Get to know the Raptors’ newly acquired Brazilian center.

Not much is known about Lucas “Bebe” Nogueira. His one NBA moment came on draft day, when a classic struggle between man’s afro and a Celtics hat gave rise to this glorious photo. It was wonderful.

Beyond that, Nogueria is something of a mystery. Here’s what we know.

Bebe was drafted 16th overall by the Boston Celtics, then traded on draft day to the Hawks. He was then stashed overseas in Estudiantes of the Spanish ACB, where he had played since 2009. He was born in 1992 (like Jonas Valanciunas) and is currently 21 years old.

Last season, Nogueira suffered a bout of tendinitis in his knees, which forced him out of action for a few months. He was permitted to rehab his knees in Atlanta under the watch of the Hawks’ medical staff. He also reportedly pulled his hamstring sometime after returning, and missed three weeks. By all accounts, those issues are now behind him.

We also have Nogueira’s physical measurements. The center stands at 7-feet, and boasts a 7-foot-6 wingspan, of which combine to give him a standing reach of 9-foot-6, which is only six inches short of the hoop. In Eurocamp 2013, Nogueria weighted in at 220 pounds. Oh, and he plays center.

But his age and measurements only tell us so much. It doesn’t shed any light on his abilities as a player. For that, I have perused various scouting reports and watched as much video of him as I could find. Here’s my scouting report on Bebe.

Strengths

In a word, Bebe’s entire game is predicated around his length. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially considering his reach and wingspan, but until he develops more tangible skills, he’s primarily a shot-blocker/put-back player.

Rim-protection

  • Key statistic: 3.5 blocks per 36 minutes last season

Bebe’s length translates best to his shot-blocking ability, but length alone doesn’t equate to 3.5 blocks per 36 minutes, not unless your name is JaVale McGee. Bebe has a good sense of timing, and understands how to make his tools work in his favor.

Most impressively, Bebe is good at contesting shots without jumping. Again, that trails back to his 9-foot-6 standing reach, but he’s also disciplined enough to not bite on shot-fakes, perhaps because he doesn’t need to.

For example, take this play from the Raptors’ July 11th VSL game against the Lakers. Nogueira loses the ball, sprints back in transition, and doesn’t try for the flying chasedown block. He stays on his feet for the most part, and uses his length to contain.

Mobility in defending pick-and-rolls

The modern NBA is nothing like the grind-it-down, post-up battles that headlined the late-eighties and early-nineties. Today’s game is played on the perimeter, dictated stylistically by spacing. Every play opens with a pick-and-roll, and it’s paramount for today’s bigs to effectively hedge and recover on defense. Luckily, it’s an area in which Bebe has shown promise.

The clip below, which spans three defensive possessions, gives a snapshot of Bebe’s defensive instincts. On the first, he hedges hard, and forces the ball-handler into having to make a difficult pass to the roll man which results in an easy steal. On the second, Bebe matches his man step for step, and flusters him with his arms. His man eventually trips, and the possession ends in a turnover. On the third, Bebe sags back in coverage instead of hedging, and backpedals, placing himself in optimal position to guard both the ball-handler and the big.

Nogueira possesses two key physical determinants of pick-and-roll defense in length and lateral quickness. He’s not a Serge Ibaka type who relies on power and his leaping abilities to snuff out pick-and-rolls. Rather, he is laterally quick, gets into position and uses his length to contain well (something Ibaka also does, just for the record). With more coaching and experience, there’s no reason why Bebe won’t be effective in deterring the league’s staple play.

Weaknesses

Bebe’s main weakness is quite literally that — he’s really weak. From the eye test alone, Bebe looks bigger in VSL than he did in his time at Estudiantes, but he is still slight. He’s also doesn’t have much of an offensive skillset aside from put-backs and alley-oops. His weaknesses are discussed below.

Lack of Strength

This counts as something of a general flaw. His lack of strength bleeds into most aspects of his game — in rebounding, in post-defense, in rim-runs on offense — everything.

Being slight onto itself isn’t a death sentence. He’s young and it’s entirely possible that he bulks up, especially with the help of an NBA training staff. However, it’s not a promising sign that he’s naturally only filled out to so much. I’m no doctor, but I’m pretty sure there’s an ideal weight range for each person’s frame, especially if said person is aiming to play a grueling 82-game season against a sea of opposing giants.

Rather, it’s the symptoms of being slight that worry me about Bebe. As I discussed on this week’s edition of Raptors Weekly, many skinny players succeed in spite of their size, but it’s often because they don’t shy away from physicality. Take Tayshaun Prince, for example. For most of his career, Prince has weighed less than his shadow, but he managed to be an excellent wing defender in his prime by being physical, meaning he never shied from contact. He knew he was going to get knocked over, but it didn’t stop him from crashing boards or bodying up.

Perhaps it’s just a lack of experience, but I see a similar issue with Bruno Caboclo and Bebe. They’re both gangly youngsters composed of naught more than skin and bone, but more concerning, they don’t seem willing to bang. It’s less of an issue for a wing player like Bruno, but Bebe will face his fair share of post-ups and rim-runs, even as a token back-up center. A bulkier frame and mindset will go a long way.

Skip to 8:04 of the video below. The video by DraftExpress, highlights how Bebe’s lack of strength affects his play. Given his length, Bebe should still be a fine post-defender, but he will concede ground unless he bulks up a bit more.

Rebounding

  • Key statistic: 8.9 rebounds per 36 minutes

This is mostly a product of observation, rather than statistical analysis (8.9 rebounds per 36 minutes is fine), but Nogueria tends to rely on his length to rebound.

The process evidently worked for him in Europe, but the bigs there tend to be less athletic on the whole, and quite frankly, it’s a different environment for rebounding. Almost every European team employs a floor-stretching four, which leaves the bulk of rebounding responsibilities to centers and wings. It’s not necessarily a feat that Bebe was able to grab boards there. That’s what he should have done.

It’s a matter of process over the results. Bebe doesn’t rely on box-outs to grab boards. He spreads his long arms and tries to reach for loose balls before they fall any lower. The analogy here is that he’s more JaVale McGee than Kenneth Faried. The drive to attack the glass just isn’t there. If it’s a battle between him and Reggie Evans for a loose ball, Evans is going to win out. Once again, it tracks back to the physicality issue.

Lack of post-up game

There’s not much to say other than he doesn’t really have one. He seems to prefer setting a ball screen, then rolling to the basket hoping for a lob-pass, rather than moving to the block, and calling for the ball. On the rare chance that he does post-up, he prefers to face-up and rely on his semi-functional jumper. He looks to have a right-handed hook shot, but that’s about it for a post-up game.

Rather than a weakness, I’d preface this point by calling it a limitation instead. Not every big needs to be a complete player like Hakeem or Duncan. If everything pans out for Bebe, he’ll be a bigger version of Amir Johnson, or perhaps Tyson Chandler. Pick-and-roll, mobility and defense will be his calling card.

Obligatory NBA Comparison

Every scouting profile needs a mindless comparison to an existing NBA player, so let’s dub a “Brazillian __________” tag on Bebe. Or, rather, let’s do something more sensible, and peg a target for him to aspire to. Given his length and mobility, I’d personally like Bebe to mimic Tyson Chandler.

Before I go on, I want to reiterate that it’s merely goal for him to become Chandler, who is a one-time Defensive Player of the Year. It’s not an expectation. If he ever reaches Chandler’s level of excellence, I’d be ecstatic. In his prime, Chandler was a dominant defensive presence who was a force in the pick-and-roll. The chances of any player replicating Chandler’s career is slim.

My reasoning is largely rooted in the similarities in their physical profiles, that being skinny centers who are mobile. Chandler has obviously filled out over his 13 years in the league, but he remains lean for a center. Consider a comparison of their measurements:

 comp

The measurements indicate that the physical tools are there, but application is another matter altogether. Chandler is also a vocal leader, something like a defensive quarterback, and a good rebounder. It’s a hopeful thought rooted in physical building blocks and a shared skillset.

In terms of next season, I’m confident that Bebe can be sufficient in his role as back-up center. He should eventually work up to around 15 minutes per game towards season’s end, mostly mopping up spare minutes against opposing benches. I believe he’ll struggle on the glass, so perhaps a bench pairing with Tyler Hansbrough could mask some deficiencies.

Personally, in terms of development, I’m hoping to see signs of improvement in the little facets of the game. Can he function in Dwane Casey’s pick-and-roll defenses? Does he have the sense of timing and awareness to defend at the NBA level? Can he set screens? To that regard, having a mentor like Amir Johnson is a great place to start for Bebe. There’s potential replacement in a 7-foot body laying in wait.

Note: this was written prior to Monday’s shitshow against the Mavericks.

  • GLF

    Since it was written prior to the game against Mavericks has you opinion changed? Lol. I would like him to be the backup center because I can’t stand Hayes and Casey clearly doesn’t like Hansbrough, but I just don’t think he’s ready yet. Hopefully I’m wrong

    • DDayLewis

      I didn’t see the Mavs game, although I read Zarar’s gamer and wasn’t encouraged. That doesn’t change my assessment of Bebe, though.

      He needs to bulk up and address the weakness issue like I said above. I think that will be the biggest impediment to his career success.

      • Raptorized Mike…R.I.P RJ.

        Na Dday, he ain’t got it..I’m erring more n the side of him being too soft for the league like you touched on in your article (shy’s away from banging) you see the interviews after the game and he’s all happy-go-lucky; to much for my liking for a big man. Who knows tho like you say he may round into form with being around the NBA game and all that it brings in terms of facilities, trainers, coaching and higher level competition but to me the first step to me taking him serious is for him to cut that hair and start looking like a man. Seriously, anyone who wears their hair like that and is smiling all the time can’t be taken seriously as a quote unquote “Rim Protector.” So my feel is he is going to replace Dwight Buycks as the leagues top hype man at the end of the bench

        • DDayLewis

          This man was one of the best defenders of all-time:

          http://cdn.sneakhype.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Dennis-Rodman-Hair-1.jpg

          • Mike

            Raptorized Mike again…apparently I created an account previously under a different name..my last post was as a guest..just wanted to make sure we weren’t comparing Lucas to the Worm in some kind of sick, twisted, warped reality. Cause if my memory serves me, Worm had the hair/flair but there was no smiling post game after blowouts-summer league or otherwise. Classical apples oranges comparison IMHO. Worms compete level was off the yigamicter!! Luca would need some of Captain Americas super soldier serum to reach those levels.

            • DDayLewis

              No, the point I’m trying to make is that smiling and weird hair isn’t a determinant of a player’s success.

              • Mike

                I agree D-Day. I guess I’m just not a fan of that big hair. If I were coming down the lane and I saw that hair it would make me want to dunk on him. I’m sure that’s what all these guys are thinking when they come down the lane and see that hair. The nerve of this guy..Robin Lopez 2.0 (lite version) really, who aspires to pull off the Robin look? I know it doesn’t determine his game but it tells me a little bit about his character. Do they have mirrors in Brazil? Edward scissor hands could have done a better job.

                • MoPeteRules

                  Well you definitely have something against big hair, but definitely, neither his hair cut nor charisma have any bearing on his game. Two former defensive players of the year: Ben Wallace (big ass ‘fro), and Dwight Howard (couldn’t stop smiling if his life depended on it).

                • Jamshid

                  Do you remember the demeanour of Big Ben ?? Do you remember the body and willingness of Howard to Bang ?? Yes, Ben had the big hair and Howard Smiles but they had the body that was built like a Rock and … Bebe, only has the smile and the hair. Lets see what he brings to the table. He can become friend with DD and become a Gym rat and work on his game and build his body or he can smile and laugh and sit at the end of the bench. We will find this out in few month.

                • leftovercrack

                  Rail thin big men like Marcus Camby have carved out careers in the NBA as shot blockers and rebounders. Him bulking up would be a huge positive, but I don’t think he has to become a beast to have an NBA career. Centers take more time to develop – especially if they come from other countries. I think he’ll need at least two years with Raps to ‘get it’.

        • DDayLewis

          But yeah, if the physicality thing doesn’t change, his prospects look slim.

          • rapierraptor

            pun intended?

            • DDayLewis

              Always

        • rapierraptor

          I think Bebe is at the happy-go-lucky stage in his career right now where he’s just a super young kid who’s living his dream and giddy as hell about the whole thing. I agree that he’s too nice right now but the motor is there. We’ll see if he learns to be a little nasty as he matures.

  • Jamshid

    He said he signed his first professional contract at age of 15 and has been in Europe for few years. Given all that and what it comes with being a professional BB player, I am surprised that his body has not developed yet … Is it lack of dedication to putting in the work and working out in the gym ? Or is it just simply that he did not needed when he was plying in Europe ?

    • DDayLewis

      Nah the dudes in Europe are built pretty solid, especially centers. Bebe is young, and it’s possible he’s still growing. Or he might just naturally have a slimmer build.

    • CJT

      It is also very dangerous to lift heavy weight when you are growing. I don’t pretend to know what his growth pattern has been, but you can do serious damage to you body that way.

    • WhiteVegas

      Look at JV. He had been playing pro ball in Europe basically as long as Bebe had, and he came over skinny as hell too.

  • rapierraptor

    Thanks for the write up, Will. Rudy Gobert is similarly long and slim. Last year in his rookie season he averaged 9.6 mpg, 2.3 ppg, 3.4 rpg and 1 bpg. That is about what I would expect from Bebe this season. I just hope that he isn’t one of those guys who is so slight of frame that he’s constantly injured ala Jonathan Bender. I’d imagine that things will be rather brutal at first and then we’ll see strides from Bebe as the season goes on. He speaks portuguese and he’s already become a mentor to Bruno so his value extends beyond just the basketball court. But yeah it all basically boils down to whether he’ll ever gain the strength it takes to play in this league. He has a baby face – he strikes me as a late bloomer so there’s hope.

    • DDayLewis

      No problem. Thanks for reading.

      There’s certainly weight in the Rudy Gobert comparison, but whenever I watch Gobert, he looks robotic in his motion, like fiddling with an action figure with glue in the joints. Bebe looks much smoother in his movement.

  • Bendit

    I would say that Hassan Whiteside currently looks better than Bebe.

    • DDayLewis

      Dude’s 25. Most 25 year olds look better than green 21 year olds.

      • Bendit

        True. Not advocating letting Bebe go (he looks like a fine asset). Just that Whiteside looks like he’d be more helpful in centre this coming year. Bruno & Bebe can both do with some time in the D league and fill out/mature. I am not sure that Masai/Casey want too many onthejob trainees on the team next season.

        • DDayLewis

          Whiteside has a more NBA-ready body, but otherwise I don’t see any other reason to bring him in. I wouldn’t mind, but I’d rather those spare minutes be given to Bebe for development purposes.

  • That other guy

    Nice article, dude. I kinda like Bebe (I like mobile bigs in general) and only one thing scares me: his injuries in the previous season. When a guy is 21, that’s a bit worrying. Especially when Bebe will be playing in the strongest league against the strongest players and 82 games in a regular season + playoffs. I like the Chandler comparison and If Bebe will be fortunate enough to avoid difficult injuries in the future, he’s going to be a very nice back up C.

    • DDayLewis

      Thanks for reading.

    • WhiteVegas

      Tendinitis is not a big deal. Neither is a hamstring pull. If he had ACL or MCL problems, then start worrying. Our training staff will fix Bebe’s movements and strengthen his core so that the tendinitis and pulls don’t happen anymore. We have basically the most advanced strength and conditioning program in the league. They used advanced video analysis to correct a players movements and find out what areas to strengthen. It will be a world of difference from what he was getting in Spain.

  • bballi bballi paradise

    Amir at 21 in summer league. Not sure in the difference in builds, but Amir weighed in similar to Bebe

    http://www.nba.com/summerleague2008/players/index.jsp?player=amir_johnson

    • Kevin

      Hahaha 5 games, 26 mpg, 7.0 fouls per game. Gotta love Amir.

  • seriously

    I’m irritated with people who judge young players based on the NBA stardom criteria and think that players aren’t useful if they can’t dominate in every facet of the game. on a second unit with Williams and Vasquez all he needs to do is roll to the rim and convert – something he’s very skilled at. Defensively he’ll contest shots that come from pick and roll guard penetration. Once he gets in shape he’ll be able to hedge and recover quite nicely. And a rebound is a rebond on the stat sheet. If he gets them by using his length… Like what else do you expect him to do? Box Blake Griffin out to half court and pick up the rebound off two bounces? sure this guy can improve his physique and his skills. So can Lebron. But there’s a place for what he brings to the table as is in the NBA. The raptors need a wiry mobile big guy with length on their roster. There’s potential for him to be a good energy guy off the bench.

  • Rapfan2

    Great observations and scouting report. Bebe and Bruno are both projects and it’s going take some time for the coaching and training staff to mold them into form. They both have the tools. Can they both keep developing the instincts. I can see the drive and work ethic in Bruno. Does Bebe have that same drive and determination to succeed? Bebe seems like a really nice and decent person off the court and he’s probably a real babe magnet with that hair but I’ll like to see him play with more toughness and meanness on the court. Tyson Chandler is a good role model but I’m thinking more along the lines of Dikembe Mutombo. Make use of your deadly elbows and knees when you are defending the basket. No no no with my index finger role model. If he can bring out that grit and toughness to his game I think he’ll be okay in this league. With Bruno he’s definitely got to add more strength to hold his position well against big threes in this league. Love his work ethic and drive though.

  • Eunys

    Bebe can’t be picked Ahead of this Hassan Whiteside. Hassan looks ready for the NBA, bebe not. I do like the young Guy Bruno but jizz he is not ready. I don’t see what everybody sees in this kid but Rudy Gobert of Utah also has long arms y et hé is not giannis antetokoumpko…

    • WhiteVegas

      He’ll be the 3rd center, it really doesn’t matter if he’s NBA ready yet (he won’t be getting minutes). He’ll get better in practice and the weight room. Whiteside is 3 years older and likely doesn’t have much room to grow from the fringe NBA talent that he is. Masai likes to have young developing guys in the 3rd string roles. Much better than wasting those slots on over the hill vets.

  • WhiteVegas

    Bebe admitted to being extremely out of shape in the NBA.com interview. Said this is the first time he’s played basketball in a very long time due to the injuries, and then just being out of season. I bet he will look a lot better in the preseason.

    • Abused Raptors Fan

      Yeah.. I saw the same interview. Apparently, the last 5 on 5 game he played before LVSL was at the end of the ACB season mid-May. What’s more, injuries to his ankle and the tendinitis in his knees kept him out for 1-2 months in the middle of the season before coming back for the last few weeks of the season. If all this is true, I’m not too surprised with his LVSL performance, at least in terms of his overall effort level and conditioning. Based upon recent interviews with both Masai and Casey, it seems as though he’s already been guaranteed a roster spot next season, so, in addition to his poor conditioning, he could be taking it easy to avoid injury while playing in a format that doesn’t really mean anything. Obviously, you’d like to see him put in the effort regardless, but I have to assume that there are other mitigating factors. Otherwise, I’d really have to question his NBA outlook in general.

  • Niagara_dude

    The raptors have not done enough to either trade or sign vet players to blend with some of the young guns we have here.The Wizzards have done the most signing both PP and Kris Humpheries.We beat this team three times last year, I do not believe that will happen this year and other teams have improved by adding players. Giving the media the company line with” well our players are getting better and rest of the league has there players just sitting around during the summer drinking beer and eating peanuts”.You want to get better, then sign some vet free agents and please do not tell me they do not have any money left.There are ways if you reaily want it, GET IT DONE LIKE THE REST OF THE GOOD TEAMS DO!

    • LuckyMystery

      Once again. You realize they didn’t add Paul Pierce, they replaced Trevor Ariza. They got worse at that position. PP is one of my favorite of all time, I’m a die hard celtics fan, but he is not nearly the same player he was even 4 years ago. Do you seriously think adding Humphries is gonna make that much of a difference.

      Washington is in win now mode with a roster nowhere near ready to compete at that level. The raptors are still trying to figure out what they have. Bringing in PP to take minutes from Ross is counterproductive at this point in time.

      Teams add veteran players when they are a few pieces from contending, not when they are in the second year of building the core of the franchise.

      • jakdripr

        Couldn’t have said it better myself.

      • IceManLikeGervin

        Otto Porter is the young gun SF who now has the opportunity to step up after a lackluster rookie season for the Wizards and he has been ballin’ out in Vegas..

  • Giovanni Palandra

    So does anyone else think that DeAndre Daniels looks like he’s 2 years away from being 2 years away?

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