Toronto Raptors fan favourite week: Lucas Nogueira

Lucas Nogueira’s time with the Toronto Raptors didn’t prove to be as fruitful as one would have hoped. But he remained a fan favourite throughout his time with the team.

Despite being drafted by the Boston Celtics, by way of the Dallas Mavericks, before playing for the Atlanta Hawks in the NBA Summer League, Lucas Nogueira didn’t set foot on an NBA court until being signed by the Toronto Raptors in the trade that brought Lou Williams to the Raptors.

Blessed with a beaming smile, audacious locks, and a lean 7-foot frame, Nogueira would go on to become a peripheral figure during the beginning of the Toronto Raptors most successful run in franchise history. Though he would be gone from the team before their title-winning season, he did make a name for himself as a fan favourite during his four-year stay north of the border.

Nogueira’s first season in Toronto was relatively quiet, spending time with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants – of NBA 2K19 fame – as well as making six short appearances off the bench for the Raptors in sporadic spells.

Despite being a rare feature in the season, there was something about Nogueira that stuck out. His energy was evident every time he stepped on to the court. Even if he wasn’t the most talented center, his contagious enthusiasm was enough to keep fans and the team interested and he was a more than capable shot-blocker.

The next three seasons saw Nogueira become a more frequent addition to the gameday roster, though he was often the team’s third center behind Jonas Valanciunas and Jakob Poeltl. Either way, Nogueira always brought the energy. When the Raptors needed a kick, Dwane Casey would throw Bebe into the cauldron to conjure up a storm.

Bebe wasn’t short of potential. His incredible spider-like 8-foot wingspan went a long way in altering shots, averaging two blocks per 36 minutes in his three most advantageous seasons in Toronto. Even with that potential in his grasp, he still lost the back-up center job to the rookie Poeltl.

Consistency was Nogueira’s issue. Occasionally his presence around the rim could alter the game in the Raptors favor. Other times, his introduction into the game could spell the end of a run. Look no further than his appearance in Game 4 against the Cleveland Cavaliers two years ago.

Nogueira was thrown into the game when the Raptors were on the brink of collapse. If he could swat a few shots and finish a couple of lobs or lay-ups, the Raptors could get rolling. Ultimately, it swung the other way, and Bebe was benched not two minutes later.

Bebe was still considered a fan favourite, though, and rightly so. His giant afro, matched with his underrated passing ability, was a joy to behold when he was on his game. Not many players can make such an impression when playing such limited minutes, but Bebe always felt on the verge of the breakout, someone who was always within inches of taking the proverbial next step.

In the eyes of many Raptors fans, they would love Lucas Nogueira regardless oh him taking the next step or not. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to and the Raptors rescinded his qualifying offer after the 2017-18 NBA season, making him an unrestricted free agent.

Since then, Nogueira has struggled with depression, which he opened up about early in 2019. It’s a shame to see anyone dealing with personal issues, least of all someone who made a big impact on the lives of many Raptors fans. One can only wish Bebe the best in all his endeavors and hope he finds his footing soon.

He’ll be a Raptor for life, and certainly a fan favourite.