Bebe, It’s Cold Outside

Lucas Nogueira likes to score the basketball because typically that’s what basketball players like to do. It’s not his primary function, or even his secondary one, but it makes him happy.It’s hard to be happy if you don’t score the basketball and Bebe hasn’t scored the basketball in a long time.

The last time the unforgettable seven footer graced us with his offensive touch and that giant smile was back on February 14th in a loss against the Chicago Bulls. He finished with seven points and extended his scoring streak to 20 games, six of which he started in. He averaged 6.7 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.2 steals, 1.7 blocks and shot 69% from the field.

Lucas Noguiera hasn’t scored since. He’s appeared in eight games since then with averages of 0.0 points, 1.5 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks in 6.8 minutes. Those appearances have been mainly during blowouts (in either direction) and it’s clear that Dwane Casey would prefer the floor of Jakob Poeltl over the ceiling of Noguiera. It’s hard to argue with the results. The Raptors have won nine of their last 12 with Poeltl in the lineup and while his ceiling and his floor may be one in the same the Austrian has provided a safety that Bebe simply doesn’t possess. Or does he?

Poeltl’s averages during that 12 game run are 5.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 0.5 steals and 0.7 blocks while shooting 60% from the field. He’s played 16 minutes a night so his lack of production can hardly be blamed on a small sample size. He offers a fraction of the athleticism or rim protection that Bebe brings to the table and when it comes to a comparison of smiles it’s not even close. Yet barring an injury, this is likely how it’s going to be from here on out. Casey likes that Poeltl doesn’t get lost on switches, or rack up offensive miscues, and right now that’s enough.

Noguiera’s minutes disappearing are directly linked to Serge Ibaka joining the Raptors and it’s near-impossible to find fault in that. Still, Casey had to make a decision as to who would provide relief for Ibaka and Valanciunas and Bebe was left outside. The Raptors are moving on from an organization that is just “happy to be here” into one that is determined to win, and win now. The decision to use Poeltl is a reflection of that, albeit a frustrating one and Bebe is going to have to learn to live with that.

It won’t be easy. Noguiera was a major part of this team from the jump and quickly turned into a fan favourite. All the work he put in during the offseason was on full display and his ability to protect the rim has never been in question. He was one of the most asked about Raptors during the trade deadline and at 24 years old still has a lengthy career ahead of him. Next season is the last year we get to witness Bebe before Toronto needs to make a decision on his (still) untapped potential and with the amount of buzz he’s generated this season it’s unlikely the Raptors keep him.

Toronto is going to be faced with numerous challenges down the stretch and into the playoffs, especially in the paint. Noguiera may be raw, but this is technically his third season with the club and he offers an upside Poeltl simply doesn’t have yet. The Raptors’ depth is arguably their greatest asset, but it can also work against you when your young talent is left on the bench.

Bring Bebe in from the cold.

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