When the Los Angeles Lakers needed a bit more money to sign Kentavious Caldwell-Pope as a free agent last summer, the team cut former G League guard David Nwaba, who was claimed by the Chicago Bulls before he could clear waivers.
That’s looked like a mistake at times this season, with Nwaba working as a significant contributor off the bench for the Bulls. It’s a continuum of a trend he started during his rookie season with the Lakers.
The Bulls are significantly better with Nwaba on the floor, posting a net rating (points they outscore their opponents per 100 possessions) of +2 with Nwaba on the floor and -10.2 with him off.
That’s the largest swing of any player on the team, and Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg has noticed and appreciated the contributions of the former Lakers guard.
Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg’s face lit up when I asked about David Nwaba. Loves his defensive versatility, they’ve had him guard Curry and Giannis, and said he hopes he’s with the team for a long time.
— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) January 26, 2018
The Lakers would have been better off if they could’ve kept Nwaba, who was working on a relatively modest contract worth less than $2 million annually. Still, when the move was made it didn’t look like it would sting quite this much because of the caliber of player the Lakers thought they were getting in Caldwell-Pope, who they hoped would be a wing stopper and solid offensive option at times for the team.
Caldwell-Pope has shown flashes of that type of play, but he’s also disappointed for large stretches of the season with the Lakers.
How much the team will ultimately regret letting Nwaba go depends on whether he continues to play this well or if Caldwell-Pope sharing an agent with LeBron James benefits the Lakers, but it doesn’t look like they’ll be getting him back anytime soon. Hoiberg and the Bulls like what they’ve found with Nwaba.
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