What Should Bulls Fans Expect From Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot?

Being the next Thabo Sefolosha actually isn’t a bad thing. The rangy 6-7 defensive-oriented swingman and former Bull is in his 13th NBA season and started five years for the Oklahoma City Thunder, including in the NBA Finals. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot has drawn comparisons to the greatest Swiss basketball player ever. Which isn’t quite enough for him.

“I don’t really like this comparison, but I’ll take it,” Luwawu-Cabarrot told reporters Monday in the Advocate Center after his first practice with the Bulls. “He played here. He played in Oklahoma City. So I’m kind of following the same path. He’s a good player. Respect for him. But I don’t really like this comparison.

“I don’t really like comparisons,” added the similarly-built 6-6 swingman. “I can say my favorite players are Paul George, who I got to play with for six months. That’s the player I liked to grow up to look up to.

“Obviously when I was growing up,” Luwawu-Cabarrot added, “Tony Parker. In France as a player you can’t do more than he did for now. I like the story of Evan Fournier, the way he made his way up. And Nicolas Batum. I kind of look up to his game because he’s a two-way guy. He plays defense and he plays offense.”

And Batum, the French-born 6-7 athletic so called 3-and-D swingman for the Charlotte Hornets, likes what he sees of his younger countryman.

“I got a chance to watch him with a young team in France when he was 15 or 16; he’s a good player,” Batum told me after the Bulls Saturday loss in Charlotte. “He needs to get a chance. I feel if he gets a chance to show what he can do he will be good. I know he can shoot and he can defend, he is very smart; his basketball IQ is very high. I can see the comparison with Thabo, but he has more offense than Thabo.”

So no offense to Thabo, but perhaps the Bulls have come into some good fortune. Other than the cash considerations in the trade last week that resulted in the release of Carmelo Anthony. It was another of those bookkeeping transactions regarding luxury tax savings for the Thunder. The Bulls hope their share included a playing bonus.

Luwawu-Cabarrot, who uses the surnames of his mother and father, was a first round draft pick, No. 24, by the 76ers in 2016. He was likened then to the long armed Sefolosha, whom the Bulls acquired, ironically from the 76ers, on draft day in 2006. In his third season with the Bulls, Sefolosha was traded to the Thunder for the draft pick the Bulls used for Taj Gibson.

Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot getting ready for a game with the Thunder

Luwawu-Cabarrot, 23, was regarded in that draft as potential low lottery pick. NBA draftnet had him projected No. 15 in its mock draft with this scouting report: “Versatile wing… Great size and wingspan (measured around 7 feet) for his position… Has NBA level athleticism… Explosive leaper… Jumps equally well with either foot… Can play above the rim… Runs the floor really fast, helped by his great stride… Possesses good scoring instincts… Good shooter coming of screens… Can attack closeouts with his great first step… Has potential to finish through contact if he bulks up his body… Occasionally can create his own shot… Excellent in transition… Has all the necessary tools (length, athleticism, lateral quickness) to become a lockdown defender in the future… Not afraid to shoot when the game is on the line.”

The same report listed weaknesses as: “Has to bulk up to be able to play at the next level… There are doubts about how his game will translate in the NBA… Can’t finish through contact yet, so at times he looks like he prefers to avoid it if he can, which translates to bad finishing ability at the rim… His shooting release is quicker than it used to be, but it remains pretty low and his shot can be blocked… His ball handling still needs work… His iso game is still a work in progress mainly due to his average ball handling… His off the ball defense is mediocre, mainly because he is too focused on the ball.”

While Sefolosha and Gibson flourished as vital role players for playoff teams, Luwawu-Cabarrot mostly fell through the cracks created by talented rosters matched against his limited experience. He shifted between the G-league and the deep bench as a rookie, but when he got an opportunity late in that season he impressed. In the last seven games of the 2016-17 season, he averaged 18.4 points and shot 32 percent on threes. Though perhaps more importantly for the three-point challenged Bulls, Luwawu-Cabarrot averaged almost seven three-point attempts per game.

He’s not shy about shooting.

Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot walking into an arena in street clothes

When he got a chance to play last season with the 76ers in January, he shot well, 15 for 27 on threes in a four-game stretch in which he averaged 14.5 points per game. But he rarely played after that with assignments again to the G-League. He was part of the three-team trade last summer in which the 76ers acquired Mike Muscala, the Hawks acquired Carmelo Anthony and a draft pick and Luwawu-Cabarrot went to the Thunder along with Dennis Schroder. But again he rarely played, unable to get much time in a tight rotation. His career scoring average is 5.5 and he was averaging 1.7 points this season in about five minutes per game when he did play.

“The team was loaded,” Luwawu-Cabarrot said of the Thunder. “We had a lot of talent on the team and as soon as they needed me I stepped up and I did what I had to do. I didn't really have the opportunity to do more than that because, as they say, there was a lot of talent over there and lot of players, so they really didn't have the opportunity to put me on the court more.

“I was happy, really excited (about the trade)," Luwawu-Cabarrot said. “Just ready to compete and play hard and just bring whatever I bring to the game for this team. Play hard, run the floor, play good defense, make the right choices, make good cuts. Try to make the right decision every time and just be the guy you want on your team. (The Bulls coaches said) we need a guy to play defense and make shots and I think I can be that guy.

“Obviously, it's a fresh start, especially when you didn't play for a long time,” Luwawu-Cabarrot said. “It’s a young team. It's a new process for the team, for the organization. So I see that as a rebuild and a fresh start for me and I'm looking forward to play with this team. I'm a basketball player and I love the game. It's been so long since I've seen that court, so I'm hungry. I just can't wait to play and just to play with those guys. It's the Chicago Bulls, so the history is if not the best, it's one of them. There's a lot of respect for this organization and the name of the Bulls is one of the biggest market and team around the world. So it's a lot of respect, no matter what happens the last years. It's a lot of respect for this team.

Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot talking to Ben Simmons

“It's a young team,” he noted, “so all we need is to run, play hard defense and that's what I do.”

Bulls coach Jim Boylen said both Kris Dunn and Wayne Selden Jr. didn’t practice. Selden has a sore knee and Dunn went to have a pelvic contusion checked. They are listed day to day. Ryan Arcidiacono will start if Dunn is out. Boylen said Zach LaVine went through most of the session despite his ankle problems. Boylen said the Bulls didn’t anticipate a serious problem for Dunn.

And so with Chandler Hutchison still out and Jabari Parker returning from a family death, Boylen said Luwawu-Cabarrot will play. So good luck to public address announcer Tommy Edwards as well.

“He’s a big wing, all of 6-6,” said Boylen. “He shot the ball well today. He fit in very well. He picked up our stuff quickly. He played like he’d been here awhile, which is a credit to him. I envision him playing. When and how much, I don’t want to commit to that.

“He’s a willing guy who wants to establish himself,” Boylen said of Luwawu-Cabarrot. “He’s got a positive vibe. He’s getting another opportunity. The benefit is his length, his positional size. We need positional size and he has it. What I hope he can do is make an open shot and defend his position. But if your spirit is good and you care about the essence of the team, you’re going to be just fine here.”