When Lucas “Bebe” Nogueira was traded to the Toronto Raptors along with Lou Williams in June of 2014, the Brazilian big man was an afterthought. While Lou Will tore it up in Canada en route to winning the Sixth Man of the Year Award, Nogueira spent the majority of his time on the bench accompanied by fellow countryman, Bruno Caboclo.
Fast forward three and a half years and not much has changed. While Bebe has played in many more games than Caboclo (52 to be exact), he hasn’t taken the leap and, at the age of 25, has gotten his club option picked up twice by the Raptors. If the Dinos do so again after the upcoming campaign, it’ll result in a cap hit of $8.8 million.
Nogueira is constantly one of the friendliest and most approachable players in the locker room and seems to be very well-liked by his peers, but his future with the squad looks murky. When you factor in that the Raptors already have Jonas Valanciunas and Jakob Poeltl ahead of him on the depth chart, the 2017-18 season looks like it’s going to be his last chance to make an impact with the franchise.
With Bismack Biyombo departing for Orlando last offseason, the door was wide open for Nogueira’s playing time to increase. The big man had an almost five-fold increase in minutes last season which resulted in per game averages of 4.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.6 blocks in 19.1 minutes. Bebe shot a very respectable 66 percent from the floor and finished the year with the fifth best plus/minus on the team.
Health has always been an issue for Nogueira, but he was able to make it out of the year relatively unscathed after sitting out for the first five games of the season with a sprained ankle.
The most notable improvement in his game was his passing. For a seven-footer, Bebe has excellent court vision and showcased his talents in that department on a regular basis. Progress!
Nogueira was getting plenty of opportunities in the first half of the year, however things drastically changed after the All-Star break. With Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker in the fold, Bebe’s minutes steadily dipped and never recovered. Head coach Dwane Casey instead opted for Poeltl more and more, which left Nogueira as a cheerleader on the bench.
Along the line, the coaching staff simply lost confidence in Bebe and you could tell it impacted him. The perennially jubilant Nogueira’s optimism faded almost as quickly as his opportunities did, which culminated in a total of seven minutes in the playoffs.
The Grade: C
While it’s true Cs get degrees (trust me, I can verify it), it’s tough to give Nogueira a better mark at this point. His length and athleticism will always work in his favour, but the population of Bebe Island seems to be shrinking with each passing year. There’s still time for him to make the jump into being a serviceable NBA player, however his window with Toronto is closing.