Title: Lucas Nogueira affirms intriguing skillset in change-of-pace role
Date: January 7, 2018
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic Toronto, I wrote about Lucas Nogueira, who is still quite good when used and got the chance to show it Friday.
When Jonas Valanciunas picked up his second foul just 87 seconds into Friday’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks, head coach Dwane Casey had a couple of options.
- He could have rode with Valanciunas. The starting center generally averages about four fouls per-36 minutes (4.5 this year) and is averaging 20.8 minutes per-game. The Bucks draw fouls at a strong rate, but Valanciunas may not have gotten deeper into trouble. What’s more, because Valanciunas has only appeared in 15 fourth quarters (averaging under five minutes), the Raptors can sometimes approach his foul trouble as if he’s playing a shortened game. This is a pretty risky course and, as Valanciunas showed in the third quarter, it made sense to preserve him.
- He could have gone to Jakob Poeltl, Valanciunas’ backup. It would have marked by far the earliest Poeltl’s checked in this season, either exhausting Poeltl or disrupting the second unit’s normal rotations. Poeltl also picks up fouls at the 11th-highest rate in the NBA, a year after he would have ranked No. 1 with enough minutes. Since Poeltl entered the league, only three players who have played 750 minutes have picked up fouls at a higher rate. This was a reasonable move that may have threatened the team’s overall foul situation. Poeltl would ultimately pick up five fouls in 8:30 in this game.
- He could have gone small. This was probably the expected route, because the Bucks are a team it makes a lot of sense to slide Serge Ibaka to center against. The Raptors even did as much in the postseason last year, shifting Valanciunas to the bench. It brings another potential Giannis Antetokounmpo defender on the floor in Pascal Siakam (or even Norman Powell, sigh) without losing much inside, and the Bucks aren’t well-suited to take advantage on the glass. It would disrupt rotations some, though it could have been useful information for how a smaller group looks early in a game against a playoff opponent.
Casey opted for none of the above. Instead, he called on Lucas Nogueira.