Houston Rockets: David Nwaba re-signing grade
The Houston Rockets get an A+ for re-signing David Nwaba. There is almost nothing to dislike about the deal. The contract is for three years and $15 million with the third year being a team option.
The fact that the Rockets were able to retain one of the league's better wing defenders for such a minimal investment adds another feather to Rafael Stone's general manager cap. Due to the Rockets' abysmal record, not much attention was paid to Nwaba's defensive influence, but there might not have been a more impactful player in the league.
Before Nwaba suffered a season-ending wrist injury, the Rockets posted a defensive rating of 112.2 points per 100 possessions. In his absence, it ballooned to 119.3. When Nwaba was healthy the Rockets were an average defensive team, and without him, they were a full two points worse than the worst defensive team in the league.
Nwaba's on-court and off-court impact cannot be understated. The Rockets' posted a 110.5 defensive rating with him on the court and a 116.8 defensive rating when he sat. Even their offense improved when he was on the court from 107.7 points per 100 possessions to 108.6. The Rockets' net-rating of -1.9 points per 100 possessions with Nwaba on the court might not appear impressive, but compared to what they did without him, a -9.2 net-rating, he looks like LeBron James.
If Nwaba improves his 3-point shooting from the 27-percent he posted last season to somewhere in the vicinity of his career average of 32.3-percent he'll instantly be one of the league's better 3-and-D players. Due to his salary and defensive impact, if he has a hot start shooting the ball from 3-point range his trade value could be skyrocket. Contenders almost never have cap space, always need shooting, and always need wing defense. Nwaba could check all of those boxes.
The only argument against re-signing Nwaba is that he makes the Rockets too good. The franchise is in the middle of a rebuild and landing premium draft picks remains a priority. When the biggest problem about a signing is that the player makes you too good, you know you nailed it.