dell Demps may lose his job. Point guard woes and lack of draft picks plague the Pelicans. It’s dismal when you get this far down the NBA food chain.

  1. New York Knicks

The Knicks will not have a future until Phil Jackson and/or James Dolan are Charles Oakley style dragged out of MSG. The two are single-handedly tarnishing the memory of the New York Knicks, one bad PR move at a time. Young star Kristaps Porzingis is putting out cryptic tweets begging for help while Carmelo Anthony is trying to become immune to Phil Jackson’s freaky zen mind tricks. News flash Phil, the triangle doesn’t work in the era of analytics.

  1. Orlando Magic

By far my favorite story of the season was the leaking of former Orlando Magic GM Rob Hennigan’s whiteboard of ideas on Instagram in April. The picture was posted by the agent of a newly signed Argentinian forward named Patricio Garino. In the background of the photo, a whiteboard hung on the wall. The whiteboard appeared to be the offseason plans of the Magic. Hennigan was fired merely nine days after Whiteboard-Gate. This meme-worthy scandal is indicative of how much of a laughing stock the Orlando Magic Markers have become. They traded away number two overall pick Victor Oladipo to the Thunder for Serge Ibaka just to trade Ibaka to the Raptors for Terrence Ross this February. It’s a terrible situation, but at least they have their own pick. Please don’t screw this up, Orlando.

  1. Brooklyn Nets

The Nets are victims of themselves. In 2013, the Celtics fleeced them for all they had. The trade was a virtual shakedown, as the Nets coughed up four first round picks for veterans Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Brooklyn is still feeling the repercussions of this horrible sin, and their junkyard of mediocre young players is like watching basketball in Purgatory. It won’t be until 2019 that Brooklyn finally gets to use one of their own picks, but the future is very distant. It’s bad in Brooklyn.

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