It is tremendously easy to talk yourself into cheering for Lucas Nogueira. The 23-year-old Brazilian, known as Bebe, is an entertaining motormouth in the locker room and a very likeable person to have in and around the Raptors. He's also seven feet tall, with an afro that gives him a few more inches, arms that stretch beyond reason, and a bounciness that suggests he could cover the court in all but a few strides. Bebe stands out.
Beyond appearances though, there are also the flashes of talent -- the long passes and alley-oop finishes -- that suggest Nogueira is part of the future for the Raptors' frontcourt. Despite spending most of his year with the Raptors 905 in the D-League -- in which he put up a casual 9.8 points and 7.8 rebounds in 23.6 minutes per game -- Bebe continues to show potential in his time with the main club.
Will the Raptors ever get to see the young man who put up a near-triple double in the 905 home opener? Will Bebe take that next step in his NBA career? All of that remains to be seen. It's fair to say though that everyone is hoping for the best. Bebe is easy to cheer for, after all.
In 29 games (including one start): 7.8 minutes per game, shooting 64% from the field, 33% from 3 and 53% from the free throw line, while putting up 2.2 points, 1.6 rebounds, 0.2 assists, 0.4 blocks, 0.4 steals, and 0.4 turnovers.
December 5, 2015 vs. Golden State Warriors:
Going purely by the box score, Nogueira's 14 point-4 rebound game against the soon-to-champion Warriors is his best game of the season. He even tossed in three assists, a steal and a 7-of-9 shooting night for effect. Bebe played just short of 25 minutes in the game and actually helped the Raptors keep the game extremely competitive. (They eventually lost.)
March 2, 2016 vs. Utah Jazz:
For my money though, the game that will always stick out from the past season is Lucas' four and half minutes against the Jazz. Bebe came into the game out of nowhere and changed the whole energy of the Raptors. He only tallied two points and four rebounds, but the Raps were suddenly themselves again and they went on to win relatively easily.
I can't point to any one specific game, but there were definitely more than a handful when a minute or two of Bebe went a long way towards suggesting he wasn't quite ready for extended minutes.
Strengths and Weaknesses:
+ Good hands on the offensive end for both finishing alley-oops and threading passes
+ Gradually improving his range out to the three-point line
+ An extremely cheerful presence in the locker room (and that's understating it)
- Still gets totally overwhelmed/outsmarted on the defensive end
- Despite leaping ability, can easily be bullied on the court due to slight frame
Role Next Season:
Along with Norman Powell, Nogueira is the biggest question mark on the Raptors roster. Assuming Bismack Biyombo leaves (and this feels like a foregone conclusion), Toronto may be able to press Bebe into a bigger role as the team's back up centre. He's shown flashes of his prowess on the offensive end, and (at the very least) a nascent shot-blocking ability on defense.
The question is: can the young Brazilian withstand the day-to-day grind of the NBA playing 15-25 minutes a night? If Bebe can stay mentally sharp and productive, it means the Raptors will have a young big man under a very reasonable contract for the next two years, which opens up all kinds of interesting avenues in terms of spending their resources on other players. If he can't, the hole left by Biyombo will have to be filled at a cost. And the Raptors will have to decide once again if Nogueira is worth having around.
A GIF to Sum It All Up