The low-cost acquisition of David Nwaba was one of Daryl Morey’s last moves as Rockets GM. Nwaba was signed in the 2019-20 season, despite being out with an Achilles tear, with the Rockets having a team option at $1.8 million on him for the 2020-21 season. Obviously the Rockets picked up that reasonably-priced option to see if he had made a recovery from his injury and could help the team.
Nwaba would almost certainly have been a very useful player on a roughly intact smallball Rockets team, with James Harden and Mike D’Antoni involved. Another rugged 6’5”, 230lb(ish) player with long arms, and a taste for contact, Nwaba would have fit right in with that team.
How did he fit in with the team the Rockets became? Like most Rockets, Nwaba receives a grade of INC or “Incomplete” for the season. He spent most of the year injured.
What we did see of him in 30 games, at 23 minutes per game was encouraging. It did not seem the Achilles injury robbed Nwaba of the explosive athleticism for which he was known, nor his straight line speed. A reconsideration of career damage from Achilles tears is in order, as we saw a return of John Wall, Kevin Durant, and David Nwaba from the injury, and the speed and athleticism of all three appeared to be intact.
(Unfortunately the return from injury did not improve John Wall’s on-court decision making.)
David Nwaba averaged 9pts, 4rbs, 1ast, 1stl, and .7blk in his 23 minutes a game. His per 36 numbers extrapolate out to 14.6pts, 6.3rbs, 1.6ast, 1.6stl and 1blk. His 3pt shooting suffered from Rockets Shooting Syndrome, wherein a player who previously shot the 3pter well, 43% in 19-20, fell off the table, 27%, in 20-21. Currently there is no known cure for RSS, but we hope effective treatment will be found. Certainly Nwaba’s 3pt attempts increased, but his career 3pt shooting numbers were previously above league average.
Nwaba was largely as advertised on defense, despite the goat rodeo that was the Rockets lineups, roster and defensive schemes. He was a rugged and tenacious presence on the boards, and a good point of attack defender. He had a nose for scoring inside, and finishing through contact.
On a personal note, Nwaba suited up and played with injury, when the Rockets still had dreams of respectability, as Victor Oladipo refused to alter his rest schedule, despite the Rockets flirting with fewer than eight players. This may well have cost him the rest of his season, as he had season-ending arm surgery.
He’s the sort of player most Rockets fans would want on their team.
That said, Nwaba’s future with the team isn’t clear. He’s not signed for 21-22 and is an unrestricted free agent. He’s 28, so not exactly on the timetable for the next decent Rockets team, but also not so old he might not be a part of one.
When the Rockets gang of burly 6’5” guys was actually (rarely) available, they looked pretty good. I’d think if Nwaba could be re-signed at a low price he’d be useful on the team, or in a trade.
Was anyone else paying attention to Nwaba’s successful return from injury? Can he recover from RSS? It remains to be seen.
What to do?
This poll is closed
Re-sign Nwaba at a good price.
Let Nwaba walk if too expensive.
Let Nwaba walk in any case.
Let him go to Dallas, to be Luka’s bodyguard, because that’ll be fun.