It’s time to just accept it, if anyone is going to throw a block party on behalf of the Raptors, it’s going to be their third year center Lucas Nogueira. Just ask those long athletic players on the Milwaukee Bucks who found themselves being swatted at the rim five times by the big Brazilian in yet another loss to Toronto at the Air Canada Centre Friday night.
At the start of this season the Raptors were worried about a lack of rim protection without last year’s finger-wager Bismack Biyombo, but midway thru head coach Dwane Casey seems to have found a solution as Nogueira has emerged as the top shot blocker per minute in the NBA.
At just under two blocks per game, the only thing stopping Nogueira from outright leading the league in blocked shots is a lack of minutes, but as Nogueira appears to be gaining confidence, Casey has been addressing that issue as well.
18.6 minutes per game in November increased to 20 minutes in December and 25.1 minutes in January, and since returning from a concussion four games ago, Nogueira has averaged 27.3 minutes, 9 points, 7 rebounds and 2.5 blocks.
47 games into the season Nogueira has accumulated 70 blocks compared to 72 for Biyombo at the same point last year, however, Nogueira did it in nine fewer games due to minor injuries. Biyombo only has 62 blocks for the Magic in 47 games so far this year. The long arms of Nogueira also give the Raptors something Biyombo couldn’t do, the Brazilian picks up a steal per game on average. Biyombo averages a steal about every three games.
Looking at Nogueira’s first two seasons in the NBA, what’s happening now was completely unexpected. Often injured and when he did play, often looking completely lost. There was nothing beyond his obvious physical attributes that would suggest he could perform at this level.
It took awhile, but Nogueira has finally figured out this league doesn’t owe him anything and he’s bringing “it” on a nightly basis.
“I think every day, every night I bring something different to the court,” Nogueira told Pro Bball Report. “I think it is the most important thing to bring something to the court. It doesn’t matter what, no matter what, you got to bring something and this is something I try to do every game now. I think if one time you step on the court and don’t bring anything, it makes no sense to stay out there. So every night I try to bring something, defense, offense, whatever. Give the coach a reason to keep me in the game.”
Throwing a block party on a regular basis is reason enough for coach Casey to keep finding more minutes for Nogueira.