First reported by Yahoo Sports’ Shams Charania earlier this week, the Cleveland Cavaliers have agreed to terms with free-agent swingman David Nwaba. He became an unrestricted free agent early in July after the Chicago Bulls rescinded his qualifying offer following a respectable season as a role player. Signing with the Cavs gives Nwaba a chance to compete for a starting spot while being all but assured of seeing quality minutes even if he comes off the bench.
But who is Nwaba in a Cleveland uniform? What does he bring to an organization trying to find a new identity in a second post-LeBron era? Let’s take a look:
David Nwaba played one season – 70 games – in a Chicago Bulls uniform, averaging 7.9 points and 4.7 rebounds in around 24 minutes per night. He cemented himself as a rotation player, coming off the bench for the majority of the year but still starting 21 games, albeit for a team that underwhelmed in the Eastern Conference.
Perhaps the best glimpse of what he could turn into overtime was in a February game against Philadelphia when he went off for 21 points, nine rebounds, a steal and a block. He shot 9-of-14 from the field and a perfect 3-of-3 from behind the arc. He also worked exceptionally well in transition and made multiple plays at the rim. In fact, that game fell during a stretch of eight games where he shot at least 43% from the field. Some were smaller volume shooting nights than others but that stretch showed what he’s capable of in the NBA: transition scoring and accurate three-point shooting off the catch.
David Nwaba wasn’t a high-volume shooter as a Chicago Bull, but he made his looks count. He averaged six shots per game and shot 47.8% from the field and 34.6% from deep. He’s excellent from the corner and is a better catch-and-shoot wing than he gets credit for. However, his best skill from a shooting standpoint is the ability to get in good position to get to the rim. He’s not bad off the dribble, but his real strength is that he runs the floor exceptionally well in transition and finds space to receive passes and finish.
As stated above, Nwaba works well in transition. He’s deceptively quick and gets down the floor with ease, even after making a defensive play. Multiple times last season, you’d see him make a deflection or block and then beat nearly every other player down the floor to score or follow-up a shot in transition. He works hard on both ends of the floor, and that’s something Cleveland will need a lot of this season. That team doesn’t have a lot of youth on the roster and Nwaba, at 25, certainly brings that.
Nwaba’s 7’0 wingspan makes him a threat defending both on the perimeter and in the paint. He’s best on the perimeter, where he can alter shots and pick up blocks. He averaged 0.4 blocks per game in Chicago, which was 120th in the league. It’s not a flashy number, but it’s certainly something he can improve on in his second full season. What that stat doesn’t show you is how effective he is disrupting shots. Cleveland will need a lot of that to keep games close.
David Nwaba averaged 4.7 rebounds in 23.5 minutes last season. He had three double-doubles in 2017-18 but had ten other games with seven or more rebounds. He could easily average seven or eight boards as a starter in Cleveland because his wingspan and active style of play make him the ideal rebounding wing. He’ll only get better when it comes to his positioning and ability to box out opponents.
His nickname back in college was apparently “Young Sav” according to an interview he did last year with The Athletic’s Darnell Mayberry. Sav is short for savage, apparently. It’s…not a good nickname and that’s precisely why Cavs fans should adopt it. Hilariously bad nicknames are the best – it’s why I’m still bummed that Kevin Durant derailed the “Slim Reaper” train. But come on, don’t you want to walk into Quicken Loans and see some custom Nwaba “Young Sav” jerseys this year?
Young Sav has the potential to be a dangerous rotation player as part of the Cleveland Cavaliers, but he’ll need to continue his growth from last season. If he does, the Cavs will have scooped up a solid player for a steal.