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NBA Toronto Raptors Powell Wright VanVleet Siakam Poeltl 2017

Are The Raptors Opting For Youthful Excitement?

The further Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri gets into July, the fewer his options are to actually move the needle on expectations heading into the upcoming season. So, apparently, the Raptors are opting to develop the young guys and at least it has the potential to produce some youthful excitement.

Ujiri has done a good job of getting below the luxury tax threshold as, once again, that was a lot more important than he let on before the draft. The Raptors may be hard-capped at $125 million in total salaries, but the tax bill will be minimal or zero with a little room left over to go add some cheap veteran help.

Like last year, the Raptors currently have what should be a pretty solid eight man rotation with a few positive changes.

  1. All-Star guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are back to lead the show.
  2. New three-point threat C.J. Miles is a major upgrade on the wing over DeMarre Carroll in terms of actually being about to hit threes.
  3. Serge Ibaka will be around for training camp and the start of the season this year. At power forward or center, he’s a huge upgrade. And, yes,
  4. Even Jonas Valanciunas is a veteran that can rebound and give smaller centers fits in the paint and on the glass (until he’s traded?)
  5. Third year players Delon Wright and Norman Powell are expected to be solid young additions to the rotation playing significant minutes at guard and on the wing.
  6. Last year’s lottery pick Jakob Poeltl looked pretty good backing up center after the All-Star break and is an obvious successor to Valanciunas if and when JV gets traded.

The impact of youth on the Raptors season will be evident from the start. They’ll need Powell, Wright and Poeltl to bring all the energy and excitement they can.

However, like last year, the rest of the roster has its question marks. (Thus the need to find another cheap reliable veteran.).

Lucas Nogueira could be an impact player at power forward and center if he could get out of his own way. It’s on him to get serious and focus on basketball. Hopefully, head coach Dwane Casey isn’t forced into using “Bebe” because he doesn’t have a better option and the 25-year-old from Brazil earns a spot in the rotation at training camp. The Raptors leading shot blocker and turnover machine from last season is a guy that could move the needle on the season, if he’s ready, if he really wants to, t.b.d. (not holding my breath.)

The other project from Brazil, 21-year-old Bruno Caboclo, finally played well in the NBA D-League championship run by the Raptors 905, but that was after a pretty mediocre regular D-League season. No one is counting on anything from Bruno. His brief appearances in the NBA over three seasons don’t fill one with confidence. He’s a straight up ‘show me you deserve to be here’ player.

The NBA D-League Championship MVP Pascal Siakam started 38 games as a rookie for the Raptors at the start of last year solely because the viable rotation was that thin, so at least he has some NBA experience and he is improving. But is he really ready to backup power forward this year as a 9th or 10th man? Casey might not have another option but to go with the potential of this young developing athlete again. It could be exciting, but not necessarily in a good way (yet). He can fly around a court though.

As soon as he is 100 percent healthy, ready or not, rookie forward OG Anunoby is going to get a look. He missed NBA Summer League rehabbing his knee. It’s hoped he’ll be back in time for training camp, but no guarantees. He’s an uber-athlete, but hasn’t played since January, so no one will really have any idea what to expect this year, but in terms of excitement, his coaches and his fans can’t wait to find out.

Reminding everyone of a young Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet keeps showing enough to believe he’s going to stick in the NBA for a long time. The problem is, even if he unexpectedly beats out Wright for minutes at backup point guard, that isn’t going to move the needle on the Raptors season. It’s more likely his big impact will come if one of the four guards ahead of him gets hurt and he steps up to fill in the gap.

With the Raptors just over the luxury tax line, eventually the recently acquired Justin Hamilton will be traded or waived and stretched. The excitement Hamilton is expected to be providing comes when he makes room for someone else.

Did you see the Pogo Stick Alfonzo McKinnie has been riding at NBA Summer League for the Raptors? The 6’8 24-year-old forward should be reminding everyone of Jamario Moon back in 2007-08. He has a $100,000 guarantee on a two-year minimum contract, so he still has to make the team at training camp, but at the very least, this kid will be fun to watch in preseason. If you want excitement, you should be hoping he makes it.

Getting below the luxury tax threshold is good for the Raptors corporate owners. Watching the young guys play during the regular season isn’t even a bad deal for the fans as they will be exciting. However, for anyone hoping against hope this team would be trying to surpass the Cavaliers this season, how much luxury tax the Raptors were prepared to pay was a benchmark.

 

 

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Stephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Lucas Nogueira

Can Raptors Trust Lucas Nogueira To Be In The Rotation?

It took until his third year for Lucas Nogueira to gain head coach Dwane Casey’s trust enough to crack the Raptors rotation and even though he lost his minutes after Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker arrived, if one looks at what he did objectively, the Raptors should seriously want to see what he could do coming into his fourth NBA season.

Nogueira has an image problem, mostly of his own making, but exaggerated by those annoying Raptors NBA TV ads where he says he is only competing against himself, he is not competing with Jonas Valanciunas and Jakob Poeltl. Does he know just how naive that sounds?

It’s a theme that started a couple of years ago when Nogueira left a solid impression that he believed he is in the NBA for a reason and doesn’t have to prove anything to anybody. Call it poor communication in a second language or just the musings of a young player totally unaware of just how brutal the NBA can be.

Putting all that negative press aside, Nogueira made an impact last year and if he comes to training camp ready to compete for minutes, he does bring things the Raptors want and need.

When he’s focused and on his game, Nogueira is a flat out fast, exceptionally long and athletic 7-footer with quick feet and hands, good timing, an excellent screen setter and a way above average shot blocker.

Let’s put just how good he can be in perspective. Last season the NBA’s leading shot blocker Rudy Gobert blocked 6.35 percent of the two-point shots while he was on the floor and Serge Ibaka was tenth best at 4.2 percent per basketball-reference. Nogueira didn’t play enough total minutes to qualify, but he swatted 7.1 percent of the two-point shots attempted while he was on the court. The Raptors needed that.

In the 55 games he played more than 3 seconds, he only failed to block a shot 7 times. Even in a three-point shooting happy era, rim protection is still a big deal. Averaging just 19.1 minutes, he was Toronto’s leading shot blocker at 1.6 per game.

His offense is limited and that supposed three-point shot he’s working on isn’t proven, but of the few shots he does take (2.7 per game), over 75 percent are at the rim and he puts in over 75 percent of them.

There is a reason Nogueira doesn’t have the ball in his hands very often, however, he turned the ball over 1 out of every 5 plays he was involved in and unfortunately for Nogueira, that’s hard not to notice.

His 9’6 standing reach and 7’6 wingspan means he can erase some his defensive miscues and make everyone forget that the turnover causing the chance he just erased was caused by him in the first place, but it feels like most of his mistakes come from a lack of focus and that’s on him.

However, for all the warts with his game, he was worth it last year. Of the returning players, Nogueira has the third best +/- of +3.1 points, the second best net rating +9.8 and perhaps most importantly, he showed he could play at both power forward and center.

With all of the Raptors injuries, consistent 5-man units were tough to keep together last year, but of those units that played at least 5 games together, the third best at +2.7 points featured Nogueira at power forward for 10 games.

Using NBA Stats for 2-man units playing over 40 games together, Lowry and Nogueira were the Raptors second best pair on the court with a +/- of +4.3 points in 15.6 minutes.

It isn’t going to be easy to convince anyone, possibly not even coach Casey, that Nogueira should be a significant part of the rotation next season. The 25-year-old from Brazil is almost certainly going to cost the coach his voice almost every night he plays him.

However, unless the Raptors make another move via trade or free agency, Casey’s only other option to soak up minutes at the four spot could be second year forward Pascal Siakam, but at least there’s some competition so the decision doesn’t have to be made solely on trust. Even if Nogueira won’t acknowledge it, it’s pretty much a guarantee Siakam knows he’s competing for minutes.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

   Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson

 

 

 

 

 

NBA San Antonio Spurs LaMarcus Aldridge and Toronto Raptors Jonas Valanciunas

Raptors Should Just Go For It This Season

Already deep in luxury tax territory and unsuccessfully looking to dump contracts even at the expense of potentially getting worse, Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri should be looking to do more than just being a top four team in the Eastern Conference. He should got for it and take his shot at getting to the NBA Finals.

As Basketball Insiders senior writer Joel Brigham reported recently, overall the East has gotten weaker with Jimmy Butler, Paul George and Paul Millsap heading west. The top four in the East aren’t about to change, although maybe things between the top teams could become at least a little more interesting.

Cleveland, Boston, Toronto and Washington look almost certain to keep their top-four status in the conference simply by bringing back the same players they had a year ago. Add Milwaukee to that conversation, too

Chicago, Indiana and Atlanta all made the playoffs last year but each will vie for the conference’s worst record next season after losing their stars

Boston took the first steps towards becoming more competitive with the Cavs by getting Gordon Hayward’s commitment for next season. Although they still have more moves left to create the needed cap space to sign Hayward and they’ll probably want to do something about carrying four small forwards that all need to play next season.

Expect the Wizards to match anything restricted free agent Otto Porter signs on July 6th.

The Raptors will bring back starters Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka, but have lost rotation players P.J. Tucker and Patrick Patterson to free agency and are rumored to be looking to dump salary because of luxury tax concerns.

All three of these pretenders will be competitive during the regular season, but unless they have another major move up their sleeve, no one is going to give them more than a puncher’s chance at knocking off a healthy Cavs squad in the playoffs.

The Celtics with Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford and Gordon Hayward still need rebounding and they have the trade pieces to go get a difference maker. Of course the Celtics with Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Brooklyn’s 2018 first round draft pick could choose to tread water as a 50-win team while their young guys develop instead?

Built around John Wall and Bradley Beal, the Wizards will have continuity and if they can find some offense off the bench, it can be argued they don’t need anything else, but they really need that bench to step up.

The Raptors are built around Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Ibaka, but like the Celtics, they need another impact player if they are going to be more than pretenders in the East.

(Players shown in the positions they would like to play)

The Raptors could make do with the players they have, even if it isn’t practical luxury tax wise. Delon Wright has the size to play on the wing. DeMarre Carroll can play both forward spots and Ibaka can play power forward (like he has for most of his career.) But this isn’t the best use of team resources.

The favored move seems to be to find a team to take on Carroll’s salary to solve the luxury tax issue, but this doesn’t help re-balance the roster or help move the needle of the team’s outlook for next season.

No, Ujiri needs to go big if this team is going to be significantly better than last season. He needs to add an impact player, preferably while reducing his luxury tax position.

Once teams can actually start signing free agents on July 6th and reality sets in around the league, trade season can start in earnest and there is one multiple-time All-Star rumored to have shopped around at the draft because he wasn’t happy, the Spurs LaMarcus Aldridge.

The almost 32-year-old five-time All-Star power forward wasn’t named to the All-Star team for first time since 2012 last year. He posted his lowest scoring (17.3 points per game), fewest field goals made (6.9) and worst rebounding numbers (7.3) since his rookie season way back in 2006-07. However, he was still an impact player and as has been a big man trend, he added a three-point shot and hit 41 percent of his 56 attempts last season.

In addition to Aldridge being unhappy, general manager R.C. Burford isn’t going to have star point guard Tony Parker to start the season, if at all. It doesn’t look like free agency is going all that well either besides the return of Patty Mills, so an aging Spurs team could use some young ready-to-go players for next season.

If the Raptors sent Jonas Valanciunas, Cory Joseph and Lucas Nogueira to the Spurs for Aldridge, the Raptors would get another impact player who can shoot plus shave $4.5 million off their payroll, and the Spurs would get to fill some holes with a young starting center, a backup point guard they know well and a young developing big man.

The Raptors tax situation becomes a lot more palatable and the players fall into roles they prefer/fit.

If Aldridge can re-gain his All-Star form of a year ago, which should be a lot easier in the NBA East, Toronto would at least get a second look as a potential competitor for the Cavs come playoff time.

At this point in early July, nothing is set in stone, however, expect the Celtics to make a move to address those rebounding concerns, look for the Wizards bench to improve and the Raptors will do … something.

Ujiri created a three-year window with the contracts of DeRozan, Lowry and Ibaka, so he may as well go for it this year if he can and there may be no better opportunity to snag an impact player than the situation in San Antonio with Aldridge. That is unless Danny Ainge beats him to it.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

   Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson

 

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Jakob Poeltl and Lucas Nogueira

Raptors Turn To Poeltl Power When Things Get Stagnant

In an unexpected turn of events, it’s been third year backup center Lucas Nogueira being bumped out of the rotation since the All-Star break and rookie Jakob Poeltl getting the nod when the Raptors are short-handed or things have gone stagnant for head coach Dwane Casey.

“I think most of it is me feeling more comfortable,” Poeltl told Pro Bball Report. “The experience that comes with every single game, you learn new stuff, figure out how to move around on the court better. I’ve been playing a lot more, so increasingly it’s going to get easier I think.

“It’s all about trying to figure out a way to get it done and I’m definitely not the most physical guy at my position, but there are other ways around it. You still got to play physical and use your other strengths.”

Casey was giving his rookie center some minutes before the All-Star break, getting into about half the games and averaging 10.8 minutes, 2.3 points, 2.7 rebounds, but where Nogueira was a +/- of +3.9 points in his time on the court, Poeltl was an inexperienced -0.7 points.

However, since the break, with Serge Ibaka soaking up extra minutes at center and Poeltl and Nogueira reversing roles in the rotation, Poeltl has been a +0.9 averaging 4 points and 3.4 rebounds in 12.3 minutes with only 2 DNP-CDs. Nogueira is a -0.6 in a dramatically reduced role.

This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. Nogueira had been playing some of the best ball of his short NBA career and getting a lot of very productive run. A five-man lineup of Lowry, DeRozan, Carroll, Nogueira and Valanciunas had a net rating of +14.3 in 108 minutes and Lowry, Joseph, Ross, Patterson and Nogueira was a +15.4 net rating in 199 minutes.

Nogueira is in the fourth and fifth best five-man units the Raptors have put out there this season, however, the eye test and obviously in coach Casey’s opinion, Nogueira still has mental lapses and makes too many mistakes. Poeltl, on the other hand, gets nothing but praise.

“He’s always in the right place, very few mistakes, he’s very physical, he’s not afraid, he loves contact,” Casey said about Poeltl. “All those things add up, this is a physical game and he meets all those criteria.

“For me, just every time you put him in, he does something positive.”

While Poeltl has expressed concerns about his ability to be physical, compared to Nogueira, he’s a beast and any lack of physicality in Poeltl’s game rests solely in his own expectations of himself. Somehow, someway, he gets to the ball and opponents’ aren’t pushing him out of position. Averaging 8.2 fouls per 48 minutes since the break, Poeltl hasn’t been shy about being physical.

“As long as it’s not a bad foul, I don’t have a problem with getting three or four fouls a game,” Poeltl said. “If I use my fouls in a good way, not giving up and-ones, dumb fouls to send them to the line.”

It’s all about fitting in for Poeltl. Knowing his role and getting the job done.

“It’s not always about me getting more comfortable. It’s also about me developing a chemistry with my teammates on offense and on defense. Once you start playing with these guys more and more, you figure out how they’re playing and how you can play together.”

While it wasn’t expected that the rookie would be getting extra minutes at center after the All-Star break or Nogueira would lose his spot in the rotation, the move has been positive for the Raptors. Poeltl has tied his career best 12 points in a game three-times since the break and more often than not, he’s come into games and had an immediate positive impact.

He is a guy Casey can turn to when the Raptors get stagnant or lack energy on either end of the court.

 

  

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Lucas Nogueira

Lucas Nogueira Is Key To Raptors Trade Talks

It’s widely assumed the Toronto Raptors are looking for an impact player at power forward prior to the NBA trade deadline to fill the one gapping hole in their rotation, however, president Masai Ujiri may have other options thanks to the development of third year center Lucas Nogueira.

Nogueira has been an unexpected surprise as an elite rim protector backing up Jonas Valanciunas, but with all of the injuries and rookie Pascal Siakam being, well, a rookie, head coach Dwane Casey  has given Nogueira significant minutes at power forward as well and that makes the big Brazilian a potential key to future moves by Ujiri.

“My normal spot is not the four, but I like it because when I started playing basketball I worked on the skills of a four like shooting threes, putting the ball on the court and passing,” Nogueira told Pro Bball Report. “I have a chance to play at the four, I am so glad to be in that position.

“I know it’s hard to guard fours in this league. Every night I am going to have a tough time at the four, so I have to be ready to play offense, but it is more important to be able to guard those fours. It is a big challenge in this league.”

Unlike many traditional fives, Nogueira has the mobility to guard on the perimeter and his length gives him an advantage in the post on both ends of the court. It isn’t easy to shoot over him, especially for those players under 7′. At this point in his career it’s mostly a lack of experience that’s holding him back from a bigger role, he’s already played four times as many minutes this year as he did in his first two NBA seasons combined.

“Every sport is about concentration,” Nogueira said. “The winner is the one who makes fewer mistakes and if you focus, you are going to make fewer mistakes.”

And yes, Nogueira makes mistakes, but while it isn’t a big sample size yet, Nogueira seems to focus harder when taken a bit out of his comfort zone playing at the four. It is certainly an intriguing lineup and a difficult matchup for most opponents when Casey has two 7-footers out there at the same time.

“I don’t pay attention to statistics about minutes at the four and the five,” Nogueira said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s the four or five, every time I am on the court I try to help my teammates because I (play with) some of the greatest offensive players in the league. I just try to do the normal help as a four or five, I don’t care. I don’t pay attention if I block more shots at the four or the five.”

In a bit of a surprise, Nogueira has become a keeper in Toronto and it’s a good thing he doesn’t care about whether he plays at the four or the five as it means Ujiri can effectively tweak his lineup with an addition at either position at the trade deadline.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Lucas Nogueira

Lucas Nogueira Helps Raptors Throw A Block Party

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.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson

NBA Toronto Raptors Cory Joseph

Raptors Cory Joseph Scores A Career High 33 Points

The Toronto Raptors gave starting point guard Kyle Lowry the night off in Brooklyn to rest and Canadian guard Cory Joseph stepped in and stepped up to score a career-high 33 points on career highs in field goal makes and attempts (15-22) in the 119-109 road win.

“Kyle provides a lot of scoring for us, I knew that slot would be missing today, so I took it upon myself to try to be more aggressive,” Joseph said after the game. “Try to be aggressive and take what the defense gave me. They were giving up a lot of layups and short floaters, so that’s what I was taking.”

It was Joseph’s first start since last April and he played a season-high 37 minutes. However, DeMar DeRozan stole most of the limelight with a 36 point 11 rebound double-double.

The win marked the first time Toronto has reached the halfway point in the season with 28 victories, 2 wins ahead of last year at the same point (26-15) when the team set a franchise record 56 wins on the season and one win ahead of their previous best in 2014-15 (27-14) which finished with 49 victories.

Overshadowing a great performance from Joseph and the new midseason record was concern over Lucas Nogueira who left the game with blurred vision in his left eye and a possible concussion.

The Raptors play the second game of this back-to-back set on the road in Philadelphia on Wednesday.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson

 

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Lucas Nogueira 2016-17

Raptors Lucas Nogueira Is Making Toronto Forget Bismack Biyombo

Toronto Raptors third year center Lucas Nogueira has often looked more like a rookie in his first real shot at playing in head coach Dwane Casey’s rotation and it hasn’t been painless, but the team has, once again, bet on letting “their young guy” play thru his mistakes and it’s paid off. Nogueira is getting better fast and making Toronto forget all about last season’s backup finger wagging center Bismack Biyombo.

“To become a better player, I think you have to make mistakes,” Nogueira told Pro Bball Report. “You got to get out there and make mistakes playing – game experience, game speed, game level. Staying outside and watching is not going to make you a better player.

“Now I have the chance to go and play minutes every night, this is the reason it looks like I am taking a step forward on defense and offense and transition.”

Now with 21 games under his belt this season, Nogueira can point to stats that show he has already done some things Biyombo didn’t do (and may never do) after the same number of games.

Nogueira 2016-17: 21 games, 18.7 minutes, 4.9 points, 73.7 FG%, 4.7 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.8 blocks.

Biyombo 2015-16: 21 games, 20.7 minutes, 4.4 points, 46.4 FG%, 7.2 rebounds, 0.2 assists, 0.1 steals, 1.1 blocks.

It was a more serious Nogueira that showed up at Raptors training camp this season. He knew with Biyombo playing for the Magic this year the backup center job was his to lose, but in reality, he had barely played any more minutes in the NBA than Toronto’s fresh new rookie center Jakob Poeltl. To make matters worse, Nogueira missed the start of the season with a turned ankle and Poeltl was putting up some reasonable numbers in very short minutes – especially on the glass.

The Raptors love Nogueira’s ability to protect the rim – it’s outstanding, plus his ability to finish in the paint over defenders and be a legitimate lob threat is really nice to have. You can’t teach reach, height, quick feet or soft hands and Nogueira is blessed with all of that. Where he has struggled is where many long lanky centers can experience problems. Nogueira can get pushed around in the paint and it shows up in his rebounding numbers.

The advantage Poeltl has, even as a rookie, is on the glass. He’s just harder to move and last year, Biyombo, well Biyombo is a rebounding beast. Biyombo came into the games last year and maintained, in a different style, the strong rebounding presence starting center Jonas Valanciunas gives the Raptors.

In November Nogueira was getting pushed around and grabbing an anemic 11.9 percent of the available boards. He even went thru a six game stretch without a made field goal in which Toronto only won two games and in two of those loses, he didn’t grab a single rebound.

However, Casey let him play thru that very rough stretch and apparently Nogueira did learn something from his mistakes. His rebounding improved dramatically in December to 16.1 percent of the available boards so far this month. While that’s not at a Valanciunas or Biyombo rate (around 20 percent), it’s getting there.

The shooting slump appears to be over as well. In 9 games in December Nogueira is averaging 6.4 points on 77.4 percent shooting, to go with his 5.8 rebounds in just 18.7 minutes.  He’s still swatting an impressive 1.9 blocks and swiping 0.8 steals this month.

“It is better to learn when you are playing,” Nogueira confirmed. “Now I have my chance to play, things are completely different. Now I have a chance to play, so (I use) those 18-20 minutes a game to learn the most that I can to learn from my mistakes and in the next game try to correct the things I did wrong.”

It’s all about not losing focus and keeping it simple. It’s easy to forget Nogueira has already played more NBA minutes this season than in the two previous years combined. All he has to do now is keep on doing what he’s been doing and keep learning from those mistakes.

“I try to be consistent during the games,” Nogueira said. “I try to do simple things, things I know I can do well and those things gain the trust of my teammates and coach.”

Apparently, Nogueira’s coach and teammates are trusting him and he’s been repaying that trust with steadily improving play. Last year’s much loved backup center in Toronto was Bismack, who?

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson

 

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Lucas Nogueira by Larry Millson

Raptors Lucas Nogueira Bounces Back In Impressive Fashion

Toronto Raptors third year center Lucas Nogueira disappeared for a few games after a hot start to the 2016-17 NBA season, but he has bounced back in impressive fashion recently to justify the faith president Masai Ujiri and head coach Dwane Casey have shown in the very long, lanky and athletic 24-year-old who had given this team virtually nothing in his first two seasons with the club.

“Lucas is getting an opportunity and doing a good job blocking shots, manning the lane,” Casey said after the win over Atlanta. “Doing a good job of using his length, timing it and in pick-and-roll situations, he’s doing a good job. So really happy with what Lucas is bringing to the table.”

Nogueira got his chance because the Raptors lost defensive center Bismack Biyombo to free agency this past summer and then Jared Sullinger went down in preseason with a broken foot. However, unlike his first two seasons in Toronto, this time Nogueira was ready to play and coach Casey needed his shot blocking ability.

“I have my chance to compete and I’m healthy,” Nogueira told Pro Bball Report earlier this season. “The reason I have become the best player I can be or at least try to be the best player I can be is because I see the chance in the NBA going down, so I realized I needed to do something else/extra to keep myself in the league.”

When Nogueira finally got into his first games of the regular season after an ankle tweak during preseason, he was ready to go. He averaged 8.3 points on 88.2 percent shooting, 7.3 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 2.5 blocks in 25.8 minutes over his first four games, but the big Brazilian has disappeared on his team in the past and in his next six games things looked very different. Shooting 0.0 percent from the field, Nogueira averaged just 0.3 points, 2 boards and 0.3 steals in 13.3 minutes. At least he was still blocking 1.5 shots, but even a backup center needs to be less one-dimensional than that.

As has been consistent throughout his time in Toronto, Casey doesn’t easily give up on his young players and his faith in Nogueira was rewarded with a return to form over the next four games. Back in the saddle again, Nogueira found some of that missing energy and it showed on the stats sheet where he put up 8.5 points on 86.7 percent shooting, 4.3 rebounds, 2 steals and 1.8 blocks in 20.3 minutes over the past four contests.

“They are trying to blitz our best players, so it opens the floor for other players,” Nogueira explained after the game against the Hawks.

It’s been obvious during the Raptors current six game winning streak that opposing teams are trying to get the ball out of the hands of Toronto’s leading scorer and mid-range specialist DeMar DeRozan and it’s opening up opportunities under the rim and at the three-point line for everyone else.

Nogueira is benefiting from his guards finding him under the rim for easy scores. Over 80 percent of Nogueira’s buckets are assisted and over half are dunks. The big man with the 9’6 standing reach can be a big target when he’s focused, running hard and setting good screens.

It’s only been 14 games played for Nogueira so far this season, but already he’s played more NBA minutes than in his two previous seasons combined, so there is still a learning process going on here. There are likely a few more ups and downs to what will likely resemble a rookie campaign more than that of a third year player.

However, this first big bounce back after a rough 10 day stretch is something he wasn’t able to do last year and Nogueira is starting to sound more like a guy who “gets it”. This year he came ready to play and he didn’t let a setback erode his confidence. Another young player to watch on a very young Raptors squad.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson

 

 

 


 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Lucas Nogueira

The Disappearance Of Raptors Center Lucas Nogueira

Third year Toronto Raptors center Lucas Nogueira has all the physical attributes to suggest he could be the next Hassan Whiteside or better and after returning from a preseason ankle injury that caused him to miss the start of the regular season, he went on a four game tear that indicated the much anticipated breakout was about to happen. However, his nearly complete disappearance over the next four games is starting to raise some doubts.

Nogueira has been plagued by injuries and inconsistency since Raptors president Masai Ujiri brought the long lanky Brazilian over from Spain in the summer of 2014, but no one has ever doubted his raw talent. They were just waiting for him to “get it.”

“Basketball is not a secret, it’s just taking my life seriously and now the results are coming,” Nogueira told Pro Bball Report just before he went 3-3 from the field, grabbed 10 boards, stole the ball trice and blocked the Knicks 5 times at the Air Canada Centre about 10 days ago. “I just changed my bad habits and put in the work, so this is the result.

“The reason I have become the best player I can be or at least try to be the best players I can be is because I see the chance in the NBA going down, so I realized I needed to do something else/extra to keep myself in the league.

“The change was myself because I realized my chances are starting (to get) low and I realized I needed to do something extra to play in this league.”

Over those first four games of the season Nogueira averaged 8.3 points on 88.2 percent shooting, 7.3 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 2.5 blocks in 25.8 minutes and it probably wasn’t reasonable to expect the 24-year-old to maintain anything like this pace. He had returned just in time to fill in for an injured Jonas Valanciunas and that volume of minutes was going to vanish as soon as the Raptors starter was ready to pick up the +30 minute per game load he was playing before he got hurt.

When Valanciunas’ minutes went back up, Nogueira’s playing time collapsed and his impact dropped with each game that he wasn’t seeing 20+ minutes a night.

Averaging 11.7 minutes over his past four games, Nogueira managed just 2.3 rebounds, 0.3 steals and 1.0 block while shooting 0.0 percent from the field. In the last two games he’s hit just one free throw and collected a total of zero boards. The Raptors lost all four games.

“Every sport is about mistakes,” Nogueira said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s individual or team sports, the difference between the number one team and the last team is the focus or mistakes. That is the reason I try to concentrate and not make a lot of mistakes.”

However, losing focus has been an issue for Nogueira in the past and he needs to get it back and fast.

Maybe his recent disappearance is the result of the happy distraction caused by the birth of his first child. Nogueira missed the road game against the Nuggets to be with his wife for the life changing event and rejoined the team in Sacramento. It’d be understandable if he wasn’t completely focused on basketball during this time.

Valid excuses aside, Nogueira’s reappearance on the court needs to happen quickly. The Raptors have two more road games on this trip, Wednesday in Houston and Friday in Milwaukee, and after dropping both ends of the recent back-to-back to fall to 8-6, getting a couple of wins takes on a sense of urgency.

“I have my chance to compete and I’m healthy,” Nogueira said. “This is the reason I smile on the court. I can help the team. I have a chance to play/ compete for 20 minutes, 10 minutes sometimes, so this is the reason I’ve looked happy on the court.”

The Raptors are hoping the happy, smiling, and focused Nogueira is back in time for the game against the Rockets. He can help this team and if he isn’t ready, the rookie Jakob Poeltl would be more than happy to step in.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 


 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan

Raptors Guards Show Mid-Season Form In Detroit

The preseason tilt between the Raptors and the Pistons in Detroit on Wednesday night gave a good indication about which team was ready to start the regular season and who still has a lot of work to do. The Detroit News James Hawkins reported on Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy’s displeasure with the effort he saw in his team’s final tune-up, a 103-92 loss that was worse than the score indicated.

“I have been happy with our team’s work ethic and how hard we have played throughout the preseason, but I wasn’t tonight,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. “I was really disappointed. I did not think that we competed hard enough tonight.

“They pounded us on the glass. I did not think we were very aggressive defensively. I do not think we did a great job contesting shots. I just do not think we battled hard.”

Toronto outrebounded Detroit 47-37 and won the turnover battle with 21 points off 14 Pistons turnovers to just 5 points on 12 opportunities provided by the Raptors.

The game was close through the first eight minutes with the lead changing hands three times, but when Van Gundy pulled his starters 8.7 minutes in and three points down, things quickly fell apart.

As Drummond exited for the 19-year-old rookie Henry Ellenson, Raptors head coach Dwane Casey replaced Jonas Valanciunas with third year center Lucas “Bebe” Nogueira and it all went downhill for Detroit. Patrick Patterson, who had subbed in for rookie Pascal Siakam a minute earlier, found Nogueira for a dunk and a minute later Nogueira grabbed Drew Crawford’s miss on a long three-point attempt for a layup. DeMar DeRozan scored his 10 point of the quarter with less than a second left after Nogueria rebounded a Marcus Morris missed three-point attempt with 18 seconds left in the quarter and nearly 12 seconds left on the shot clock.

Nogueira may have been beating up on a rookie, but that’s what he’s supposed to do at this point in his career and what Casey will need from him on most nights during the regular season. Bebe finished with 8 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists in 18 effective minutes.

However, it was business as usual for Toronto’s All-Star guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan as they combined for 53 points on 18-35 shooting from the field and outrebounded the Pistons starting backcourt 10-0. Backup point guard Cory Joseph piling on with 10 points, 6 rebounds and a team-high 4 assists. The Raptors guards imposed their will on Detroit.

“They ran their stuff with a lot of tempo, a lot of speed and we weren’t able to match that,” (Tobias) Harris said. “The physicality got to us early on and that’s something we have to adjust to and really adapt to when we’re playing against teams that can impose their will. We have to learn and grow from it.”

Toronto led by 20 points late in the third quarter when Lowry and DeMarre Carroll were subbed out for Joseph and training camp hopeful Fred VanVleet and the Pistons went on an 8-1 run to close out the frame. VanVleet going 0-4 from the field for 0 points, 0 rebounds and 0 assists over the final 15 minutes. The now veteran Joseph providing nearly half of Toronto’s fourth quarter offense with 10 points on 4-4 shooting as his team’s leader on the court with Lowry watching from the bench. The Pistons starters Ish Smith, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Andre Drummond salvaging what the could from this game against Toronto’s 2nd/3rd unit.

The Pistons will get a chance at redemption in the Raptors home opener on October 26th.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 


 

NBA Toronto Raptors Lucas Bebe Nogueira summer camp 2016

Raptors Lucas Nogueira Bigger Than Normal Summer

By Lindsay Dunn

This past summer Toronto Raptors bet on the progress of center Lucas ‘Bebe’ Nogueira when they didn’t add a veteran seven-footer to offset the loss of Bismack Biyombo to free agency. However, Bebe should be forgiven if he had even bigger things on his mind recently. He said “I do”, not to a new Raptors contract, but to a new partner in life, wife Caroline Kuczynski.

NBA Toronto Raptors Lucas Nogueira and wife

“It’s great!,” Nogueira said. “I have got to work to make my own history with her. It is work, but I have to be positive about the future.”

Before Bebe walked down the aisle he received some words of wisdom from his fellow Raptors.

Lucas Nogueira with Biyombo and Caboclo and a Rolls 2016

“I got advice from Coach Casey and Valanciunas, the married guys on the team. They gave me some advice, but every marriage has a different story and a different situation.”

Nogueira recently held his first basketball camp in Pickering that was put on by none other than his fellow teammate Cory Joseph’s Dad David Joseph. Nogueira was joined by his fellow teammate and fellow Brazilian Bruno Caboclo.

Lucas Nogueira and Bruno Caboclo at kids camp 2016

 

“Lucas and I are from the same country,” Caboclo said about his friendship with Nogueira. “He has helped me a lot and I have helped him, it’s just amazing we are on the same team. I am so happy.”

Caboclo was just one of Nogueira’s teammates that were in Toronto for his nuptials. Former Raptors player Bismack Biyombo, who captivated the attention of thousands of Raptors fans this past season, was also there for his wedding day.

Bismack was just one of several changes the Raptors made this offseason. Changes that have not went unnoticed by the newlywed.

“I recognize how much the Raptors trust me and have invested in me this summer because they didn’t get anybody in my position,” Nogueira said about the offseason changes. “I have been working the entire summer for the next season. I never create expectation, especially in the NBA it is a tough business, you never know what is going to happen tomorrow.”

Nogueira’s buddy Caboclo also has big hopes for the next season. “I hope I get more playing time,” Caboclo said after helping Nogueira at his basketball camp. “I am going to do my best to help the team next season and go further than last year. To help them make the finals and then get a championship next year.”

Those are high hopes for the 20-year-old Caboclo, but they are words many Raptors fans would love to hear, “Raptors, NBA Champions.”

 

 

Lindsay DunnLindsay Dunn has been a TV sports and entertainment reporter for the past decade. She is currently based in Toronto and covers the local scene including the Toronto Raptors and Raptors 905. Follow her on Twitter@LindsayDunnTV

 

 

 


 

NBA Toronto Raptors Lucas Nogueira sitting

Is Lucas Nogueira Time With The Raptors Over?

Raptors president and general manager Masai Ujiri was trying to trade one or both of his first round draft picks on Thursday, but instead he added two power forward/centers to a roster that already includes returning rookie guards Delon Wright and Norman Powell and returning sophomore bigs Bruno Caboclo and Lucas Nogueira. There is no chance Ujiri starts the season with six young developing players, so someone has to go, begging the question, is the soon-to-be 24-year-old 7′ Brazilian Nogueira time with the Raptors just about over?

Nogueira looks the part of the modern NBA center prospect. A 7-footer with an outstanding 7’6 wingspan, he is long and fast with good hands and quick feet. He passes well and he’s even shown the potential to stretch out his shooting range to the three-point line.

When he’s on his game, he sets unbelievably great screens and swats away shots at the rim with ease, however, inconsistent should be his middle name. In his two years with the Raptors, he hasn’t been able to put together more than a couple of solid outings without becoming a frustration to watch and that’s been both in the NBA and in the NBA D-League.

Drafted 16th overall by the Celtics in 2013 Nogueira’s rights were passed around until Toronto traded for them in 2014 and brought him over from Spain. Injuries derailed much of his rookie season, but the promise was there and more was expected in his second NBA season.

Nogueira played 225 minutes in 29 regular season games with Toronto last season averaging 2.2 points and 1.6 rebounds. Maddeningly he scored a season high 14 points against Golden State in early December. He has talent and he knows it and that’s part of the problem.

The Raptors assigned Nogueira to their new D-League affiliate, the Raptors 905, nine times and in 11 games he averaged 9.9 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.7 blocks, but his heart often wasn’t in it as he didn’t think he belonged there. He was right – in theory, but the fact he didn’t consistently dominate games in a league where his physical advantages were beyond obvious suggests he needed the playing time to work on his game.

The Raptors 905 was 4-7 with Nogueira on the roster. He wasn’t helping them win games. By every measure, Nogueira played harder and better in the four games he was assigned to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants as a rookie and once a player has shown what he can do, that becomes the benchmark Raptors head coach Dwane Casey expects to be met and exceeded in the future.

Big men like Nogueira get a lot of chances in the NBA and a change of scenery may be all that is required to motivate him to realize his very obvious potential. However, the rope only gets so long at each stop along the way. If the Raptors want to develop the rookies Pascal Siakam (27th pick) and Jakob Poeltl (9th pick), they need to open up a roster spot or two.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 


 

NBA Toronto Raptors Lucas Nogueira

Are The Raptors Holding Center Lucas Nogueira Back?

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.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

Raptors 905 Lucas Nogueira

Can Lucas Nogueira Help The Raptors With Valanciunas Injured?

The Toronto Raptors assigned young center Lucas Nogueira to their NBA D-League affiliate at the start of the Raptors 905 regular season. The assignment made sense at the time. Nogueira had seen little playing time as a rookie last season due to injuries and the Raptors frontcourt was crowded with players well ahead of him in the rotation. The big man needed to play, especially after missing nearly the entire training camp and preseason with yet another injury.

Lucas Noguiera sitting

As is so often the case in the NBA, things can change in a heartbeat. Jonas Valanciunas goes down with a broken bone in his left hand in a game against the Lakers and head coach Dwane Casey’s first thought after finding out is bring up Nogueira.

“I didn’t know (Valanciunas) had exactly broke (his hand), but next man up,” Casey said after the Lakers game. “We have to find out which way we want to go, so that’s unfortunate for Jonas. I think that’s the second time I think. When he first got here in his career he broke his hand. It’s unfortunate, but again next man up. I’m sure (we’ll) call Lucas (Nogueira) up from the D-League.”

Nogueira has played four games with the 905 averaging 22 minutes, 9 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists, nearly half a steal, and 2.8 blocks. He has effectively used his superior height and length to change, deter and block shots and been a very effective offensive rebounder. His best game was the 905 home opener when he just missed a triple-double with 13 points, 9 rebounds, 9 assists and 4 blocks. His on point passing has been a pleasant surprise.

 

 

“(Raptors GM) Masai (Ujiri) has been watching Lucas a long time and has been a fan,” 905 head coach Jesse Mermuys said. “And there’s a reason because he does a lot of stuff for that size and length. He can pass the basketball. He has good instincts, but you see that he has room to improve. Pick-and-roll ‘D’ at the end, that’s just a growth thing. You saw JV (Valanciunas) have to fight through that. It’s a process for these guys and it doesn’t happen overnight. Lucas is on an upward swing and that’s all we can ask.”

There is no question Nogueira believes he is ready to help the Raptors right now. In his mind this assignment to the D-League was only needed because of the time he missed in training camp and preseason. Nogueira is just itching for his chance to prove he belongs in the NBA.

“Unfortunately two years in a row I got hurt in preseason and training camp, so if you don’t play in training camp or preseason your chances on the team will be so low,” Nogueira said. “This happened with me, so this is the reason they sent me to the D-League to have game situation, get in shape and see if I have a chance there.

“I am not afraid to tell what I think. I am going to say something that I say in Summer League, I don’t have to prove anything to anybody. I got drafted in the first round, but of this is a great opportunity for me to show the scouts and coaches that I can play – pass, rebound, but it is not enough, the team has to win. The reason I am here is to help the coaching staff to have success in the D-League to have a chance in the NBA and to help my teammates to get a better contract. So I am not here to be selfish and try and do a triple-double or double-double (rather) to win the game because when we win, everybody has a chance at a better future.”

Nogueira has looked good in the D-League. Stuffing guys driving to the hoop is what was expected, but watching him hit his teammates with pinpoint passes cutting to the rim is a thing of beauty. As Mermuys has noted, the long lanky big man still has things to learn, but in the NBA, young players are expected to learn on the job. Just maybe he is ready to give Casey some productive minutes with the Raptors.

Opportunity has come knocking for Nogueira a little earlier than anticipated because of Valanciunas’ injury. Now it’ll be up to him to take advantage of it.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

 

Caboclo shooting

Bruno Caboclo Pours In 25 Points For Raptors 905

In his second game in as many nights against the Mad Ants in Fort Wayne, Toronto Raptors Bruno Caboclo found the range and poured in a game-high 25 points on 10-18 shooting from the field and 3-8 from deep in a 112-92 Raptors 905 loss. As head coach Jesse Mermuys insisted prior to the start of the season, the focus of the 905 is on player development with a strong emphasis on those players assigned to him by the Raptors.

 

 

Caboclo played 34.8 minutes and had an obvious green light to fire away whenever he was open. He also contributed 6 rebounds and a block. The young forward was getting pushed around by players with more experience and strength and it ran up his personal foul total to five, but he has already played more meaningful minutes this season with the 905 than he did all of last year in both the NBA and the NBA D-League.

Lucas Nogueira interview

After getting into foul trouble in his first game with the 905, center Lucas Nogueira managed to stay on the court for 27 minutes this time, however, he struggled from the field, missing open shots and chippies at the rim. He finished shooting just 3-11. It wasn’t all bad, Nogueira used his superior size and length to grab 9 rebounds and help his team control the glass 51-43.

As noted by the in-game play callers, as Nogueira goes, so go the 905 and with Nogueira having a bad night finishing around the rim and picking up two quick fouls in the first quarter, this game got quickly out-of-hand. Then the 905 gave this game away with 24 turnovers – 11 in the first quarter alone.

The D-League is just a little more relaxed about some things than the NBA. With the game winding down in the fourth quarter, about 40 kids that appeared to run out of the stands joined the Mad Ants dancers on the court during a timeout to get in on the entertainment.

Next up, Raptors 905 home opener is on Thursday, November 19 when they host the Maine Red Claws at Hershey Centre in Mississauga at 7:30 p.m.

 

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

Raptors 905 Media Release:

RECAP: FORT WAYNE MAD ANTS – 112, RAPTORS 905 – 92

Caboclo records game-high 25 points in defeat

The Fort Wayne Mad Ants carried a 23-point lead into the second half and held on the rest of the way for a 112-92 win over Raptors 905 on Sunday evening at Allen County War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The Mad Ants’ win moves them to 2-0 on the season, while Raptors 905 falls to 0-2.

Fort Wayne jumped out to an early 26-13 advantage after the first quarter, led by 10 points from Terran Petteway and aided by 11 opening-frame turnovers by Raptors 905. The Mississauga club lessened their turnovers to six in the second quarter, but the gap widened, as Fort Wayne outscored Raptors 905 37-27 in the quarter to take a 63-40 score into the break. A strong third quarter for Raptors 905 got the deficit back to 20, but the Mad Ants held them in check in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.

Leading Fort Wayne offensively were Petteway (22 points, four assists), Rakeem Christmas (19 points), Walter Lemon Jr. (game-high 16 bench points, four assists) and Shayne Whittington (12 points). Bruno Caboclo (game-high 25 points), Scott Suggs (18 points), Melvin Johnson (15 points) and Jay Harris (11 points) were the top offensive producers for Raptors 905. Fort Wayne’s Christmas and Raptors 905’s Lucas Nogueira shared the game high for rebounds with nine each.

The Mad Ants bested Raptors 905 in field goal percentage (45.4-41.2), three-point percentage (42.9-37.0), free throw percentage (75.0-63.2), points in the paint (48-36) and fast-break points (9-8), while Raptors 905 held the advantage in second-chance points (13-7).

Raptors 905 is back in action on Thursday, November 19 when it plays host to the Maine Red Claws at Hershey Centre in Mississauga at 7:30 p.m.

 

 

Raptors 905 Bruno Caboclo

Bruno Caboclo Double-Double In Raptors 905 Season Opener

Toronto Raptors forward Bruno Caboclo played 32.7 minutes and put up a 16 point 13 rebound double-double in the Raptors 905 inaugural season opener in Fort Wayne on Saturday night. It was a poor shooting night for both teams as neither squad cracked 40 percent from the field and Caboclo shot just 6-16 from the field and 2-9 from three-point range, however, the young rangy forward did lead all players on the glass and managed to swipe 3 steals as well.

Also assigned to the 905 by the Raptors is Lucas Nogueira and the center scored 11 points on 4-6 shooting to go with 9 boards and 3 blocked shots in just 21 minutes of action.  Recently acquired Nick Wiggins played 9 minutes and scored 2 points.

The game was tied at 80 when the Mad Ants Xavier Thames hit on a long range three-ball with time expiring. Final: Mad Ants 83, Raptors 905 80.

Check out the highlights:

 

 

In typical NBA D-League scheduling, the Raptors 905 will play the Mad Ants again on Sunday in Fort Wayne.

 

Press Release:

RECAP: FORT WAYNE MAD ANTS – 83, RAPTORS 905 – 80

Xavier Thames hits buzzer-beating three pointer to win

Fort Wayne Mad Ants guard Xavier Thames hit a buzzer-beating three pointer to lift his team to an 83-80 win over Raptors 905 Saturday evening in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The contest was the season-opening game for both clubs and the inaugural NBA Development League regular season game in the history of Raptors 905.

Tied 36-36 at the half, the contest was a back-and-forth affair through most of the first three quarters, with the Mad Ants stretching their lead to seven points for the first time in the game with under five minutes left in the third quarter. Fort Wayne’s 29-point third-frame outburst – led by nine points and six rebounds from CJ Fair in the quarter – put the Mad Ants ahead by 11 heading into the fourth quarter.

Raptors 905 stormed back in the final quarter, erasing the 13-point deficit they faced early in the fourth and taking a late lead. Tied 80-80 in the dying seconds, Fort Wayne’s Shayne Whittington stole the ball from Raptors 905’s Lucas Nogueira and the Mad Ants called time out. Thames accepted the subsequent inbound pass and hit a three-point shot as time expired to seal the game for Fort Wayne.

Rakeem Christmas led the Mad Ants offensively with a game-high 24 points. Fair added 19 points to go with nine rebounds, while Thames finished with 17 points and six assists. Scott Suggs had a team-high 20 points for Raptors 905, while Bruno Caboclo (16), Melvin Johnson (12) and Nogueira (11) also reached double digits. Caboclo also had a game-high 13 rebounds for the night’s only double-double.

The two teams were evenly matched in almost all shooting situations in the game. Raptors 905 narrowly led Fort Wayne in field goal percentage (39.5-36.4) and three-point percentage (26.9-25.0), while the Mad Ants edged Raptors 905 in free throw percentage (65.0-64.3), second-chance points (19-12) and fast-break points (3-2). Both clubs had 40 points in the paint.

Raptors 905 and the Mad Ants will go head-to-head again Sunday, November 15 at 5 p.m. in Fort Wayne.

 

 

 

Bruno Caboclo & Lucas Nogueira

Raptors Assign Bruno Caboclo And Lucas Nogueira To The 905

The Toronto Raptors have assigned sophomores Bruno Caboclo and Lucas Nogueira to their NBA D-League Affiliate, Raptors 905, in time for the team’s inaugural game in Fort Wayne on Saturday November 14th. Both players spent time  with the Mad Ants in Fort Wayne last season.

Caboclo and Nogueira have combined for just 6 minutes of playing time with the Raptors so far this season and the Raptors 905 provides an opportunity to work on their craft under the direction of head coach Jesse Mermuys who coached them in Summer League over the past two seasons and has been a Raptors assistant coach under the direction of Raptors head coach Dwane Casey.

Caboclo and Nogueira

Press release:

CABOCLO AND NOGUEIRA ASSIGNED TO RAPTORS 905

The Toronto Raptors announced Friday they have assigned forward Bruno Caboclo (cuh-BO-clo) and centre Lucas Nogueira (no-GARE-uh) to Raptors 905, the NBA Development League affiliate of the Raptors. Both players are expected to be in uniform Saturday for the first game in Raptors 905 history when the club visits the Fort Wayne Mad Ants (7:30 p.m. ET).

Caboclo made his NBA season debut Wednesday at Philadelphia going scoreless in one minute. He appeared in eight games with the Raptors last season totaling 10 points, two rebounds and 23 minutes. He saw action in seven NBA D-League contests in 2014-15 with Fort Wayne, averaging 3.4 points, 1.9 rebounds and 8.9 minutes. A native of Osasco, Brazil, Caboclo was selected 20th overall by Toronto in the 2014 NBA Draft.

Nogueira has appeared in two games this season with the Raptors, recording three points, one block and one steal in five minutes. In six games with Toronto last season, he totaled six points, 11 rebounds and 23 minutes. He also played in four NBA D-League games in 2014-15 with Fort Wayne, averaging 8.2 points, 10.0 rebounds and 20.1 minutes. A native of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Nogueira was selected 16th overall by Boston in the 2013 NBA Draft. He was acquired by Toronto in a trade with Atlanta along with Lou Williams for John Salmons and a 2015 second-round pick June 30, 2014.

Both Caboclo and Nogueira will continue to be included on the Raptors’ roster and will remain on the team’s inactive list.

 

 

 

Caboclo and Nogueira

Head Coach Says Raptors 905 Is A Huge Advantage For Toronto

Last year the Toronto Raptors sent rookie Bruno Caboclo to Fort Wayne of the NBA D-League and the experience visibly crushed his confidence. The Mad Ants weren’t interested in developing a teenager and he sat as a DNP-CD for most of his time there. Raptors 905 head coach Jesse Mermuys is understandably working under a different set of criteria. Now when Raptors head coach Dwane Casey sends a player to the D-League he knows his guys are going to play. Owning a D-League team is a huge advantage for Toronto when it comes to developing players.

Raptors 905 coach Jesse Mermuys

“That’s why MLSE did an amazing job, Masai (Ujiri) and everybody, of getting this team to give these guys a chance to play and learn from their mistakes and get consistency to their game,” Mermuys told Pro Bball Report.

“The plan is to help Lucas (Nogueira), Bruno (Caboclo), Delon (Wright), guys that might come down here and be assigned give them experience so that they are not just sitting around watching up there (on the Raptors) all the time and then get guys that we have a liking to to get them under our umbrella. Guys like Ronald Roberts, guys like Sim (Bhullar), guys that we like, let’s develop them as well and who knows, maybe they’ll end up getting on the actual Raptors team some day in the future.”

What this means for the rest of the roster is it doesn’t matter how well you are playing, if the Raptors send down a player at your position, he’s playing and you’re sitting. The Raptors 905 exists solely for the benefit of the Raptors.

“To be able to manage expectations, you have to communicate openly and honestly on a daily basis with your team,” Mermuys explained. “I plan on being as raw, open and honest as I possibly can and let (the players) understand the reasons why – here’s the situation. I have already explained to Shannon (Scott) in front of the team, you can be getting a triple-double down here, (but) if Delon (Wright) comes down, he is going to play and that’s okay because that is why we all are here and have this opportunity.”

As a Raptors assistant coach and head coach of the Raptors Summer League team, Mermuys has a leg up on developing the Raptors rookies and sophomores when they get sent down. Both Caboclo and Nogueira know and respect Mermuys and are even looking forward to playing for him.

“It’s always nice to have a familiarity you know,” Mermuys said. “Being able to coach Bruno (Caboclo) and Lucas (Nogueira) now two summers in a row should pay dividends for us this season. Obviously we want them playing for the Raptors at a high level, but until they reach that point in their development, this is the next best thing for them and we are just going to keep trying to keep them on an uptick, keep improving until they reach their goal.

“Right now (Nogueira) is a talented guy. He is still a young guy, so it’s just about getting consistency and to get consistency, you got to play. You need that game experience and that is what this whole opportunity is going to provide for him.

“Obviously I can’t tell you how long (it will take Caboclo to develop), but I do know he works really hard. He wants it really bad which is the main thing and now that he is going to get an opportunity to play major minutes and play through mistakes and have these growing pains and learning experiences – who knows? This should really speed up the process.

“If you just take (Caboclo) from summer to summer, he has come a long ways. Now that’s not obviously close enough for the NBA – playing on a consistent basis, but he is making big strides. Just to see that improvement is exciting for us as an organization. Now we are adding the 905 experience for him, it should really help him out. I am pretty sure he is really excited to come down here and play.”

It’s going to be exciting for the fans in Mississauga to see Caboclo, Nogueira, Wright and possibly Norman Powell play for the Raptors 905 as well. It would be reasonable to expect one or two of these young players to be regularly featured on Toronto’s D-League team if they aren’t getting minutes with the big club. Fans can be assured they’ll be playing when they are in Mississauga as well. The “D” in D-League stands for development and these are the guys the Raptors want developed.

“We are really going to do the best we can as a coaching staff to keep development at the forefront of our mind game in and game out,” Mermuys said. “As long as we are not sacrificing development of our players and our young players in our organization for wins, we want to try and do both (win and develop), but sometimes you can’t do both.”

The Raptors 905 home opener is on November 19th. It will be interesting to see how long it takes before one or more of the players the Raptors are trying to develop arrive. It shouldn’t take long.

 

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Lucas Nogueira sitting

At 42 lbs Bigger Lucas Nogueira Needs The Raptors 905

The tall, thin, bouncy center who was playing for Estudiantes of the Spanish league two years ago hardly looks like the same player as he starts his second season with the Toronto Raptors. The 23-year-old bulked up considerably over the summer and is now listed at 241 lbs. The change was deliberate. Lucas Nogueira believed he needed the extra strength to compete in the NBA, but it has come at the cost of some of his bounce. The kid who has pictures on his phone of him coming within inches of the top of the backboard can only just comfortably dunk now.

Lucas Nogueira interview

“Honestly, I don’t have the bounce of three, four years ago,” Nogueira told Pro Bball Report. “From last year to this year I put on 42 lbs. It’s a lot, so I don’t think my body is ready yet to run and jump like two, three, four years ago when I was 180-200 lbs. Alex (McKechnie, director sports science) and Jon Lee (strength and conditioning coach), they make me get better, use my body to get stronger and still run and jump like two years ago, but I am a very tall and long guy, so this makes for easy dunks. A couple of years ago I had a good bounce, but (now) I don’t have the same bounce compared to last year.”

Nogueira knows he needs to play and if he isn’t going to get time in Toronto, he is enthusiastic about getting minutes in Mississauga with the Raptors 905.

“For sure I am going to have more playing time because they have a D-League team,” Nogueira said. “I just have to figure out where I’ll have playing time, here or there in Mississauga. Last year I was sent to the D-League and had great games because I took the D-League as an opportunity to get better. A lot of guys took the D-League as a punishment and that’s why they didn’t have success in the D-League. The D-League is very competitive because everybody is trying to make the (NBA), so if you (go to) the D-League (with the wrong attitude), you aren’t going to get better, you aren’t going to play well, but if you go there like it’s an opportunity to develop my game and if I play well they’ll bring me back to the (NBA). So if I go to the D-League this year, I will have the same mind-set as last year.”

A big difference between this year and last is the Raptors have their their own D-League franchise that is coached by one of Raptors head coach Dwane Casey’s assistants. There will be no DNP-CDs for players the Raptors send to Mississauga or changes in philosophy or style of play. Raptors 905 head coach Jesse Mermuys will be running the same offensive and defensive sets as Casey, plus Mermuys goal is player development and getting guys ready for Casey to use.

“We are not going to sacrifice the development of our players for wins and losses,” Mermuys said. “That’s easier said than done. We will try to win every single game that we can and we want to win a championship of course, but we have to keep the big picture in mind.”

“Jesse probably (will run) the same offense and defense,” Nogueira said. “I think Jesse is a great coach and he has made a good decision because he probably is going to try and be a head coach in the future. If he wants to be a head coach in the future, he needs to be a head coach in the D-League, so I think it is a good choice for him. We are going to miss him (in Toronto) because he is a very smart coach and he helps the team a lot, but I think he made a good decision. I think he is going to help me if I go to the D-League.”

Nogueira is the Raptors third string center, but he is really seventh among the big men Casey has available. There will be a lot of DNP-CDs in Nogueira’s immediate future in Toronto. However, he is a player that seems to ooze with potential. A true 7-footer with a 7’6 wingspan, he is a natural rim protector and potential vacuum of loose balls and rebounds. The Raptors just need to find out if Nogueira can put those gifts to use on an NBA court and Nogueira needs the Raptors 905 to hone his skills, learn the Raptors sets and get ready for the day his opportunity arrives.

 

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.