Lucas Nogueria is one of the more talented physical specimens in this year's big man crop, ranking among the league leaders in field goal percentage, offensive rebounds and blocks in the competitive ACB. How much will his lack of offensive polish and overall experience affect his perception as a prospect on draft night?
Scouting Report by Jonathan Givony. Video Analysis by Mike Schmitz
Three years after emerging on the NBA radar screen at the U18 FIBA Americas Championship in San Antonio, Lucas Nogueira has finally taken a major step forward in beginning to capitalize on his significant potential playing for Estudiantes Madrid. The Brazilian 7-footer played a solid role for an overachieving team in the Spanish ACB, emerging as the one of the league's top offensive rebounders and shot-blockers.
“Bebe,” as he's widely known, has improved physically and is finally starting to grow into the terrific frame NBA scouts fell in love with in San Antonio. He's still very much on the lanky side but is as mobile a 7-footer as you'll find on this side of the ocean, running the court incredibly well, getting off the floor in the blink of an eye, and using his gigantic 7-5 wingspan to his impact the game significantly on the defensive end in particular.
Offensively, Nogueira is fairly limited, averaging just 5.4 points in 13.6 minutes per game this season, finding the overwhelming majority of his production off the ball via cuts, pick and roll finishes, offensive rebounds and by running the floor in transition. He does not possess the lower body strength needed to establish position in the post, and generally isn't a threat to score outside of five feet. He shows little semblance of a jump-shot or ball-handling skills and is not the type of player you want creating with the ball in his hands, as he's just an average decision maker and struggles dealing with contact due to his still-underdeveloped frame.
Nevertheless, he finds ways to score points efficiently in his time on the court, as his tremendous combination of length, outstanding hands, mobility and leaping ability make him a phenomenal target for his guards to utilize in drive and dish situations, as they can just throw the ball up anywhere in the vicinity of the rim and he'll usually find a way to go get it and hammer it home in emphatic fashion. Thanks to his outstanding reach he barely needs to jump in order to dunk the ball, which gives him plenty of opportunities to score each game simply by staying active. Bebe is one of the better finishers you'll find in this draft class, ranking third in the ACB in field goal percentage at 66%.
Defensively, Nogueira has made notable strides this season, finally showing signs of adding an improved mental approach to the game to compliment his tremendous physical tools. He's developing into a real game-changer inside the paint with his phenomenal combination of size, length, mobility, and timing. Quick with his rotations, he covers ground extremely well and is incredibly difficult to shoot over thanks to his 7-5 wingspan and 9-3 standing reach, ranking as the second best per-minute shot-blocker in the ACB this season at 3.3 blocks per-40. He also uses his length to get in the passing lanes, sometimes coming up with deflections on post-entry passes or simply poking the ball away from behind after his opponent has caught the ball with his back to the basket.
As much of a difference maker as Bebe can be rotating from the weakside, he can still get taken advantage of in one-on-one situations by the plethora of skilled and physically developed big men you find in the highly competitive ACB. His lack of lower body strength makes it difficult for him to hold his ground inside the paint, as he can get backed down and pushed around at times, something he'll have to continue to work on as he adds more weight to his frame. When switching out onto the perimeter his high hips and high center of gravity make it difficult for him to move his feet and stay in front of smaller players.
While he's improved significantly as a team defender, he'll still suffer from lapses of focus occasionally, losing track of what's going on off the ball, getting lost in rotations, and committing foolish fouls.
While Nogueira is one of the best per-minute offensive rebounders in the ACB, he's just an average defensive rebounder (5.1 per-40), not always boxing out his man and showing average instincts going out of his area to come up with loose balls. This is somewhat inevitable considering how often he's chasing blocks, but it's something he'll need to improve on balancing to reach his full potential down the road.
To his credit, Bebe made significant and very noticeable strides in virtually every area as the season moved on, improving week by week seemingly, even if he wasn't always rewarded for it with additional playing time. His feel for the game has undoubtedly improved, as has his focus-level, effort, and commitment to playing solid basketball on every possession. There is clearly a great deal of physical potential and talent to work with here, and he's definitely still getting better at this stage.
The question NBA teams will have to ask themselves is just how much he'll continue to improve over the next few years. Turning 21 in July, he hasn't put on a great deal of bulk to his frame in the past few years, as it's not quite clear how much work he's put in in the weight room. His love of the game, work ethic and overall mentality has been questioned by people who have worked closely with him in years past, even if he's received nothing but strong reports this season from the people at Estudiantes. He's definitely still a year or two away at the very least from being able to contribute at the NBA level from a physical standpoint, even if he's in a terrific situation to continue to improve if his role increases next season.
Nogueira's development as a prospect were certainly slowed by the odd route Estudiantes took in utilizing him, electing to stash him in unstructured environments on essentially their junior teams in the previous two seasons (2010-2011 and 2011-2012) competing against weak competition in the lowest levels of Spanish basketball. With a new General Manager (Himar Ojeda) came a new concept for integrating young prospects this season, which benefited Bebe in a major way and certainly changed the way he's been perceived as a prospect both in Spain and in the US, even if at 14 minutes per game there's still not a huge body of work to go off.
Despite all the question marks, players with Nogueira's physical tools and talent are rare and coveted commodities, and there isn't a great deal of risk for an NBA team picking outside the top-20 to draft him and see what comes out of him. He's exactly the type of player who could skyrocket with a strong showing in a setting like the adidas EuroCamp, should he decide to attend.