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Despite a current four-game win streak, the Chicago Bulls are mired in the midst of a bad 2017-18 campaign with a record of 7-20—just one game ahead of the NBA-worst Atlanta Hawks (6-21). There have, however, been some bright spots for the Bulls, with players like rookie Lauri Markkanen and sophomore Kris Dunn showing well as potential building blocks for the future. And there is another player who, despite not boasting the impressive draft pedigree of the aforementioned players, has frequently drawn praise from the team: shooting guard David Nwaba.
He doesn't have much of a jump shot. He's not the type who creates for others. He doesn't even post numbers that stand out in the box score. But Nwaba has had a positive impact on the Bulls this season, as stated by head coach Frank Hoiberg. “His skill is he goes out and plays harder than everybody else on the floor,” Hoiberg said, via NBA.com's Sam Smith. Nwaba seems to be Hoiberg's kind of player, as the Chicago head coach preaches a fast, attacking style of play, and while Nwaba may not have the best pure basketball skills, he is explosive and aggressive.
Nwaba is averaging a modest 7.9 points per game, but he is doing so on just 5.2 field-goal attempts, shooting 56.4 percent from the floor. He is also chipping in averages of 5.5 rebounds (second-most among NBA shooting guards), 1.5 assists (to just 0.6 turnovers), 0.8 blocks, and 0.7 steals in just 23.1 minutes. In games in which Nwaba has played, the Bulls are 6-9—while that record may not stand out on its own, it does when compared to the 1-11 record that the Bulls posted when Nwaba was sidelined with an ankle injury earlier this season. The team seems to feed off the 24-year-old's energy, which has translated to more tallies in the win column.
The toughness and resiliency that Nwaba now displays on NBA courts also helped him as an underdog prospect in college. With pedestrian size and a poor jump shot, Nwamba didn't receive any Division I scholarship offers, so he went on a bit of a journey, first playing at Hawaii Pacific and Santa Monica Junior College before finally settling in at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo. At Cal Poly, Nwaba was the best player on a bad team in a low-profile conference (Big West). He got no looks from NBA scouts and decided to try out for international teams, but he didn't find the contract he was hoping for overseas. He then tried out for the D-League (now called the G-League) and eventually earned a 20-game stint with the Los Angeles Lakers toward the end of the 2016-17 season. When Nwaba found over the offseason that he wasn't in the Lakers' future plans, the Bulls swooped in, finally giving Nwaba a chance to play significant minutes out of the gate and show the NBA that he has what it takes to be a contributor at the highest level of the game.
Markkanen, Dunn, and Zach LaVine (who is currently rehabbing a torn ACL he suffered in February) make up the core of the Bulls' rebuild, but every great team needs a spark plug who can bring contagious energy and wear down opponents with relentless pressure. Nwaba is currently filling that role for the rebuilding Bulls, and based on Hoiberg's comments, it is conceivable that the coaching staff and front office view Nwaba as a player who can fill that role for years to come, even once the team is back to chasing championships.