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Rockets 2021-2022 player previews: David Nwaba

Old enough to be someone’s uncle

NBA: Player Headshots 2021
Ready to dispense advice.
Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

David Nwaba re-signed with the Rockets on a reasonable three-year, $15 million deal. The deal pays at roughly $5 million every year, increasing slightly, until the third year, which is a team option.

The deal was criticized in some quarters at the time, but that criticism always seemed foolish. Why? Because David Nwaba, until he hurt himself heroically playing on a injury last season, so that SOME Rockets could get a night of planned rest, was a really effective player.

Here’s some copy from the NBA.com site about the signing that looks like it could have been written by David Nwaba’s agent:

He appeared in 30 games with nine starts last season, averaging 9.2 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.0 assists, and 1.00 steals in 22.6 minutes per game. Nwaba was one of three players in 2020-21 to have averaged at least 9.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.0 apg, and 1.00 spg in fewer than 23.0 mpg. Over his final 20 games played, Nwaba shot 51.7% from the floor and grabbed at least two offensive rebounds 12 times. Since entering the league in 2016-17, he is one of four players listed 6’5” or shorter with at least 100 games played to have shot 49.0% or better.

That may well have been written by David Nwaba’s agent, or by David himself, but it does tell a good story of another Houston reclamation project (remember, the Rockets traded for him while he was injured, with the now non-death-sentence Achilles tear, and waited for him to play last season).

In any case, it tells part of the story of a competent player. $5 million is about the floor for any such free agent player not nearing the end of his NBA road.

It doesn’t tell the story of just what a physical menace Nwaba is on the court. He doesn’t score points in a silky, cutting, way. He smashes to the rim. He puts defenders through the rim along with the ball. He generally is a misery to contend with, as everything he does is forceful, high speed, and max effort.

Nwaba was seen as a player who was a borderline NBA guard because he might not really be a guard, and he traded on his strength and athleticism. With the Rockets somewhat position-less approach, the classification of David Nwaba is less important that what he does. What he does is defend multiple positions in the Rockets “linebacker” tradition, attack the rim with abandon. Nwaba generally leaves everything on the floor. He also does it efficiently, pretty much.

This is a useful bench player, not only to the Rockets, but to any team that might play a switching style of defense with solid, forceful, defenders who might not be ideally tall, but are more than ready to make up for it with strength, mass, and aggression.

But some might say, wait, the Rockets are rebuilding! What use for a 29ish year old guy who is likely not part of the next great Rockets team? Well, you can have a team with nothing but young guys, but will they really learn? Who will they look up to, how will they learn to be NBA pros? Part of that job falls on the coaches, but for very young men, a good deal of their admiration and emulation is directed at older peers. You need some solid veterans.

David Nwaba, with his heart, dedication, and work ethic appears to be just such a veteran. Nwaba went to Cal Poly, more a science than basketball factory. He wasn’t drafted. He’s now signed the biggest contract of his career. He’s an admirable player, and likely, person. So much so that at least one young Rocket is calling him Uncle Dave.

A young team needs such players, and don’t worry, Uncle Dave should still bring the pain, and the monster dunks. Here’s hoping for health.

Poll

Nwaba - a good signing?

This poll is closed

  • 68%
    Yes.
    (78 votes)
  • 8%
    Also yes.
    (10 votes)
  • 10%
    This answer, too, is yes.
    (12 votes)
  • 3%
    Fine. No.
    (4 votes)
  • 8%
    He’s part of a trade package, likely to Dallas.
    (10 votes)
114 votes total Vote Now