Charlotte Hornets: Three Under-the-Radar Free Agents to Pursue

Charlotte Hornets James Borrego (Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images)
Charlotte Hornets James Borrego (Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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Brooklyn Nets David Nwaba (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)
Brooklyn Nets David Nwaba (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images) /

David Nwaba

It was truly one of the saddest stories of the season when Brooklyn Nets wing, David Nwaba went down with an Achilles tear. The 27-year-old wing was having the best season of his career. He provided an undermanned Brooklyn team with the spark it needed to continue winning games. The Nets seemed to genuinely miss him post-injury. They lost seven out of their next eight games following that tragic tear in San Antonio.

While he only averaged 13.4 minutes per game in Brooklyn, there was a clear correlation between the Nets winning and him playing. The Nets were 11-5 in their previous 16 games before Nwaba’s injury. A majority of those games prominently featured him in the rotation.

In a bench role last season, the 6-5 wing posted decent numbers. He scored 5.2 points per game on excellent efficiency; 52% from the field and 43% from three-point range. However, Nwaba’s most notable trait is his ability to be a defensive stopper.

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While he was more than passable on offense, it was holding opponents to 27.6% shooting from more than five feet away from the hoop that made the difference. If that doesn’t whet your appetite, he was even able to lock up James Harden for several possessions when Cleveland played host to Houston in 2019.

Nwaba can fit easily into James Borrego’s athletic wing heavy rotation. In terms of minutes, he could undoubtedly eat most of Batum’s time on the court, and perhaps some of Malik Monk’s minutes if he fails to impress again next season. Perimeter defense is certainly something that would be welcomed in Charlotte.

When the league shutdown, the Hornets found themselves 24th in defensive rating. The addition of Nwaba combined with the development, other athletic talents could present a formidable defensive attack in the future.

The big question mark here is how his Achilles will recover. According to history, this injury is tricky and affects every player differently. In searching for a silver lining, Nwaba tore his right Achilles tendon. Another player who suffered a right Achilles tear is, Kevin Durant.

There has been a positive school of thought in discussing Durant saying that since he’s a right-handed player, he relies more on his left foot for planting. Some say that this will ultimately bode well for him on the road to recovery.

Nwaba is also a righty, which means this theory could also apply to him. While there is obviously much more to Achilles’ injuries than this aspect, it is a positive that could play in his favor throughout the rehabilitation process.

After being waived by Brooklyn in January, Nwaba now finds himself on the free-agent market once again. With a lot of unknowns at play with the Cal Poly product, it is reasonable to assume that his price point will be quite cheap. If this is the case, it would certainly be worth the gamble for Mitch Kupchak, given Nwaba’s track record of being a defensive force when healthy.