Philadelphia 76ers: David Nwaba can be Brett Brown’s defensive dynamo

(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

If Brett Brown is serious about filling the Philadelphia 76ers’ vacant roster spot with a ‘premier defensive player’, Cleveland Cavaliers guard David Nwaba may be the man for the job.

Philadelphia 76ers roster currently sits at 14. However, that number is a bit misleading.

For most teams, a 14 man lineup isn’t all that worrisome, as only 13 players can be active on game day. But for a team like Philly with a trio of players, Markelle Fultz, Zhaire Smith, and Justin Patton out definitely, that available roster spot could be pivotal for fixing the team’s second unit woes.

Conventional wisdom would suggest spending the spot on a knockdown shooter, as only four players on the team’s roster are averaging double-digit scoring at the moment, but Brett Brown may have tipped his hand in a recent interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia:

"“A perimeter defensive player interests me the most. If you box me in, I’ll give you that answer.”"

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Though his preference may not be to add a flashy scorer like they did last season with Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova, it could help to shut down opposing guards who have given the team fits every single outing this season.

But who could this player be? Is there a versatile guard capable of blanketing shooters 1-3, who could be had on the cheap?

One name comes to mind: David Nwaba.

While Nwaba may not be a household name, and is far from a prolific player, the 26-year-old guard from Cal Poly has quietly etched out a solid niche in the NBA for his hard-nosed defense inability to punch above his weight class.

Measuring in at a very deceptive 6-foot-4, 219-pounds, Nwaba is often asked to fill a Robert Covington-esque role on the fledgling Cleveland Cavaliers squad, tasked with guarding the opposing team’s best perimeter player one-on-one for long stretches of the game.

And he’s very efficient in this role.

According to ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus, Nwaba has the fifth highest defensive rating of all shooting guards in the league at plus-.86, two spots higher than Jimmy Butler (plus-.70).

Sure, Butler is by far the more enticing player, as he’s standing a full four inches shorter, and has scored an average of 19 points a game for the Sixers, but Nwaba has a value in this league, even if it’s only at one end of the court.

While Nwaba’s 5.9 points, 2.8 rebounds, and .7 steals are hardly something to write home about in 15 minutes of action a night, especially when he’s knocking down a career-low 21.9 of his 1.7 3-point shots a game, his ability to lock down on pretty much any point guard, shooting guard, or small forward has allowed the Cavs to optimize one-way, offense-only players like Jordan Clarkson, Collin Sexton, and Rodney Hood, all of whom are having very solid seasons as a result.

Adding two-way players is obviously the ideal situation for any team, but the 76ers, who have a bench loaded with solid shooters like Furkan Korkmaz, and Landry Shamet, Nwaba could be a major get for the team right now.

Though having David Nwaba and Zhaire Smith on the same team is a bit overkill long-term, it’s anyone’s guess as to if the latter will even suit up for this team during this NBA calendar year. Nwaba certainly has a lower ceiling and is the less athletic of the two, but he’s actually able to play right now and could help to fill a Smith-sized role that’s been hurting the Sixers’ sets all season.

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David Nwaba would almost certainly be a one-year addition to the Philadelphia 76ers roster, but if the price is right, either second round picks and/or Justin Patton’s expiring contract, he could help to add some vital parody to a very top-loaded roster without a true backcourt defensive stopped.