Lucas “Bebe” Nogueira has mostly been resting on the bench for the Toronto Raptors since the all-star break. It’s no surprise considering the Raptors acquired Serge Ibaka who is equipped to take some minutes at centre. Also, rookie Jakob Poeltl has been good coming off the bench. Bebe had been a mixed bag this season. He carried the Bismack Biyombo shot-blocking torch which was impressive. However, he struggled to position for rebounds and didn’t provide enough offensively to make up for those struggles.
It’s important to note Nogueira had only played in 35 games over two seasons heading into the year. After last year it seemed like Lucas might be a bust because he hadn’t shown much of anything. That all changed when the Orlando Magic offered Bismack Biyombo a king’s ransom. There was no way the Raptors could match on $17M/YR for a backup centre. The Raptors had just drafted Jakob Poeltl with the 9th overall pick. Moreover, the Raptors hinted he might not be ready to play right away by over-hyping their other rookie Pascal Siakam, the 27th pick. So the Raptors used their mid-level exception on big man free agent Jared Sullinger. It was expected that Sullinger would fill holes at not only power forward, but also centre. Jared got injured prior to the season and Dwane Casey turned to Nogueira to fill-in at backup centre.
Bebe was not plan A, B, or even probably C to play real rotation minutes for the Raptors. He looked viable from day one grabbing a pair of blocks in under nine minutes against the Warriors in the preseason. Prior to the all-star break Bebe averaged 5.3 PPG (on 68.2% shooting from the field), 4.9 RPG, 0.8 APG, 1 SPG, 1.8 BPG, and 0.9 TPG in just over 21.5 minutes per game. There are only seven players in the NBA currently averaging more blocks per game. So Lucas ended up being a nice surprise for the Raptors this season. People liked comparing Bebe to Biyombo and there’s definitely some similarities. However, at 7’0” Bebe wasn’t able to average five rebounds per game. Biyombo averaged eight rebounds per game for the Raptors at 6’9”. Being three inches shorter and averaging three more rebounds per game is significant. Lucas is not a Bismack clone and I’m sure he wasn’t expected to be, but after adding Serge Ibaka and the emergence of Jakob Poeltl the Raptors have outgrown Lucas “Bebe” Nogueira.
Since the all-star break, Bebe has played less than five minutes per game and that continues to trend down having last played April 4th for only three seconds. The Raptors were desperate at the trade deadline for a two-way big man to fill the power forward position. The Raptors stole Serge Ibaka from the Magic and made him their new starting power forward. Since the NBA has trended towards small ball lineups Serge has fit in perfectly playing additional minutes behind Jonas Valanciunas at centre on top of his minutes starting at power forward. Furthermore, Jakob Poeltl has come on strong for the Raptors by playing fearless defense. Rookies tend to progress as they get used to the NBA as the season rolls along. Poeltl has been no exception. It’s hard to know what will happen to Bebe, but he still always seems to have a smile on his face and happy to be part of this team which is great.