There hasn’t been anything too impressive about Brazilian center Lucas Nogueira during the Las Vegas Summer League, and yet the Atlanta Hawks are still undecided about their first round draft pick, and whether to keep him on the roster for next season or give him another season in Spain to add playing time and a chance to better prepare himself for the NBA.
Nogueira, 20, is quite raw, even in global terms. He has been with Estudiantes since 2009, but he has played only one full season in the Spanish league, averaging 5.4 points and 3.4 rebounds per game in 13.6 minutes a night. It’s less about the numbers, and more about simply not being ready for the NBA game at the moment.
Nogueira himself seems to be quite aware that next season might be another year in Spain, and doesn’t seem to mind.
Everybody talks to me about this. If I stay here, I’m happy. But if I need to go back I’m happy too because in Spain everybody believes in me. I’ve lived five years in Spain and I know my club and everybody knows me. I’m happy. I know I can improve my game in Spain. I improved so much this year from last year. Right now, the most important thing is my body. I can’t improve my body in Spain. I’m perfect to stay here because the most important thing is to improve my body.
And it seems like that’s the big question for the Hawks – how badly do they believe in Nogueira’s potential? If they think he’s the real deal, keeping him in the United States, probably giving him some D-League time, is the best idea for them. However, if they are already regretting making that pick in the first round, than another year or two in Spain should be the direction they’re headed in.
Nogueira is a good shot blocker and decent rebounder, at least in European standards, but there’s no doubt that his very thin frame is going to be a problem if he begins playing in the NBA without the proper adjustment. In order to not let this pick be yet another international draft pick never to be utilized, the Hawks should insist on keeping the Brazilian and try to make him ready for the bet basketball league in the world.