Digging for Diamonds: Lucas Nogueira
On June 27, 2013, the Boston Celtics selected Lucas Nogueira with the 16th overall pick in the NBA Draft.
By June 29, 2014, Nogueira had already been traded three times (twice on draft night alone), and had not played a single minute of professional basketball. This is where our unsung story begins.
That final trade – a deal that sent John Salmons to Atlanta and Nogueira to Toronto – has helped to expose the very real potential of this edition’s diamond. After two seasons of limited run, it looked like Nogueira might get buried on the bench again, as the Raps took center Jakob Poetl ninth overall in the 2016 Draft and signed free agent Jared Sullinger. But coach Dwane Casey gave the Brazilian a chance, and Lucas has absolutely risen to the occasion. He has appeared in 45 games so far this year, averaging 21.4 minutes per.
With the added tick, the big man has proved his fantasy worth; and at just 24 years old, there is much room for improvement. The tools are there – Nogueira runs the floor well for a seven-footer, skies for alley-oops, and uses his length effectively on D – so now it’s just about refining the quintessential “center” skills (post moves etc.) and getting even stronger. His draft prospect profile from 2013 pegged Nogueira at 220 pounds, but his 2017 Rotoworld profile lists him as 241. It is also possible that Nogueira could develop an outside jumper, as he has connected on three of nine three-point attempts this year. Shout out Marc Gasol, Brook Lopez, and co.
Let’s dig. Nogueira is currently averaging 5.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.7 blocks (8th in the league), and less than 1 turnover per game, shooting 68% from the field and 65% from the free-throw line. Though he doesn’t currently qualify by ESPN standards (have to be on pace for over 300 field goals), Nogueira would rank second in the NBA in field goal percentage, behind just DeAndre Jordan. So right now, the value is solid, especially in deeper leagues. Nogueira can make a tangible difference in the blocks category, and does very little to hurt you. He has taken only 60 free throws all season, so his poor percentage is unlikely to be a factor in weekly head-to-head match-ups.
Time to look ahead. Fantasy owners are justified in their fear that Nogueira will be cemented in a backup role for the foreseeable future, given that Toronto’s starter is 24-year-old Jonas Valanciunas (who is on the books through 2019-20). Yet, not only is Nogueira a free agent after next season (giving him the opportunity to change teams and assume a starting position, which, supposing he continues to progress, he will be deserving of), the big should also be receiving more minutes with his present team. Hopefully the Raptors realize that.
The two most successful five-man lineups (in terms of +/-) Toronto has unveiled this season include Nogueira. The combination of Lowry-DeRozan-Powell-Patterson-Nogueira, which has played only 33 minutes together, has outscored opponents by a staggering 63.4 points. Nearly every lineup combo that includes Nogueira has a net positive in points per 100 possessions. By comparison, Toronto’s starting five (Lowry-DeRozan-Carroll-Siakam-Valanciunas) has been outscored by 9.4 points in 361 minutes of action.
Nogueira’s presence on the court when Toronto has found success is not a fluke. He has been credited with more defensive win shares than Valanciunas, Siakam, and Sullinger, and has worked better with star point guard Kyle Lowry. That two-man grouping is +15.7 per 100 possessions. Lowry-Valanciunas is just +7.0.
So, let’s say Nogueira starts to get more minutes. You’re looking at per-36 numbers of 8.9 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 3.1 blocks. And, like I said, those stats should only get better as the big fella continues to get more comfortable out on the floor. The field goal percentage is likely to drop a bit, as Nogueira starts to create more shots for himself (77 of his 99 field goals have been assisted on), but definitely should remain high by fantasy standards. This guy doesn’t force the issue.
Conclusion: As a safe, respectable producer with real potential and no signs of slowing down, Nogueira should have more eyes on him. I would buy as an approximately top-100 dynasty prospect. You’re looking at a big who, if given a larger role, could lead the league in blocks, still rank amongst the top in field goal percentage, and contribute heavily on the boards.
In my 16-team league, he was recently a piece of a six-player veteran-for-prospect exchange: Lucas Nogueira/Caris LaVert/Iviva Zubac for Matthew Dellavedova/Taj Gibson/Ricky Rubio. Use this as a framework. If you’re squad is “processing”, I wouldn’t hesitate to send a guy like Taj to a contender for Nogueira. You could also move an older head like a Pau Gasol to make room for him.
After years of waiting for his turn, Nogueira’s time has arrived. Monitor his progress and stay glued to The Dynasty Guru for more hidden gems.
Previously on “Digging for Diamonds”
- Juan Hernangomez and Thon Maker
- Ivica Zubac and Ante Zizic
- Caris LaVert and Montrezl Harrell
- Richaun Holmes and Willy Hernangomez