2020-21 Rockets roster review, offseason outlook: David Nwaba

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Rockets Player: David Nwaba, 6-foot-5 guard/forward, 28 years old

Statistics in Houston: 9.2 points (48.6% FG, 27.0% on 3-pointers), 3.9 rebounds in 22.6 minutes per game

Professional Experience: Five NBA seasons

Contract Status: Free agent in 2021 offseason

Nwaba was arguably the most athletic and explosive player on Houston’s 2020-21 roster, showing no ill effects from last season’s torn Achilles. However, his season again ended early due to a wrist injury.

When healthy, Nwaba is an impactful player on defense and in transition. Moreover, since he was signed late in the 2019-20 season, the Rockets will have Early Bird rights on Nwaba this offseason — which could make it easier to retain him. However, Nwaba’s value has a clear ceiling, as long as his 3-point shot remains below average. In halfcourt sets, defenders routinely help off Nwaba, which can clog spacing.

Related

2020-21 Rockets roster review, offseason outlook: Sterling Brown

David Nwaba reaggravates wrist injury, out indefinitely for Rockets

Highlights

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JXFYQ1aAT4M

Analysis

Nwaba finished with the highest defensive rating among all players on Houston's roster at the end of the 2020-21 season. He's strong, explosive, versatile enough to guard multiple positions, and has good instincts. That athleticism also helps to make him a force in transition. Nwaba's wrist injury, which was corrected with a surgical procedure, isn't expected to limit him next season in any way. If anything, the experience might have endeared Nwaba to the Rockets, since he briefly played through the pain to help out a very short-handed roster. Going forward, the question is how much shooting potential the Rockets are willing to give up in exchange for Nwaba's defensive value. Or, do they believe that they can improve Nwaba's jumper, given more time?

Outlook

Even if his jumper remains limited, Nwaba is good enough defensively to still have value to Houston. By all accounts, he's also a good teammate and appreciated by other players in the locker room and the coaching staff. With Early Bird rights on his contract, he's the type of hard-working veteran that head coach Stephen Silas and general manager Rafael Stone might want to have around as a mentor to younger players. Now in a rebuild, the Rockets won't break the bank to keep Nwaba, since they need to prioritize financial flexibility to potentially chase star players in the years ahead. But if the terms are reasonable, it would be a surprise if Stone and Silas did not want him back. The bigger question might be what Nwaba wants. At 28 years old, he's in the middle ground of his professional career — not yet in his final years, but also not extremely young, either. What are his priorities? If he wants maximum potential playing time to showcase his abilities, Houston could be at the top of his desired list. If he's content in a more limited role and wants to win at a high level, he might choose to go to a contender. Nwaba isn't likely to attract a huge financial offer from the Rockets, given his age, shooting limitations, and their need for roster flexibility moving forward. Thus, the gap between what Houston can offer and what other teams will offer isn't likely to be significant. It'll likely come down to what situation he prefers, and only he knows the answer to that question. [listicle id=49627]

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