SALT LAKE CITY — Being just another draft-and-stash European prospect was never in the cards for Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot. Once the Sixers selected him as the second of three first-round picks in the 2016 NBA draft, the French swingman made it his goal to pursue his NBA dreams now instead of later.
He took his first step by signing a rookie contract on Saturday and joining the Sixers' summer league team in Utah a day later.
“I just wanted to play (right away) since I got drafted,” Luwawu-Cabarrot said. “I'm just ready to play and happy to be here.”
His enthusiasm translated into a promising summer league debut on Monday against the Celtics. During a 102-94 loss to Boston, he totaled 13 points in 21 minutes, while shooting 40 percent from the perimeter.
More importantly, the Sixers got a taste of what could be ahead with the offensive synergy Luwawu-Cabarrot showed with No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons. The two rookies combined for some of the biggest offensive highlights of the night against the Celtics.
Sixers coach Brett Brown had high praise for the French forward after watching him during his first practice on Sunday. He said Luwawu-Cabarrot brings a ton of athleticism and shows he is capable of making smart decisions in tough situations.
“He plays with a controlled pace,” Brown said after Sunday's practice. “He was not rattled today. I found that impressive. He's willing to shoot the ball. He's willing to drive the ball. He's willing to pass the ball. His athleticism, his skill and his poise stood out within these two hours here.”
Making a mark as a rookie isn't always easy to do. Luwawu-Cabarrot, however, has all of the right tools to carve out an important role this season.
Playing for Serbian club Mega Leks last season, Luwawu-Cabarrot averaged 14 points, five rebounds and three assists over 33 games. He also had a strong outing for France during the 2015 U-20 European Championship. Luwawu-Cabarrot averaged 11.6 points and 4.9 rebounds in 28 minutes per game.
His long wingspan, 6-foot-7 frame and fluid movement makes Luwawu-Cabarrot exactly the sort of player who can make an impact on both ends of the court. He's a reliable outside shooter and also a versatile defender, who is capable of switching between multiple positions.
These are the sort of skills that can give a player a long shelf life in the NBA. Luwawu-Cabarrot's goal is to make an immediate impact and create staying power for himself in the league.
"I just want to be the best possible,” Luwawu-Cabarrot said. “If I can be the best defender [in] the league, I will be. If I can be the best rookie of the year, I will be. I will do everything on the court to be the best and that's it.”
If Luwawu-Cabarrot can make good on those ambitions, Simmons may not be the only Sixers rookie drawing the spotlight before the 2016-17 season is done.