The Toronto Raptors rookie center Lucas ‘Bebe’ Nogueira hasn’t seen much time in the NBA, but with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants of the NBA D-League recently, the 22-year-old from Brazil has been showing off his natural abilities and the results have been impressive.
Over his first three games Nogueira has averaged a double-double 11 points and 13 rebounds in 25.7 minutes plus 2.7 blocks and a steal. He kicked things off with a massive 18 point, 19 rebound and 4 block effort in his first D-League game.
Nogueira was all over the court in his first game with the Mad Ants, putting up 18 shots and getting to the free throw line 11 times, but the rust of not playing showed through as he shot just 39 percent from the field and 36.4 percent from the charity stripe. His shot attempts came way down in his next two games, but he hit on 50 percent of his next 10 attempts and connected on 5-7 from the stripe. Nogueira also totaled 20 more boards, 3 more steals and 4 more blocks. In all, a very solid performance playing with teammates he hadn’t met before in a system he didn’t know.
Evaluating non-NBA performances is difficult, however, the Raptors starting power forward Amir Johnson has been watching and practicing with Nogueira all season. Johnson sees a lot of potential for Nogueira once the young center figures out the NBA game.
“He has been injured a couple of times and it’s good to get a feel out there in the Development League and get some run,” Johnson explained. “Then when he gets back here, he is definitely going to work hard. He has been working hard with us all season, early in practice, stays after and comes in late at night and he is going to have his chance and he is going to do some damage because he is a unique player. Mentally I think he has to learn the NBA. Learn where to be in his spots, but he is definitely going to be something great.
“He is long. He can run the floor. You can’t beat a seven-footer, a seven-footer is always going to do some damage no matter where he plays.
“He shoots in practice. He just has to keep shooting because you never know when you are going to make it.”
Nogueira showed promise as a big-time shot blocker and rebounder over the past two seasons in Spain although injuries hampered his progress last year as well. The highlight reel NBA D-League performance is indicative of his ability to fly around the court and play above the rim at both ends of the floor. If Nogueira can stay healthy and figure out the NBA game, the Raptors could have someone exciting for next season already buried on their bench.