After Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram, the second tier of the NBA Draft gets fuzzy. Consensus sites suggest Kris Dunn and Dragan Bender. Casual fans love Buddy Hield. Analytics guys recommend Chinanu Onuaku and Wade Baldwin.
The one player that often gets left out of any conversation is Timothe Luwawu, a high-flying wing from France. In a modern NBA with wing depth as shallow as Brooklyn's draft pick collection, you'd think there'd be more hype around a guy that can do this:
Luwawu is an explosive leaper that's always a threat to throw down. At 6'7, with a long wingspan, Luwawu can handle the rock well enough to penetrate, though most of his posters come in the open floor. The 21-year-old's game goes far beyond his dunking, but it's a good starting point to assess his overall skill set since many of his projectable positive attributes are tied to his athleticism.
The highlights above also detail Luwawu's quickness with the ball. He's capable of blowing by wavering defenders to score by attacking closeouts and in transition.
But it could also translate into much more. Luwawu improved significantly as a ball handler over the past year. Since joining Mega Leks in the Adriatic League, he's improved his change of pace dribbles and begun to mix in spins and crossovers.
Luwawu's 17.3 percent turnover rate is a red flag, but much of that is due to the freedom he's been given as Mega Lek's leader in usage to over-dribble the ball as the primary playmaker. Moves that he wasn't even trying in the prior season -- like splitting pick-and-rolls -- have accounted for a bulk of his turnovers.
He's still raw and won't put a defender on skates. But he's also not done developing. He's a late bloomer. He's speedy. He's already shown a high rate of improvement. He plays with intensity and emotion. So, it's not unreasonable for him to at least have an outside of shot of developing into a plus ball handler.
Luwawu does need to improve in other areas, though. He needs to learn how to better handle contact at the rim, but the fact he can finish with both hands is a positive sign. He also takes too many risks as a passer, but he's also shown vision you don't see from many wings in this class.
But if Luwawu wants to develop to be anything like his favorite player, Paul George, it's a necessity for him to make strides not only as a ball handler, but as a mid-range scorer. He lacks a floater and his dribble jumper is shaky. The mid-range has been de-emphasized in the modern NBA, but it's still an important shot in end-of-clock or clutch situations.
The shot zone above from my 2016 NBA Draft Guide does a good job of visualizing just how much of a non-factor Luwawu is from mid-range. Part of that's due to shot selection, but a lot of it has to do with his mechanics.
Though he quickened his spot up shooting release, which helped lead to a 37.2 percent rate on 5.6 threes per game this season, he hasn't made the same strides off the dribble. Luwawu still looks uncomfortable pulling up. His low release point is problematic and he often gets contested on shots that should be discharged cleanly.
But even if Luwawu doesn't make massive strides, he still realistically projects as a solid spot up shooter that also slams down highlight reel dunks and runs secondary pick-and-rolls. Those traits alone hold value in the NBA.
He'll potentially get it done on the defensive end of the floor, too. Right now he has subpar defensive awareness and he loses focus to the point where his on-ball fundamentals collapse, but he excels in areas you can't teach.
He plays his ass off, consistently fighting through screens and playing with active hands. His naturally long wingspan should allow him to defend multiple positions. And he competes on the boards, which is always a plus for any position.
Luwawu has fixable flaws and that's what makes him so appealing. Like with any non-elite prospect, things will have to go perfect for him to improve on all his weaknesses while enhancing his strengths. But as long as his shot translates and his defense continues to progress, he at least has the makings of a 3-and-D role player. If the other areas of his game develop beyond the norm, then he could become a potential steal.
Timothe Luwawu deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as wings like Jaylen Brown and Buddy Hield. With strong pre-draft workouts against them, he has all the tools to put himself in an even higher class in the eyes of NBA teams.
Kevin O'Connor can be contacted on Facebook and Twitter @KevinOConnorNBA. His 2016 NBA Draft Guide is available now and can be ordered by clicking here. Check out his full scouting report of Timothe Luwawu: