November 24, 2017, 11:56 am
The “Process” is finally paying dividends in Philadelphia this year but with all the eyes on Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid NBA fans might be missing out on the 6’7” swingman from France, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot. A truly gifted athlete, after experimenting with tennis and soccer at an early age, he began playing basketball professionally in France at the age of 17. Several outlets had him projected as a lottery pick after averaging 14.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.7 steals per game playing for Mega Leks in the Adriatic League. Although a Colangelo selection, the No. 24 pick in the 2016 Draft, which the Sixers used on Luwawu-Cabarrot, was acquired when the team helped facilitate the trade that sent Kevin Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Andrew Wiggins to the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Sixers sent out Thaddeus Young and got back the precious first-round pick, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Alexey Shved, neither of whom made it to a second season with the team.
After spending three seasons in France playing for Antibes in ProB (the French 2nd division), Luwawu-Cabarrot moved to the Adriatic league, joining one of the most successful international teams in Mega Leks in pursuit of more playing time and exposure at a higher level. The Serbian team is a consistent source of talent and as many as nine of its players have been selected in the NBA draft since 2014 (Ivica Zubac, Nikola Jokic, Rade Zagorac and Alpha Kaba among them).
Consistent playing time is the only way that scouts can quickly identify talent and Luwawu-Cabarrot made a very smart decision to move to the ABA instead of signing with a European powerhouse and having to spend most of his time riding the bench unit. He has been a member of French National teams at all levels but he was unable to participate in the FIBA EuroBasket this summer because of patellar tendinitis in his knee.
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NBA Ready Body
Luwawu-Cabarrot came into the league as a raw but versatile wing with exceptional size and wingspan for his position and with a style of play that fits perfectly the NBA. He was able to distinguish himself with some outstanding athleticism as he is an explosive leaper and a fast athlete that likes to run. His dynamic size combined with speed allows him to attack the rim effectively and he is already good at drawing contact and getting to the free throw line where he is elite. Here’s him not settling for the long jumper but using a quick first step and driving into the Pistons’ loaded paint where he is able to earn the foul.
He is very active on the offensive side of the ball regardless of the situation he is put in by the coaching staff. Last year, over the last nine games of the season, TLC showed flashes of his athleticism and skill set that made him a first-round pick. In that span, he averaged 16.8 points and 1.4 steals in 34.5 minutes per game. His aggressiveness was evident, taking 7.1 threes a game and attempting four free throws per contest. And even though he only shot 31 percent from the three point line during that run, he hit 92 percent of his free throws.
Intriguing Scoring Instincts
Luwawu is most efficient as a slasher and a cutter between screens while he performs well when put in PnR situations as the ball handler. He is an above average leaper. Retaining your balance while in air is one of the hardest things to do on the court against NBA bodies but TLC enjoys contact and has the ability to finish around the rim with circus shots that look pretty easy but are tough to execute. In an offense with charismatic passers like Ben Simmons, Luwawu excels in finishing between traffic with easy layups.
His thin but strong body frame also helps him to smoothly navigate between screens and capitalize on catch and shoot opportunities with a quick release. TLC is 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. The joke is obviously on Harden’s defense but this is not an abandoned play and James tries to keep his eyes on Luwawu, however, he is unable to do so after an explosive run to the basket by the French swingman.
Brett Brown hasn’t put the ball in his hands this season and who would blame the coach after seeing Ben Simmons evolve as an elite point guard in front of ours eyes. Luwawu has decent ballhandling skills for his size and has shown the ability to create from the dribble even if he’s more effective when helped by a screen or when he is assisted in off ball situations. Despite being a natural scorer, he shows solid passing skills and is able to read the basketball situation and involve teammates when the defense collapses on him.
Part of his offensive repertoire is also some advanced footwork skills. European prospects are traditionally armed with advanced footwork and movement and TLC is no exception to that. He can beat defenders and will create more shooting opportunities by maneuvering in a crowded backcourt. J.J. Redick is one of the top guards in the game that understands the importance of footwork and I’m pretty sure he has been sharing some secrets with his new teammate this season.
Shot Still a Work In Progress
Undoubtedly, the biggest focus for Luwawu-Cabarrot this offseason has been an improvement in his jump shot. And even if he has improved from his rookie season as a shooter, making 1.1 threes per game this year, he really can’t be considered a consistent threat from the perimeter yet. He is shooting in the low 30’s and even during his late-season surge last year, he made only 32 percent of his releases from deep.
His shot is still developing and part of the problem is that he isn’t anywhere close to being effective shooting off the dribble, as he is with his feet locked. There is still a lot to be desired as his shooting release looks pretty low and he leans heavily on his right side. It’s predictably a shot that can easily get blocked by equally athletic guards, something very uncharacteristic for a lengthy shooting guard like him. Here is John Wall altering his jump shot from the three although Luwawu had his feet settled in catch and shoot motion.
Luwawu is flourishing in a healthy Sixers environment where players don’t have anymore the green light to shoot from anywhere and early in the clock (this was the case a couple years ago). Brett Brown has emphasized the importance of being patient and avoiding bad shots and the Sixers are capitalizing on this by being the fifth highest scoring team in the paint this season with 47.1 points per game. Only 11.2 percent of their scoring comes from mid-range jumpers and Luwawu’s shot chart shows his aggressiveness to the basket and his dedication to becoming a solid long range shooter while avoiding the less preferred mid-range jumpers.
The one thing that has caught my eye is his ability to catch fire and become an unstoppable force with an array of moves. He shoots with confidence using both pull-up jumpers off the dribble or in spot up situations and has the ability to collect a lot of points in a very short time when he is “in the zone”. It remains to be seen whether he becomes a C.J. Miles type of role player or if he has a killer instinct that will transform him into an elite scorer in this league but the future is very promising.
A Committed and Underrated Defender
Other than the later part of the year where Brett Brown unleashed all his youngsters, TLC struggled staying on the floor in his rookie season primarily due to his high fouling level. Hands down he has the right combination of tools (length, athleticism, lateral quickness) to become a lockdown defender in this league and he is slowly getting there. The French swingman is a very active body on the defensive side but he is often trying too hard and commits the mental mistake that bails out opponents. He has the length and agility to keep up with the best athletes in the league but he must develop the patience to position himself in a way that makes him an effective and not a sloppy defender. Here’s him forgetting to put the brakes on a side PnR action that the Kings run for De’Aaron Fox.
Even though he has showed the ability to stay in front of his man he is still learning how to cut down on his fouls. Luwawu-Cabarrot absolutely needs work in terms of his engagement level and awareness, but with quick feet, long arms and good size, he should continue to pick up his fair share of steals and blocks while offering the flexibility to guard both wing positions and even smaller point guards. His quickness is what helps him instantly recover as he is able to close out immediately on his opponents and force tough and contested shots.
He is better suited playing between the passing lanes but Brown will not hesitate to use him in full court pressure situations where his length and athleticism can create problems. Here is a play that perfectly summarizes what Luwawu-Cabarrot is capable of. After stripping the ball away from Paul George as an on-ball defender he quickly pushes the pace and finds Richaun Holmes for the easy dunk in the fast break.
Why TLC is a Keeper in Philadelphia
Brett Brown loves two-way players and much of the credit for Robert Covington’s value to the Sixers should be given to the way Brown coached him into that dual-threat role he now excels at. In Luwawu, Jerry Colangelo saw an athletic wing who can defend, make shots and also “do a lot of different things.” The Frenchman has pretty much everything you look for in a two-way role-playing NBA wing and maybe there is another level to his game that he unlocks in the upcoming years. Even if this doesn’t happen he is a great fit with a young squad and he has shown the much needed work ethic in order to improve and evolve his game. With Nik Stauskas and Justin Anderson sidelined for the foreseeable future and with Jerryd Bayless in and out of the Sixers’ lineup I expect Luwawu to get a lot of playing time in the upcoming weeks and he should be someone you should target in deeper leagues.
As always, thank you for reading and please let us know about an international prospect that you would want to learn more about in the upcoming weeks.