The Sixers have a lot of needs they'd like to address in this year's NBA Draft, and finding a wing scorer should be right near the top of the list. Duke's Brandon Ingram is the cream of the crop when it comes to small forwards in this year's expected draft class, and California's Jaylen Brown is largely considered a top five talent despite being labeled as a project. But if those two prove not to be options at the top of the draft, then Timothe Luwawu could be an option a little further down the board.
Luwawu, a 20-year-old French swingman currently playing with KK Mega Leks in Serbia, generated some buzz in the pre-draft process last year before eventually withdrawing. But his game (and subsequently his draft stock) has improved over the past 12 months, making him as intriguing of a prospect as most top collegiate players.
Before joining Mega Leks in July, Luwawu played for the Antibes Sharks of France's second division. The difference in talent between what Luwawu faced in France versus the Adriatic League (where Mega Leks plays) is sizable, but Luwawu is handling it well despite a larger workload.
|Team||Games||Minutes Per Game||FG%||3PT%||USG%|
|Mega Leks ('15-16)||28||31.1||39.8%||37.2%||23.9%|
(Stats courtesy of RealGM.com)
The advancement he's made in his perimeter shooting is certainly driving a lot of the interest from NBA teams, as everyone's always looking for quality 3-and-D wing players. He's shown promise as a catch-and-shoot threat, and when he steps into his shot, Luwawu is pretty deadly from deep.
His shot form is pretty textbook. Luwawu squares his shoulders to the basket, releases at the high point of his jump and always follows through. Although the three point shooting may be a new found skill for him this season, Luwawu isn't just riding a hot hand. He's knocked down 58 of 156 attempts this season, including a 4-6 performance from beyond the arc in the Adriatic League semifinals on Saturday. This is a skill that should translate once he makes the move to the NBA.
While his three-point shooting is likely what will separate him from other wing prospects, what stood out to me was how good he is with the ball in his hands. He's got solid handles and can get to the basket with relative ease.
In the video above, he stuns former NBA veteran Henry "Bill" Walker with a beautiful spin that would freeze any defender in any league. Luwawu doesn't break out moves like that too often, but he does find a way to blow past defenders all while keeping the ball tight to his body. He also looks to be comfortable finishing with either hand.
Another skill Luwawu has displayed that makes him so effective around on drives to the rim is fantastic body control. He is really good at finishing through a lot of contact, which is super impressive considering his slight frame.
Luwawu is also a good facilitator, posting a solid assist rate of 16.4% for Mega Leks, according to RealGM. He loves to push the ball in transition and does an excellent job of putting his teammates in spots to get easy buckets.
Furthermore, he's shown flashes of being a good passer in the half court as the ball handler in pick and roll sets. Luwawu doesn't get to do it often, but his above average court vision and ball handling should enable him to hack it as a point forward in some scenarios.
Luwawu has certainly shown to have a rather well rounded offensive game that should only continue to get better as he works with coaches that focus a little more on player development. On the other hand, his defense still needs some work.
Standing at 6' 7" with a 6' 11" wingspan, he certainly has the ideal body to make a quality wing defender. He looks interested in contributing on that end, but he has a couple of issues that will affect his ability to make an immediate defensive impact in the NBA. Luwawu has a really bad tendency to follow the ball too much which results in him wandering away from his assignment to try and make a play.
In the first video, Luwawu wanders into the middle of the paint to help double team Zagreb's big man despite the fact his teammate seems to be in perfectly good position. He then casually makes his way back to his assignment despite allowing an open baseline three-point attempt. Although his teammate gets beat in the second video, Mega Leks has two post defenders that are able to step up and help. Luwawu unnecessarily collapses on the ball handler, leading to another open attempt from the opposite baseline. He's not forced to pay for his mistakes in these two instances, but he doesn't always get so lucky.
Luwawu recovers well here after initially falling asleep on the back screen but ruins it by immediately re-focusing his attention to the well guarded ball handler. He once again closes out pretty lazily, and it results in a made three-pointer for the other team.
As an on ball defender, Luwawu also shows sign of struggle. He rather easily lets ball handlers blow by him, which shouldn't happen as often as it does considering his athleticism. It seems like a mix of bad positioning, footwork and an aversion to contact, because he puts up little fight in attempting to keep ball handlers in front of him.
There's certainly potential in this side of his game from a measurements and engagement standpoint, but it's going to take some solid coaching to get him to live up to it.
Overall, Luwawu's budding and multi-faceted offensive game certainly outweighs the importance of his defensive issues, which should only be temporary. In regards to the Sixers, the positioning of their draft picks put into question whether he's a real option on their board. Most draft websites have him going anywhere between picks 12-19. He's most likely not going to be worth the Philadelphia's top overall pick, and the chances he's on the board when the Miami Heat pick rolls around seems pretty slim. But there is always the chance the team packages the Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder picks in hopes of moving back into the lottery, and a guy like Luwawu would make sense in that scenario. The two-way upside is there, and he would make for a nice fit with the Sixers growing European core.