Utah Jazz Draft Prospects: Timothe Luwawu

Timothe Luwawu playing for Mega Leks in Serbia. Photo by Mkdbasket2014, via Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. Cropped from original image.
Timothe Luwawu playing for Mega Leks in Serbia. Photo by Mkdbasket2014, via Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. Cropped from original image. /

Various mock drafts have Timothe Luwawu, the breakout prospect from France, going within the first ten picks while others don’t even include him going in the top thirty.

The Utah Jazz narrowly missed the playoffs this season. They were the final team to be eliminated, even without a true starting point guard and with injuries to a number of key players. And, without a doubt, the Jazz were the best team to not make the playoffs.

Okay, yeah. It would probably be more exciting to make the playoffs. But look at the bright side: the Jazz are now in the process of fine tuning.

The team already proved their capabilities. It’s just matter of ironing out the kinks. It’s a process that gives them plenty of options, especially when it comes to deciding what to do with the No. 12 draft pick.

This is the second year in row that the Jazz have held the No. 12 pick in the NBA Draft. Last season, the twelfth selection worked out favorably for Utah. They selected Trey Lyles from Kentucky, who ended up being a regular part of the team’s rotation.

High-Flying Option

This season, one option is for Utah to use their twelfth section to add some extra power to the small forward position and draft someone who can follow Gordon Hayward (or even Joe Ingles) off the bench, someone like Timothe Luwawu, a high-flying wing from France.

Currently playing with Mega Leks in Serbia, Luwawu has all the qualities and versatility of a modern-day NBA wing. At six-foot-seven and 205 pounds, with an impressive seven-foot-two wingspan, he has strong physical attributes for a shooting guard or small forward. And at 20 years old, he is a bit older than most others in the draft.

Luwawu earned his first pro-minutes at just 17 years old, playing with the Antibes Sharks of France’s second division. In April 2015, after playing three seasons in France, Luwawu announced he was entering the NBA draft but eventually withdrew. Luwawu left France to play ball with the Adriatic League in Serbia later that summer.

Luwawu flourished in the Adriatic League, despite having to adjust to the new, and much quicker, pace. He went averaging just 6.9 points, 2.5 boards and 1.5 assists per game while playing in France to averaging an impressive 15.5 points, five boards, three assists, two steals and 39 percent from the behind the line.

“I improved everywhere this season: passing, shooting, going to the basket with contact, without contact, defense also,” Luwawu said. “I improved everywhere, and I think everybody sees it.”

Mega Leks is a club built almost entirely around young players under the age of 22 and prides itself on player development. Sound familiar?

In April, alongside a handful of fellow teammates, Luwawu announced his participation in the 2016 NBA Draft for the second time. His game–and his draftability–improved dramatically over the last year.

This time around, Luwawu is being called one of the biggest breakout performers in European basketball.

Athletic Assets

Looking at his highlights, Luwawu demonstrates an impressive ability to throw down. Capitalizing on a six-foot-seven frame, he skillfully handles the ball to penetrate the paint and viciously attack the rim. His game goes far beyond his ability to dunk, but it’s an ability that can’t be overlooked. It directly testifies to his elite athleticism, which his one of his biggest assets going into the draft. And it’s pretty cool to watch.

Luwawu is a proven scorer and a consistent threat from behind the line since joining Mega Leks. His shot is fairly textbook: he squares his shoulders, releases during the high point of his jump and always follows through. It’s something he worked diligently to improve over the last year. As a result, he went from shooting just 28 percent from behind the line to shooting 37.2 percent.

Although Luwawu’s ability to pull-up off the dribble is still looks a little shaky, he’s extremely reliable shooting the ball with his feet set. He connects on 43 percent of his shots in catch and shoot situations.

Last season, the Utah Jazz were left vulnerable along the perimeter due to injuries to Dante Exum and Alec Burks. Luwawu could provide enough offensive coverage on the perimeter to prevent that type vulnerability in the upcoming season.

As a ball handler, Luwawu made significant strides over the last year. Demonstrating strong on-court vision, he is a good passer and can use either hand in dish-and-drive situations. He maintains control over the ball while his quickness allows him to blow past defenders to get to the rim.

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Aggressive Development

On the defensive end, Luwawu’s quickness allows him to stay in front of opposing point guards, shooting guards, and small forwards. But he sometimes loses focus, which causes him to make small mistakes while on defensive. He has all the tools–quick hands, long arms, speed–to be a naturally effective defender. Overall, his defensive skills leave something to be desired.

Regardless of being an older draft prospect, Luwawu is still young. He’s a late bloomer. And at times, it’s clear that his sense of the game hasn’t yet caught up to his natural ability. But he still has time to develop, and he’s determined to do so. He has already shown an impressive rate of improvement. He’s a quick and determined learner and excels in areas that can’t be taught.

“Of course my goal first is to go to the NBA. I want to be the best French player there,” said Luwawu. Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert, who likely shares a similar goal, might have a few things to say (or tweet) about a friendly competition to become the best French player in the league.

Photo by Mkdbasket2014, via Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. Cropped from original image.