The Chicago Bulls claimed David Nwaba off waivers last off-season. Nwaba at the time was 24 but only had 20 games of NBA experience, playing less than 400 minutes during this time. Nwaba ended up with a even bigger role in Chicago. He played in 70 games for Chicago last season, and played well throughout the season. Nwaba’s strengths were his defense and rebounding.
You see the numbers from https://cleaningtheglass.com/. When on the court, Nwaba is top in the NBA at his position for rebounding %. The blue/red numbers indicate the % he ranks within in his position for each category. Simply put when out there, Nwaba is one of the better rebounders on the court. Nwaba is also a quality defender. Even with his limited offensive skill set, Nwaba brought value to the Bulls last season. Nwaba entered restricted free agency for the 2018 off-season, and at the start of the off-season it seemed the Bulls were going to bring Nwaba back. They extended the qualifying offer to him, and seemed to have interest in bringing back the 2 year pro. But on July 14th, 2018 the Bulls removed the qualifying offer, and renounced the rights to Nwaba.
The move was done to make room for free agent Jabari Parker, but the Bulls didn’t have to do this. Nwaba had a cap hold of 1.7 million as a restricted free agent. The Bulls could have kept him restricted, kept his hold, and still offer Jabari Parker a 2yr/38 million contract(18.9mil salary for 18-19). But for some reason the Bulls decided to remove the qualifying offer, and also renounce his rights. Clearing the 1.7 million cap hold, and giving Chicago ability to offer 2yrs/40 million(20mil salary for 18-19). Was that necessary? Was there a fear Parker wouldn’t have accepted 18.9 million salary for 18-19, and demand an extra 1.1 million to bring it to 20 million? I doubt that. So why did the Bulls do that?
I imagine the Bulls were honest with Nwaba about his potential role. The Bulls have Lavine, Parker, Valentine, and Hutchinson on the roster. These are all players who play Nwaba’s position, and are all players Bulls have interest in seeing play next season. There is also Holiday, and now Antonio Blakeney who was promoted to an NBA contract for the next 2 seasons. The realization of there is no guaranteed playing time for Nwaba was there. Nwaba likely expressed his desire to not only get raise, but mainly be in situation where he can have a role and opportunity to showcase his skills. That would have not been a guarantee with Chicago. Seems both sides came to realization that Chicago is not the ideal fit for Nwaba due to potential limited role, and it was inevitable the relationship wasn’t going to work moving forward.
The possibility of Nwaba coming back is still there. Bulls have the room exception worth 4,449,000. They can offer up to 2 years, with a starting salary up to that amount. But the money doesn’t change the lack of a role Nwaba could experience in Chicago next season. The only way I can see Nwaba back in Chicago is if the interest in Nwaba from other teams just isn’t there for him, leaving Chicago as one his few options for next season. I see that as unlikely, as Nwaba is a player that can help teams in any system. And I have to imagine there is a team that can offer him a back end rotational position throughout the season.
I would have kept Nwaba restricted, and hoped to work out something with him. If he didn’t want to come back, he didn’t have too. But the Bulls made him unrestricted, leaving them without a first right to refusal opportunity. I still see value in Nwaba, and would have liked if the Bulls tried to keep him around purely as an asset, let alone a player that could help you next season. But at this point, it doesn’t seem Nwaba coming back is going to happen.