After an encouraging start, the Los Angeles Lakers saw the 2016-17 steadily turn into a developmental season. The 10-10 start brought about excitement, but the regression then allowed the Lakers to experiment with their roster. Part of that process involved the emergence of the likes of David Nwaba, Tyler Ennis, and Ivica Zubac.
However, Nwaba was clearly the biggest surprise of them all, thrusting his way towards considerable minutes in the Lakers rotation. Nwaba’s story is nowhere close to an ideal scenario, as was detailed in his recent article on The Players’ Tribune. After transferring colleges three times, Nwaba ended up at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo before going undrafted.
Nwaba then climbed the ranks of the G-League, formerly known as the NBA D-League, in order to survive. It wasn’t long before teams starting noticing his talent, with the Los Angeles D-Fenders (now South Bay Lakers) eventually trading for him. After impressing both the D-Fenders and Lakers, Nwaba recalled receiving a call from the coaching staff that changed his life:
When I got to the facility, everyone from the front office was seated around a table with serious looks on their faces. Something was up.
“David, it’s the Lakers,” Coach Karl said. “They’re offering you a 10-day contract.”
I’m going to be honest here: After that, I don’t remember what Coach Karl said — or what anybody else said, for that matter. I was just thinking about my parents. I was thinking about my siblings. I was thinking about calling each one of them individually to tell them the news and hear their reactions.
After originally starting at a D-II school, Nwaba’s journey concluded with a roster spot on the Lakers. As the season went on, Nwaba continued to impress the coaching staff and carve out minutes with his all-out defensive approach and ability to attack the rim. During the month of April, Nwaba posted averages of 10.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 1.4 assists in 26.3 minutes per game.
While much excitement was placed into the 24-year-old’s stock going into the 2017-18 campaign, the Lakers made the difficult decision to place him on waivers. It wasn’t too long before the Chicago Bulls officially claimed him, a little after agreeing to a two-year, $1.3 million contract with the Lakers.
It does make sense why the Bulls would claim Nwaba, as they are entering a rebuilding phase of their own, with a bunch of young prospects. As an athletic, two-way wing player, the California native has an opportunity to make a meaningful impact on an NBA roster. While the Lakers lost a quality player, Nwaba now has an opportunity to shine with the Bulls.