How early do you arrive at the airport?
Some people (insane people in my opinion) like to arrive 60 to 90 minutes before their flight, they don't check a bag, they don't worry about security or finding their gate, and it's a carefree approach at the airport.
For others (regular, sane people in my opinion) I've arrived at the airport the day before my flight. I make sure I have my ID, I've checked in online, I know exactly when I want to leave so that I can arrive three hours early, check my luggage, get through security, ride the train to my gate, and watch the flight before mine board. There is no way I'm missing my flight.
For Timothe Luwawu, missing a flight before the 2015 draft likely helped vault him from the second round into the lottery.
Luwawu had a workout scheduled in Italy, with a group of NBA scouts in attendance, but was forced to cancel after arriving at the airport with an expired ID. The 19-year-old that averaged seven points a game for Olympique Antibas withdrew his name from the draft, signed with Mega Leks in the Adriatic League (Nikola Jokic's previous team), and proceeded to have a fantastic season.
Mega Leks plays an up-tempo offense, with a high number of possessions, while utilizing a full-court press scheme on defense to help create turnovers. This style of play put Luwawu in similar situations that he might find in the NBA, which helps figure out how his game might translate on the other side of the Atlantic. Nuggets fans are certainly happy with the way Jokic's game carried over, to say the least.
One of the best things Luwawu has going for him is his physical tools. He measures in at 6'7", with a 6'11" wingspan (DraftExpress has him at 7'2" for wingspan), and 205 pounds. He is a lean, quick, and explosive athlete, capable of skirting around screens on defense while blowing past defenders on his way to the rim on offense.
He projects to be an average 3-point shooter, at 35.6 percent according to the model I use, and it's unlikely that he would take as many shots per game in the NBA as he does with Mega Leks now (7.2 per 40 minutes). He shot 43 percent off the catch, according to Upside & Motor, which shows promise for his ability to improve from the perimeter as he continues to work. He acknowledges that he needs to improve his jumper off the dribble, something he has had more opportunities to do with the ball in his hands more often.
Luwawu showed an ability to operate as the ballhandler in the pick and roll this season, demonstrating his ability to slash to the basket after receiving a screen or pass to an open player when the defense rotates. For 3&D players, it's great if they're able to shoot and defend, but being able to efficiently pass the ball is huge. The Nuggets have a roster that has capable off-ball finishers in Gary Harris, Will Barton, Emmanuel Mudiay, Wilson Chandler and Kenneth Faried. If the Nuggets are able to add another player that can shoot, drive, and pass, that helps improve their ability to create movement, which can be an asset at altitude to help wear down opponents.
His contributions as an off-ball slasher help supplement his perimeter shot as well. With his ability to attack closeouts with either hand and finish well above the rim, defenders have to be careful to not overextend when Luwawu is open on the perimeter and risk giving up an easy basket inside.
Watch some of his offensive highlights, as compiled by Dakota Schmidt.
While I like what Luwawu has to offer on offense, his contributions on defense are nothing to scoff at as well. His steal rate, a stat that tends to translate well to the NBA, was 2.86 percent for Mega Leks, and he is able to check point guards and small forwards. He uses his quick hands to poke the ball free, and then it's game over once he's in the open court.
When Luwawu picks up guards in the backcourt, it's as if you can hear them thinking, "Oh, great, this is just what I wanted." He was asked to help guard the length of the court in Mega Leks full-court press, and that ability to snuff out early offense is a valuable tool. No guards want to have to beat a wiry defender 40 feet from the hoop - it's annoying, frustrating, and a pain to have to expend energy just to get close to the free throw line.
Elite NBA defenders seem to have a way to get around screens to chase shooters as if the screener wasn't there. When players like J.J. Redick or C.J. McCollum are going to be reversing court and running baseline through a series of screens, their defender can't get lost in the forest, giving up an open 3-point shot. Luwawu has the footwork and length to dodge around screens and then invade his man's space, which is a huge part of forcing missed shots.
He'll need to improve his conditioning and flexibility in his hips, but that's not something to get hung up on for a 20-year-old player. Improving his physical skills will help him navigate screens in pick and roll defense as well as rebound. He has the wingspan to be a positive in both those areas, but it is something he will likely need to work on as he adapts to the NBA.
Luwawu tries to model his game after a current NBA wing, Paul George, who is one of the best two-way small forwards in the league with the Indiana Pacers. If the Nuggets were able to get someone that could do 75 percent of what George does for the Pacers, Luwawu would be an incredibly valuable asset for them. Even if his ceiling is Danny Green or C.J. Miles, that would be a rotational piece for the Nuggets as they continue to build through the draft.
If the Nuggets are jumped in the lottery, considering taking Luwawu with their first pick in the 2016 draft would be a move I would be thrilled to see. If by some chance he slides out of the lottery for the Nuggets at No. 15, they should absolutely take him there. He is raw in some areas (ballhandling, defensive awareness, jumper) but he has flashed enough potential that he is worth the investment.
If the Nuggets selected him, they would appear to have a logjam of wings as they enter the 2016-17 season. Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler seem to have the small forward position set, Gary Harris had the most starts this season, and Will Barton proved himself worthy of a role off the bench in a season where he finished fourth in the NBA 6th Man of the Year voting.
There's not a clear path for minutes for Luwawu, but Michael Malone has commented that the players should expect to compete for their spot in the rotation in training camp. It's difficult for me to see an international rookie earning a starting spot on day one, but a former Mega Leks rookie surprised everyone just this last season by locking down a starting role two months into the regular season.
I would be ecstatic if Luwawu was a Denver Nugget after the draft. They would be a better team with him on the roster, and if he's able to produce at the NBA level, he creates a lot of opportunities for the team.