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Sixers Tinder: Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot is on the right track

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Everything went according to plan for TLC in year one.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

In every draft class, there’s always a handful of international prospects who emerge out of the dark corners of the basketball scouting world, enticing bloggers and NBA personnel alike with their size and seemingly limitless potential. In 2015, Timothe Luwawu (minus the hyphen Cabarrot at the time) was one of those guys, a Draft Express dandy playing with the Antibes Sharks of France’s second division. He teased a potential entry in the 2015 NBA Draft before eventually withdrawing, and was whisked away to Sremska Mitrovica, Serbia in 2016 to don Mega Leks’ stunning hot pink and mint jerseys.

The Frenchman’s profile only grew during his time in the ABA Liga, and back in March of 2016, I decided to dig up some Mega Leks game film from the dark corners of the internet to better understand the pre-draft hype surrounding him. In the half a dozen or so games I studied, I found what most draftniks already knew, a rangy swingman with an evolving offensive game and the makeup of a fantastic 3-and-D prospect. I wrote an in-depth film review on his game shortly thereafter, fawning over his offensive package and potential role in the NBA. Leading up to the draft, I ranked him as my seventh best prospect in the class, and he finished sixth on the Liberty Ballers cumulative board.

So when the Sixers drafted Luwawu (now hyphen Cabarrot) with the 24th overall pick in the 2016, it seemed like an absolute coup. What the 21-year-old showed during his rookie season -- particularly during the final quarter of the season -- indicates that could very well be true.

Like most European prospects attempting to acclimate themselves to a new style of play and better competition, TLC was a non-factor out of the gate. He struggled to crack the rotation, averaging just seven minutes over the first 32 games of the season. The team opted to send him down to the D-League in late November as he tried to adapt to the North American style of play.

But cold spells from Nik Stauskas and Robert Covington during their holiday road trip eventually forced head coach Brett Brown to throw Luwawu-Cabarrot into the fire, and the rookie garnered solid rotational minutes the rest of the way on out. As his playing time became more steady, the potential in his game shone through. He flashed his three-point shooting stroke in a blowout loss to the Washington Wizards on Jan. 14, putting up double digits in points for the first time in his career. His 12 first half points on 5-5 against the Houston Rockets on national TV displayed his ability to get (and finish) around the rim, even if it so happened to be against a porous defensive unit.

As the season approached the finish line, Luwawu-Cabarrot’s role continued to expand. Injuries to Gerald Henderson and Dario Saric limited their ability to carry the offensive load, and Robert Covington and Jahlil Okafor were eventually sidelined with season-ending ailments. By April, the Sixers offense was a one-man French band, and frankly, it was glorious. Luwawu-Cabarrot averaged 18.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists over the final six games of the year while shooting 44.9 percent from the field and 35.9 percent from three. The Sixers likely would’ve never put him in that situation if not for the slew of injuries that ravaged the team, but watching Luwawu-Cabarrot progress into legitimate contributing factor is a sign of great things to come for him.

The most vital component to his success will be his three-point shooting, and that seemed to turn the corner during the final 10 days of the season. The sample size is obviously smaller than in previous months, but Luwawu-Cabarrot was significantly better in catch-and-shoot situations in April when he was given free rein of the offense.

Luwawu-Cabarrot catch-and-shoot

Month FGM FGA 3P% eFG%
Month FGM FGA 3P% eFG%
February 0.5 1.8 27.3 40.9
March 1.1 3.6 29.5 43.5
April 2.3 5.7 41.2 61.8
Splash. (via NBA.com/SportVU

From a mechanics perspective, his shooting stroke is absolutely pure. Another summer working on getting used to the distance of the NBA three-point line (the same goes for Dario Saric), and shortening his release will certainly go a long way. There’s reason to believe he can continue putting up efficient long-distance shooting numbers next year.

Perhaps the one area of Luwawu-Cabarrot’s game that intrigued me the most from his fantastic late season run was his knack for scoring around the rim as a driver and off-ball cutter. Neither were huge components of his overall game through the majority of the season, but are signs of good things to come.

Luwawu-Cabarrot is active without the ball in his hands, a trait the Sixers have desperately needed but could not find from guards of yesteryear. He’s shown improvement in attacking sleeping defenders with backdoor cuts, and knows how to make them pay when they double down.

As a ball handler, there’s a lot of potential that can still be tapped into there. His handle itself needs tightening, but Luwawu-Cabarrot has a nice burst off the dribble that helps him get past the first level of defense. He’s also been good at absorbing and finishing through contact, an attribute he displayed back in Serbia that seems that seems to be translating to the next level.

Based off how his rookie campaign went, it would be foolish not to swipe right on Luwawu-Cabarrot. He continued to progress as the year went along, and is well on his way of living up to the 3-and-D tag that has been bestowed upon him. His ability to shoot off the catch as well as handle the ball will be useful in a back court that will be undergoing experimentation throughout the 2017-18 season. He’ll also be intriguing to watch next to Ben Simmons, as the two clearly established a solid on-court rapport during their time together in Summer League.

The future looks bright for Luwawu-Cabarrot in Philadelphia, and his emergence in year one gives Sixers fans plenty to look forward to in the future.

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