A breakout season abroad for Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot earned the attention of the Philadelphia 76ers, the third team he'll play with in as many years.
He'd gone from France's second division (LNB Pro B) to averaging 14.6 points per game in the Adriatic League with Mega Leks. He's now a key prospect and hopeful building block for a Sixers team that's looking awfully thin on the wing.
After hitting just 27 triples in 22 games (28.7 percent) during the 2014-15 season, he averaged 2.1 makes per contest and shot 37.2 percent from deep during Adriatic League play in 2015-16. Luwawu-Cabarrot, an explosive 6'6" 2-guard or small forward, suddenly emerged as a dangerous shooting threat, which enhanced his enticing three-and-D potential.
"We got an athletic wing in Luwawu who can defend, can make shots, can do a lot of different things," general manager Bryan Colangelo told CSN Philly's Paul Hudrick. "But he's a great athlete, and we're excited about what he brings. ... Physically I think he's a little bit more advanced than some of the players we've seen in these workouts.
"When you look at Luwawu, he's not necessarily slight, and I think he's got a chance to match the physicality that's required," Colangelo added.
However, head coach Brett Brown did acknowledge that the 21-year-old Frenchman will spend time next year in Delaware, where he'll receive reps with the 87ers in the NBA Development League.
“It certainly makes sense to use the D-League that’s 45 minutes down the road to get him playing,” Brown told Sixers.com's Brian Seltzer. “You can do all the drill work you want—it doesn’t equal playing against bodies and feeling other players.
"I think you’re going to see him in the D-League from time to time, but I also feel like the excitement we saw from the summer league shows that that’s an excellent prospect,” Brown noted.
There is a clear path for Luwawu-Cabarrot up Philadelphia's depth chart to the starting shooting guard position.
It just won't happen right away, with management having brought in Gerald Henderson, a veteran who helps make the team more competitive in the short term. And though Luwawu-Cabarrot will be capable of playing the 3, Robert Covington and Dario Saric will presumably take most of those minutes next year.
However, backup shooting guard minutes will be up for grabs, thanks to Nik Stauskas' inability to take the next step. Given how little he's progressed since being drafted in 2014, Brown should feel more open about giving Stauskas' playing time to Luwawu-Cabarrot, whose long-term ceiling appears to be significantly higher.
Looking years into the future, he could also end up competing for time with Furkan Korkmaz, the No. 26 pick in June, whom Philadelphia will stash overseas. But in a best-case scenario, Korkmaz and Luwawu-Cabarrot will develop into interchangeable wings who can play together and inject the lineup with athleticism and shot-making.
It's worth noting the Sixers' uptempo style of play (No. 6 last year in pace, per ESPN's Hollinger stats) suits Luwawu-Cabarrot. Aggressive, agile and bouncy on the break, he thrived last year playing for a Mega Leks squad that ranked first in the Adriatic League in pace, per DraftExpress.
He potentially gives this core much-needed perimeter defense and versatility as well. Luwawu-Cabarrot still needs work in terms of his engagement level and awareness, but with quick feet, long arms and good size, he should pick up his fair share of steals and blocks while offering the flexibility to guard both wing positions.
Despite the increased production, inefficiency has been an issue, both in Europe and the NBA Summer League.
In 28 Adriatic League games, he shot only 39.8 percent from the floor and 41.9 percent inside the arc. Luwawu-Cabarrot made just 18 of 49 field-goal attempts in July and didn't show much as a passer or playmaker (12 turnovers, three assists).
He leans heavily on long-range jumpers and fast-break opportunities—except he isn't a consistent shooter and gets only so many chances in transition.
Luwawu-Cabarrot will struggle when the game slows down in the half court, where he isn't an adept shot creator or decision-maker and a lack of strength becomes exposed, as Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News observed:
He would have also benefited by going to a team that already had established talent for him to complement. His shot selection in Philadelphia will be more difficult, given the trouble he already has with separating into high-percentage looks.
On a team that lacks veteran leadership, immaturity is another concern to watch early in his career.
"[Luwawu-Cabarrot] was acting up in practice, but I told Coach we can't win the title without him," former NBA guard and teammate Will Solomon told David Pick for Bleacher Report. "He was loud and joking all the time. He came late to everything—late to film, late to practice, late to the airports. He was a kid. He needed attention and guidance."
Luwawu-Cabarrot has some growing up to do on and off the floor. He should start the year in the D-League, but assuming the Sixers aren't ready to rise from the bottom of the standings, he'll get a crack at rookie minutes sooner than later.
With Delaware, expect streaky scoring and shooting. He'll have strong games followed by rough ones. I suspect his numbers with the 87ers will mirror the stats he put up for Mega Leks.
In Philadelphia, I anticipate he'll eventually leapfrog Stauskas on the depth chart, with the team more likely to prioritize Luwawu-Cabarrot's development.
He's going to sporadically flash glimpses of two-way upside, highlighted by three-point shooting, above-the-rim finishes and exciting defensive plays on the ball. But for now, don't bank on anything more than flashes.
Expect promising moments but mostly erratic play and low percentages until he strengthens his body and jumper.
Complete Stat Predictions
- Minutes: 14.0
- Points: 5.5
- Rebounds: 2.0
- Assists: 0.5
- Steals: 0.7
- Field-goal percentage: 0.370
- Three-point percentage: 0.30