Lucas Nogueira: The Raptors’ Most Likely Breakout Candidate

TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 15: Lucas Nogueira
TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 15: Lucas Nogueira /

Although the Raptors made a few changes this offseason, they ultimately decided to re-up with the same core.

Unlike many of their Eastern Conference foes who lost their stars to the West (Pacers losing Paul George to the Thunder, Bulls losing Jimmy Butler to the Timberwolves), the Raps resigned Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka on 3 year deals to once again pair them with DeMar DeRozan hoping that another year to gel can provide different results.

So instead of looking at high-profile acquisitions, fans will have to turn their focus. We must look internally hoping for someone within the system to break out and become a major difference maker.

When looking for a potential breakout player on the Raps, most fans will point to Norman Powell. Some may point to Delon Wright, or Jakob Poeltl. However, here’s a name to watch out for this upcoming season: Lucas “Bebê” Nogueira.

Here are a few reasons why you can expect Nogueira to take the next step this upcoming season.


After a few years of observing the guys on the team and learning from Jonas Valanciunas, Nogueira is ready to step in and make a difference in areas that the Raptors struggle. He provides them a weapon that they can deploy in a variety of different ways.

They could line him up next to Serge Ibaka, providing a potent and versatile interior defensive pairing.

On the offensive end, Ibaka would stretch the floor, while Bebê works on the inside for easy baskets off of dump-offs, offensive boards, and lobs. Despite Nogueira’s limited offensive skillset, he has shown that he can make up for it with his length and athleticism.

TORONTO, ON – JANUARY 27: Lucas Nogueira
TORONTO, ON – JANUARY 27: Lucas Nogueira /

In an effort to keep up with today’s NBA the Raptors may look to play small ball. Although Ibaka would likely play center for this lineup, the Raps could use Nogueira to take some of those minutes away from Ibaka.

Playing small is a physically tasking brand of basketball, especially for someone with the mileage that Ibaka has. Utilizing the fresh legs of Nogueira could really provide a spark for these lineups.

And finally, we all know that Kyle Lowry loves to throw the lob. However, KLow has not really had a consistent target to through the alley-oop to, often resorting to throwing it to Jonas Valanciunas for a (boring) alley-oop layup. At 7’0, with tremendous athleticism, Nogueira provides Lowry with someone to finish plays like this:

Need I say more?


Activity off the bench

With Valanciunas slotted in as the starting center (for the time being at least, as discussed later), Nogueira will have to do his work off the bench. This is a great role for the young Brazilian, allowing him to come in and play short, high energy spurts.

Nogueira’s size coupled with his 7’6 (!!) wingspan provide him the physical tools to get his hands in passing lanes, and also to protect the rim with ease.

Bebê projects as an elite shot-blocker according to, as he blocked a whopping 2.9 shots per 36 minutes, which is 0.1 more than Defensive Player of the Year candidate Rudy Gobert.

TORONTO, CANADA – MAY 7: Lucas Nogueira
TORONTO, CANADA – MAY 7: Lucas Nogueira /

This kind of activity off the bench provides a great change of pace from the offensive-minded Jonas Valanciunas. When Jonas goes to the bench, the Raptors have a high-energy defensive-minded backup center to make up for JV’s defensive shortcomings.

Potential to Start

In an NBA where many of the elite centers are no longer dominant in the post, Val has become more expendable.

The Raptors even looked into trading the Lithuanian center at the draft this year.

While Valanciunas does not fit the mold of the present-day center, Bebê certainly does. Many centers in today’s NBA are counted on solely to protect the paint, and grab rebounds, both of which are elements at which Nogueira excels.

We could easily see a Nogueira breakout this upcoming season for a variety of reasons, as outlined. One of the biggest reasons could be that a Valanciunas trade may still be looming. Additionally, Nogueira has all the tools to be a defensive anchor. Offensively, he is extremely raw, but his athleticism displays his upside playing off of elite talents like Lowry and DeRozan. If Valanciunas is traded, we could see Lucas Nogueira slotted in at the center position and showing us all why he was a mid-1st round pick back in 2013.

Who do you think will break out this year for the Raptors? Let us know in the comment section below.