Spearheaded by general manager James Jones and head coach Monty Williams, the Phoenix Suns have quickly built a reputation for themselves; not only for identifying players with an above-average basketball IQ, but also finding a way to get the most out of them.
Once again Jones has left the NBA world and Suns fans, in particular, scratching their heads after an uneventful offseason full of what-ifs. But with continuity being a major emphasis over the last couple of years, we have to wonder whether this offseason is a bust or another under-the-radar win for the Suns?
With every Suns fan on the edge of their seat waiting to see how the Jae Crowder trade plays out, the weakness at their backup wing positions has quietly fallen under the radar. Projected to be in the luxury tax for the foreseeable future, strengthening this spot will be especially difficult for a team with championship aspirations.
Have the Phoenix Suns found a diamond in the rough, and possible long-term bench piece, in Frenchman Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot?
At 6’7″ with a 6’11” wingspan, Luwawu-Cabarrot was selected with the 24th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. Considered by scouts to have potential as a two-way player at the next level, he found himself averaging 17 minutes on a Philadelphia 76ers team that was trying to put “The Process” behind them.
He found himself splitting time between the 76ers and their G-League affiliate, the Delaware 87ers. After drafting Markelle Fultz first overall in the 2017 Draft, and finally having a healthy Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, the Sixers found their playoff aspirations on the rise. As a result, Luwawu-Cabarrot was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder at season’s end.
On a competing Oklahoma City team that had just acquired Paul George to team up with Russell Westbrook, Luwawu-Cabarrot would once again find his role diminished and would play under six minutes per game. After just 21 games he would get a chance with the Chicago bulls, playing 29 games (six starts) and setting career-highs in minutes played (18.8 ) and rebounds per game (2.7).
On September 20, 2019, Luwawu-Cabarrot would once again find his NBA career looking uncertain after being after just two preseason games with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Fortunately, the Brooklyn Nets saw this as a chance to bolster their bench and after multiple 10-day contracts, he was given the opportunity he’d been waiting for. Luwawu-Cabarrot would play 18 minutes per night and shoot almost 39% from long range as we finally started to see what he was capable of with regular court time.
Now seen as a potential bargain off the bench for teams with playoff hopes, he was signed as the Atlanta Hawks’ final roster addition on September 22. Though his lone year in Atlanta left a lot to be desired statistically, it wasn’t necessarily a failure. He proved that when called upon, he could be a serviceable backup. Luwawu-Cabarrot was praised by then acting head coach Chris Jent who said, “he did a great job…both sides of the ball I thought he was fantastic”. Teammate John Collins referred to him as “another guy who comes in, plays unselfishly, plays hard, plays together”.
Currently on the Suns training camp roster fighting for the final open spot, It’s hard not to root for the 27-year-old. He should be on the precipice of his prime and there’s reason for optimism that Williams and the coaching staff could unlock some of the untapped potential. Maybe, just maybe, Phoenix have finally found a long-term solution to come off the bench behind Cameron Johnson. Fingers crossed.