Houston Rockets Small forward: David Nwaba
The most contested spot in the Rockets’ starting five has to be the small forward position. Both Jae’Sean Tate and David Nwaba have enjoyed excellent starts to the season and feature similar player profiles.
They’re elite defenders who are adept at finishing at the rim but have streaky 3-point shots. Stephen Silas can’t go wrong with either but in the end, Nwaba should come out on top.
Nwaba’s advanced defensive metrics have been absolutely insane this season. He has graded out as the sixth most valuable defensive player this season by FiveThirtyEight’s wins above replacement metric.
Advanced metrics, especially in the early goings, can be somewhat misleading but Nwaba has a history of being an elite defender. Tate, in his own right, has been excellent on defense and has seen himself in the starting lineup over the recent run of games.
What separates the two is that Nwaba’s track record as a 3-point shooter suggests that his poor start to the season from distance is just a blip and likely gives him an edge over Tate. Look for Silas to start whoever has the hot hand from 3-point range throughout the season.
Whether it’s David Nwaba or Jae’Sean Tate the Rockets’ small forward position will be occupied by a lockdown defender. In the end, expect the NBA veteran to win the starting position on the strength of his defense.
Next: No. 2: Power Forward