Our 2021-22 Player Review series kicks off with a deep look at the season of forward Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot.
Heading into his seventh NBA season, French swingman Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot began the season looking for a new club having spent the last two seasons with the Brooklyn Nets. Towards the start of September, the Hawks were reported to be signing Luwawu-Cabarrot ahead of training camp.
Luwawu-Cabarrot proved to be the final addition to the Atlanta Hawks’ roster prior to the beginning of the 2021-22 NBA campaign, the Hawks favoring his ability to stretch the floor and wing versatility as an option for their bench should the require it ahead of the likes of Jahlik Okafor.
And require it they did, at times.
Cabarrot featured in 52 of the Hawks’ games averaging 4.4 points per game on 39.8% shooting and 36% from three in an average of 13 minutes a game when he played.
When the roster was healthy, Cabarrot was, generally speaking, not a regular member of the rotation but given the season that was in it for the Hawks — one that saw many absences not just due to injury but due to COVID related absences — Cabarrot’s number was called upon potentially more than he realized it may.
In 26 of those 52 games, Cabarrot played 10 or more minutes, meaning that when he did play he factored into the rotation in some shape/fashion — the rest mostly coming in garbage time. If 10 minutes was too few for your liking to measure that, Cabarrot played 15 or more minutes on 23 instances.
The point I’m trying to make here is when the Hawks did call upon Cabarrot, he was sorely needed and that was reflective in the 18 games he started for the Hawks this season, averaging 25 minutes as a starter (vastly higher than the 6.5 minutes he averaged in 34 games off the bench) where he averaged 8.1 points per game on 6.7 field goal attempts (averaging 2.4 points on 1.9 attempts in those 34 games).
At the same time, Cabarrot registered career-lows — or close to them (throw out his short spell with the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2018-19) — in areas such as minutes per game (13.4), field goal attempts (3.6) and three-point attempts (2.3), similarly highlighting the role that Cabarrot ultimately served in Atlanta: an end-of-the-bench player who served as much in that capacity as he did when he was needed when there were shortages in the rotation.
But let’s focus on Cabarrot’s time on the court when Atlanta was in need of what he provided.
Being a wing player, it made inserting Cabarrot into the rotation/lineup easier to plug in, whether it was for De’Andre Hunter, Kevin Huerter, Cam Reddish or even John Collins (with Hunter sliding over to the four). In fact, Cabarrot appeared in both the fourth and fifth most frequent starting lineup for the Hawks on their entire season, the fourth most frequent starting lineup consisted of Trae Young, Cabarrot, Huerter, Collins and Clint Capela. That lineup started eight games.
A brief aside for reference — and this will tell you the story of the Hawks’ ever-changing lineups and why Cabarrot was needed as much as he was — what would be perceived as the ‘normal’ starting lineup this season, Young, Huerter, Hunter, Collins and Capela started 11 games, with the Bogdan Bogdanovic version of the lineup (instead of Huerter) started 12 games.
There were parts of the fandom who criticized Cabarrot when he played but I thought Cabarrot gave the Hawks a lift when he did play in an injury hit/shortened rotation. In fact, when Cabarrot scored 10 or more points the Hawks were 6-2 in those instances.
Cabarrot is mostly known at this stage of his career as a three-point shooter and he shot the ball from the perimeter better this season (36%) than he had since the 2019-20 season where he shot a career-best 38% from three — this season with Atlanta proving to be Cabarrot’s second-best season shooting the long-ball.
Add to this, Cabarrot’s solid ability to move off the ball where he was active in his cutting to create some openings for himself as more prominent offensive players saw less attention on Cabarrot to make those cuts.
Cabarrot just provided those little things that added up in certain spots, receiving praise after a victory in Indiana on December 2nd where he stepped into the starting lineup and may have only scored eight points but his impact on both sides of the ball that day stood out to the Hawks.
“He’s been there before,” said then acting head coach Chris Jent of Cabarrot after that game. “That’s the part of the construction of this team and why Travis has put these players with this group because during the NBA season you need those guys. He’s played in the playoffs, he’s started plenty of games. He did a great job, both sides of the ball I thought he was fantastic.”
“Another guy who comes in, plays unselfishly, plays hard, plays together,” said John Collins of Luwawu-Cabarrot after that game. “Out there giving his all on the defensive end. Might not make the big splash on offense but all the little things TLC is doing, those add up. Winning basketball.”
Only a few days later, Cabarrot would make a big splash on offense as he scored a season-high of 23 points in a December 6th victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves, a night where he hit a career-best seven three-pointers in 37 minutes of action.
While he featured in a number of games as the regular season wound down, Cabarrot, other than Game 1 in the postseason — where he played 15 minutes — was not used in the rotation and, with his one-year contract expiring at the end of the season, did not feature among the Hawks’ exit interviews following their season-ending Game 5 defeat to the Miami Heat.
It’s unclear whether Luwawu-Cabarrot will return to the Hawks next season but I personally wouldn’t be against it so long as it was in the same capacity as it was this season: reliable if needed in a pinch (be it injury or foul trouble) but perhaps shouldn’t be — in an ideal team situation — be relied on to provide much more than that.
But there’s no doubt he stepped in and gave the Hawks a lift when they really did need him given their various issues this season and for that I think he does deserve credit as he found himself in a situation where he ended up being more important than envisioned heading into the season.