Korkmaz should get more playing time with Luwawu-Cabarrot struggling
The Philadelphia 76ers (13-13) lost their fourth straight game on Sunday night, falling in New Orleans by a score of 131-124. After a strong third quarter that saw them take the lead, the Sixers were outscored 44-29 over the final 12 minutes, dropping a game they were already short-handed in with Joel Embiid scratched at the last minute and Robert Covington nursing a sore back. The Sixers have a night off before playing the Timberwolves on Tuesday, and during their off day Monday, Brett Brown should take a close look at what he plans to do with Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot.
The second year guard out of France saw extended minutes last season due to injuries and performed pretty well, averaging 11 points in 26.8 minutes per game in the second half, shooting 40.6 percent from the floor. It was his rookie year and first taste of NBA action, so his problems were chalked up as inexperience. He's struggled to become the catch-and-shoot player that many saw him as out of the draft and if this season has proven anything, he cannot shoot the three well at all. During the 2016-17 season, TLC only shot 31.1 percent from beyond, but it's actually gotten worse this year with him shooting 29.6 percent.
At some point, you need to adjust your game and play to your strengths, but what are his strengths exactly? Luwawu Cabarrot ranks 308th out of 438 NBA players that average at least 15 minutes per game when it comes to net rating. He's 289th in offensive rating and and 273rd in defensive rating and has a -2.2 plus-minus on the year. Overall this season, Luwawu-Cabarrot is averaging 6.5 points in just under 17 minutes per game, shooting 38.4 percent from the floor.
Among players that attempt at least three shots from beyond the arc per game, TLC ranks 267th in the NBA with his 29.6 percent line from that area. Over the last five games, he's gone 0-for-11 from beyond the arc and according to Derek Bodner of The Athletic, nine of those shots had four feet or more space from the nearest defender. If the guy was just missing contested three's, it would be a little easier to comprehend, but Luwawu is throwing up wide open bricks, and it's hurting the Sixers' second unit, a group of players already struggling to score effectively.
Let's take a look at TLC's shot chart (via Basketball Reference) thus far this season and you'll see that it's an overwhelming number of triples and barely any shots from mid-range.
This season, Luwawu has taken a total of 146 shots. 81 of those, 55.4 percent, have been three-pointers. He's made just 24 of those, good for a percentage below 30 percent. It's honestly shocking to see such a young player like him fall into such a bad habit of taking shots he cannot make. The disparity between three-point shots and mid-range shots (3-10 feet) is mind-boggling. Ahead of Sunday's game, Luwawu had taken just 15 shots from three feet out to right inside the three point line, making just four, but if you see the small amount of green dots right outside the paint, his shot from short mid-range could be one that falls more consistently if he gets away from shooting long-range jumpers only.
TLC is shooting over 59 percent on shots at the rim, and he has soft touch in that area, but in order to get consistent minutes, he needs to break out of the habit of taking so many open three's and missing them. Instead, he should try and use his long range issues to take advantage of the open court defenders give him and sink easier two-point jumpers. It's not impossible.
In the meantime, it might just be at a point where Brett Brown gives TLC a little bit of a breather. Is it likely? Probably not, but it should be considered. On Sunday night in New Orleans, Furkan Korkmaz got his longest run of the season, playing 20 minutes and scoring five points to go along with three rebounds and an assist. Sure, those stats won't blow you away, but Korkmaz looked more comfortable overall defensively and in offensive rotations.
For a guy that's been sent down and called up from the G-League nearly 20 times, he's showing development in his IQ of the NBA game and more minutes should lead to improved performance. With TLC struggling and Robert Covington still on the mend, Korkmaz should get more of a look in the upcoming games on the schedule anyway, but if Luwawu-Cabarrot doesn't adjust his game and attempt to find other ways to contribute offensively, we could see Korkmaz take over that role as the season progresses.
Korkmaz, 20, was selected 26th overall by Philadelphia in the 2016 NBA Draft. In eight games this season for the Sixers' G-League affiliate, he's averaging 16.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.4 steals per game.
Brandon Apter is a contributor to 97.3 ESPN and managing editor at SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @bapter23.