January 23, 2021, 7:02 pm
Welcome back, Hoop Ballers, to our International Spotlight weekly feature where we will be taking a look at French swingman Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot. He has seen his stock and playing time rise in the last few months, becoming an integral part of a Nets team that has championship aspirations.
The Road to Brooklyn
The No. 24 pick in the 2016 Draft has always been a gifted athlete who experimented with tennis and soccer at an early age and only began playing basketball professionally in France at the age of 17. TLC came into the league as a raw but versatile wing with exceptional size and wingspan for his position and a style of play that perfectly fit the NBA.
In two years with the Sixers, he showed flashes of his athleticism and the skill set that made him a first-round pick on both sides of the floor but his shooting remained inconsistent and limited his opportunities for playing time behind J.J. Redick and Robert Covington. After bouncing around the league with the Thunder, the Bulls and the Cavs, he landed in Brooklyn on a two-way deal in an attempt to rejuvenate his career. And when he was waived by the lowly Cavaliers on cutdown day back in October of last year he actually said that he knew he could get a lucrative deal overseas, but wanted one last shot at the NBA, much like Joe Harris and Spencer Dinwiddie before him.
Brooklyn’s Development Success
On NBA Draft night in 2013, the Celtics and the Nets agreed to one of the most significant trades of all time, with the Celtics sending Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry to the Nets for Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks, Keith Bogans, Kris Joseph, three unprotected first-round draft picks (2014, 2016, 2018), and the right to swap picks in 2017. What looked like a clear win for Brooklyn eventually backfired for the franchise as their super team got dissolved after only a couple years and the Nets were deprived of their first-round picks until 2019.
After ownership cleared house, a new regime took place and Sean Marks and the Nets front office focused entirely on consistently identifying undervalued talents and letting the coaching and performance staffs help those players blossom.
Spencer Dinwiddie and Joe Harris were second-round draft picks without NBA jobs when they were signed by the Nets, with the first ending up a finalist for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award in his second year with the Nets, and Harris becoming one of the league’s best 3-point shooters.
Not surprisingly, and with players talking with other players around the league, the Nets were able to land Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, with them publicly acknowledging that Brooklyn has a great player care staff and performance team with coaches that are excellent at developing young players or helping guys take their game to the next level. A lot of emphasis has to be placed on the fact that the Nets were not just lucky – their approach to getting players better has been vital.
TLC, for example, was reunited in Brooklyn with Shaun Fein, the Long Island head coach who also a veteran on Antibes in the French League when Luwawu-Cabarrot played as a teenager. Fein knew his potential, as did others in Philadelphia, Oklahoma City and Chicago but he also knew his issues.
It really didn’t take long for the Nets to give him a shot as he moved into the rotation last Christmas after David Nwaba ruptured his Achilles. He quickly gained confidence as he gained minutes and by the end of January, he was shooting better than 40 percent, forcing the Nets to guarantee him through the end of last season.
Armed with some security he took off in the bubble as a starter, averaging 14.8 points over the eight seeding games and 16.0 in four playoff games while shooting nearly 40 percent from deep.
Above Average Scoring and Passing
Luwawu-Cabarrot is most efficient as a slasher and a cutter between screens as his thin but strong body frame helps him smoothly navigate screens and capitalize on catch-and-shoot opportunities with a quick release. He is constantly active and relentless at all times which leads to his opponents getting fatigued and frustrated in their effort to constantly follow his action. He won’t get lazy and is very effective at creating separation by maintaining this kind of rhythm during the entire ballgame.
Look at this sequence where after missing a corner three, he keeps his eyes on the play and quickly cuts to the rim as Jordan Clarkson freezes for a moment and is unable to follow the young swingman. Part of his offensive repertoire is some advanced footwork as European prospects are traditionally armed with these skills and TLC is no exception there.
The Sixers never enabled him to showcase his ball-handling skills and he was pretty much doomed to fail as just a slasher and shooting option from the wing. Steve Nash, meanwhile, has correctly identified that TLC possesses a high basketball IQ and that he is able to read plays, putting the ball in his hands and allowing him to run plays and involve teammates when the defense collapses on him.
Here is TLC cutting to the rim but throwing a timely no-look pass to the corner to Joe Harris who syncs with the ball movement and sets his feet for the open three.
And here is another possession where the French swingman again uses the screen to drive to the basket and recognizes a cutting Jarrett Allen as Joel Embiid leaves his feet in order to meet him above the rim.
Luwawu-Cabarrot has come a long way from his rookie year where he shot just 31.1 percent from behind the 3-point line, and even though his consistency is still a work in progress, he has the ability to catch fire as he shoots with confidence, using both pull-up jumpers off the dribble or spot-up situations. So far he’s averaging a career-high 1.6 triples per game this season.
The James Harden trade left the Nets without a ton of options on their bench and Luwawu-Cabarrot has already leapfrogged Landry Shamet in the rotation since, on a team that plays minimal defense, him and Bruce Brown stand alone as the two best perimeter defenders.
TLC has the right combination of tools (length, quickness, athleticism, lateral quickness) to be a lockdown defender on a nightly basis while he has learned to be active enough without unnecessarily fouling his opponents. Here is a great example of him being uber active with his quick hands and helping on the double team on Joel Embiid, forcing the big man to surrender the ball.
Most importantly, TLC offers the flexibility to guard both wing positions and even smaller point guards, being able to to keep up with the best athletes in the league. He clearly has the size, the strength, and the quickness to guard multiple positions and the results have been more than evident. After getting trapped in a great screen set by Bismack Biyombo, he doesn’t quit on the play and makes sure to stay in front of the big man to intercept a sloppy pass by Terry Rozier.
Steve Nash has been experimenting with his lineup recently, trying to figure out which player is the best fit next to the big three and how he can possibly maximize the efficiency of his second unit. The Nets are getting torched on the defensive side of the ball with opponents putting up 116.4 points per game against them, good for fourth-worst in the league. TLC has been struggling to adjust in the last couple weeks while his shooting has regressed after a career year with him shooting just 39.8 from the field and 35.5 from behind the arc.
The minutes and the opportunity are still there, especially after the Nets lost Spencer Dinwiddie for the season, and it remains to be seen whether Luwawu-Cabarrot can regain his shooting form and solidify himself as a consistent contributor. He remains a deep-league scoring option and his low turnovers and good free throw shooting will help in numerous categories even though he can be a percentages killer on a bad night.
Hope you enjoyed this week’s article and feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @philysstar and stay up to date on all the breaking news and rumors posted on our website and on our Twitter account @HoopBallFantasy.
Stats are courtesy of NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com and are accurate as of January 23rd.