It’s not easy joining a winning team as an unproven rookie and it doesn’t get any less arduous when your team signs a young free agent backup at your position the next summer. 7′ center Lucas ‘Bebe’ Nogueira believes he’s ready to play in the NBA right now, so have the Toronto Raptors been holding the 23-year-old Brazilian back?
“Honestly, it’s hard to show you are ready cause sometimes you are ready,” Nogueira told Pro Bball Report. “But things don’t happen like you want in the game and because of that game you don’t play well, Coach can take it and say you are not ready, but sometimes you are. It is so hard to figure out if you are ready or not.
“In my opinion, I am always ready like I did in the last game because this is the same mentality that I try to play every game, but sometimes things don’t go well and maybe that one day things don’t go well, Coach, GM can use that game against you to say he’s not ready. So, it’s hard to say if you are ready or not, but in my mind I try to be ready and I think I am ready every time.
“I do my regular practice, my team practice, my individual workouts, so I don’t know what I should do more to be ready.
“I think I just got to wait. The chance is coming and see what happens.”
There have been games where Nogueira has looked ready. He has set perfect screens. He has used his length to be unstoppable on rolls to the basket and a nightmare defender in the post. Then there’s those other games where he has looked lost on the court and unsure of what to do next.
The Raptors have used their NBA D-League affiliate in Mississauga to get Nogueira some run against competition and the big man has looked pretty good in his 8 games with the Raptors 905. He shows potential as a playmaker, stretch-five, rim protector and finisher at this level averaging 9.4 points, 7 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.8 blocks and 0.9 steals in just 25.1 minutes per game. Also, he’s played his best basketball at the NBA level right after being called back up.
“It is part of my game to show energy and be active on both sides of the court, but sometimes it is hard when you don’t have the game situation because I don’t play much in the D-League,” Nogueira said. “So it is not enough to get in shape, but it doesn’t matter, you got to be in shape. I don’t know how, but you got to be in shape and you got to be active.”
Nogueira can look a little out of place playing in the D-League as he has an obvious size and skill advantage at that level, but he makes a strong argument as to why he needs to play there more. It really has looked like Nogueira has some trouble staying in game-shape in the NBA when he isn’t playing enough in the D-League.
However, playing time in the NBA for Nogueira isn’t going to be easy to find in Toronto. Head coach Dwane Casey has every reason to trust Jonas Valanciunas and Bismack Biyombo over his sophomore center. JV and Biz might be young centers, but they have a lot more NBA experience than Bebe and as long as they are available to play, minutes at center are going to be hard to find whether Nogueira is ready or not.
“You know the young (guys) have the potential, (but) you don’t know if he can be consistent,” Nogueira explained. “Veterans can be consistent for the whole night and this is the reason coaches and GMs want veterans because veterans when they have played this game for a long time, they are going to be consistent, but what about the young guys? They have talent yes, they have potential, but can they be consistent? So everybody have their doubts about the young guys. So you have to show them, take the doubt out of their mind and you got to show work every time out.”
The Raptors are undoubtedly holding back Nogueira’s development. This team is on a 55-win pace and are already investing a lot of minutes in developing players a little further along than Bebe like Valanciunas (23), Biyombo (23), Ross (24) and Joseph (24).
If Nogueira needs an example to follow, the 22-year-old rookie guard Norman Powell has gained the confidence of his coaches with consistent energy and effort. He stays in NBA ready shape and shows the work every time out.