Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot Is Taking Advantage of His Opportunity With the 76ers
Entering this season, all the talk among Philadelphia 76ers fans was about two things: whether top pick Ben Simmons would play at all, and whether the much-anticipated debut of big man Joel Embiid would go as planned. Simmons didn't play, but Embiid certainly delivered prior to his season-ending knee surgery.
With Embiid on the sidelines, Dario Saric was the guy behind The Process in Philly. He showed signs of great development and has placed himself right in the thick of the Rookie of the Year conversation, alongside Embiid and others.
What about a little TLC? And, no, we're not talking about tender loving care.
Until recently, no one has paid any attention to Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot, the Sixers' second first-round pick from the 2016 draft. But after a few injuries, player shutdowns and minute restrictions, here he is.
Getting a Chance
Roughly 10 days ago, in response to left heel soreness, Saric was put on a minutes restriction for the rest of the season. At about that same time, TLC found his game and turned it on.
As his teammate's minutes decreased, the Frenchman's increased. In the last eight games, Luwawu has averaged 35.8 minutes -- more than double his season average of 17.1 -- and has reached more than 36 minutes in three of those contests. He has then turned those minutes into a higher usage rate and greater production.
According to NBA.com, Luwawu has a usage rate (19.8%) that's 2.3% higher than his season average (17.5%) since March 28th. He has clearly thrived in a greater offensive role, scoring 12-plus points in seven of eight games, leading to an average of 17.1 points across all eight. His points per game average for the year is just 6.3 because of his limited minutes, but it adjusts to 13.3 on a per-36-minute basis.
Due to his increased production, the rookie has had seven games with a double-digit Game Score (a rough measure of a player's productivity for a single game). Before March 28th, he's had just one such performance over his first 60 games.
How much of an impact has the three-point jumper had in these productive games? In a nutshell, only a little. In spite of 2.4 threes per game, Luwawu has shot just 31.1% from beyond the arc. He's shooting and making more overall, but he's not doing so with efficiency.
However, if we look at his five games in April versus his March shooting numbers, there has been a notable improvement.
It's safe to say Luwawu has the three part of a 3-and-D wing down. But what about the defense?
Room for Improvement
The 6'6" forward has allowed 103.6 points per 100 possessions while on the floor this season, and has been even worse recently, allowing 107.9 points per 100 possessions. It's probably close-to-impossible to put up solid defensive numbers on a team with a defensive rating of 108.8 and allowing 108.1 points per game, though.
At the very least, the promise is there. Defensive rating doesn't do him justice, but Luwawu has racked up a steal per 36 minutes and 1.6 per game in his last eight matchups. This most likely stems from his wiry frame and 6'11" wingspan, neither of which will change as he gains more experience against NBA competition.
Luwawu has a lot to prove defensively, but he has displayed his ability to be an asset offensively. At the very least, he has time to make improvements. He has a lot of room for development and more to learn in his transition from the international game to the NBA grind.
Still, if he never rounds into a superstar, he could be a valuable asset for a late first-round pick. Alongside Simmons, Saric, Embiid and others, he could become a solid fourth option from the wing as the Sixers continue to build a young team for the future.
And, ya know, it never hurts to have a little TLC.