Is Lucas Nogueira the Answer?


Lucas Nogueira is currently the backup center for the Toronto Raptors. Bismack Biyombo filled this role for the Raptors last season, but could not match the money the Magic offered him. Nogueira started the season injured, but since returning he has looked good for the most part. So much so that Dwane Casey is often giving crunch time minutes to Bebe over Jonas Valanciunas.

Nogueira's wife had a baby, and he missed the Nuggets game on Friday. Jakob Poeltl looked alright in his place. You have to think Poeltl is the long-term answer at backup center and not Nogueira. The Raptors wouldn't have used the number nine overall pick on Poeltl if they truly believed Nogueira can fill this hole. Now Poeltl is a rookie and the Raptors have made a point of saying they want to work him in slowly. So, right now the backup gig is Nogueira’s.

Over six games this season, Lucas Nogueira has averaged 20.9MPG, 5.5PPG, 0.8APG, 6.3RPG, FG 88.2%, FT 75%, 1.2SPG, 1.8BPG, 0.7TPG. It would be fantastic if he could keep up these numbers over the course of the season, but that seems rather unlikely.

Opponent Minutes Field Goal Free Throw Rebounds Assists Turnovers Steals Blocks Points
Warriors 12:50 - - 5 2 0 0 0 0
Cavs 9:49 - - 4 0 1 0 1 0
Knicks 25:37 100% - 10 1 0 3 5 6
Hornets 27:02 66.7% 100% 7 1 2 1 2 10
Thunder 28:58 100% - 7 1 0 2 2 10
Kings 21:29 100% 50% 5 0 1 1 1 7

Over eight games this season, Jakob Poeltl has averaged 16.5MPG, 3.8PPG, 0.3APG, 4.6RPG, FG 41.9%, FT 75%, 0.5SPG, 0.5BPG, 0.38TPG.

Opponent Minutes Field Goal Free Throw Rebounds Assists Turnovers Steals Blocks Points
Nuggets 15:52 100% 66.7% 6 0 0 2 0 6
Thunder 19:02 50% - 2 0 1 0 1 4
Kings 18:26 75% - 4 2 0 0 0 6
Heat 20:04 25% 100% 6 0 1 1 0 4
Wizards 17:23 - - 5 0 1 1 1 0
Nuggets 17:24 0% 50% 5 0 0 0 2 1
Cavs 10:49 60% 100% 7 0 0 0 0 7
Pistons 12:47 25% - 2 0 0 0 0 2

In a smaller sample this season, Nogueira has played better than Poeltl. However, last season Nogueira couldn’t even earn meaningful minutes. Even in the playoffs when Jonas Valanciunas got injured Nogueira failed to demonstrate he could guard anyone. It’s really hard to imagine Bebe has transformed into this great defender and rim protector over the summer. He was the 16th overall pick back in 2013 that the Hawks traded to acquire, so it’s also hard to say his small sample size this season is meaningless. On the flip side, he was essentially a throw-in after staying overseas and never playing for the Hawks in a package which sent him and Lou Williams to the Raptors for John Salmons (who was later waived). At the time, it seemed like he was just going to be a friend for fellow Brazilian, Bruno Caboclo, whom the Raptors had just drafted.

The Raptors have already picked up Nogueira’s option for next season, and seem committed to him being part of the team. He will have to continue to play well to keep the backup center job away from Jakob Poeltl. Will he do it?

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