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As deadline(s) approach, David Nwaba’s play complicates matters for Nets brass

Miami Heat v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

David Nwaba got 18 minutes from Kenny Atkinson Sunday, scoring 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting, including 1-of-4 from three. On Wednesday, he also had 10 points, in 19 minutes, shooting 4-of-5 and 2-of-3. He didn’t play on Friday.

The two games are part of what seems to be a resurgence for Nwaba, who has shown he can play offense as well as defend.

After getting minutes early in the season, he played only 18 between October 30 and Wednesday, including seven DNP-CD’s. At one point, he was DNP’d three of four games. Two weeks ago, he was sent to Long Island so he could get minutes. The lack of playing time led to speculation that the 26-year-old could be dumped when Wilson Chandler’s suspension is up on December 15.

But his energetic play on defense and aggressive play on offense of late seems to have helped his cause.

“Just stay ready, that’s the biggest thing. Just stay ready and stay positive about the whole process,” he said about watching his minutes decline. “It’s tough but that’s what I try to do, just stay ready.”

“[He was] really good, I thought today was another game where we needed his physicality,” Kenny Atkinson said of Nwaba after the Heat game. “He was driving the ball to the rim. He’s played well. He’s earning himself more playing time.”

Nwaba was hired essentially to fill Rondae Hollis-Jefferson’s role. He’s only an inch shorter and, like RHJ, has a seven-foot wing span. He is also physically strong and the Nets like that can do a little bit of everything, bringing instant energy.

But will he be caught up in the Chandler roster crunch. After the 6’7” Chandler was suspended for PED use, the Nets had the right to add a replacement player ... and ultimately they did, signing Iman Shumpert to a non-guaranteed minimum deal.

Now, though, they have to get back down to 15 players again by December 15 and that means it’s decision time. The Nets could simply waive Chandler, but that seems unlikely. He fills a position of need: stretch 4 with veteran status, and everyone says he’s been working hard during his suspension. Chandler has a one-year minimum deal. Shumpert, like Nwaba, has played well when given minutes and he is very close to Kyrie Irving. The two were friends in Cleveland when the Cavs won their chip in 2016. He’s unlikely to be going anywhere.

They could also dump Nwaba, but that now seems unlikely as well. How much do they like Theo Pinson?

One other possibility is a trade, sending a player out, maybe getting a draft pick back. Would Rodions Kurucs be a candidate for that kind of deal? Does his legal status make him less valuable? Or they could do an unbalanced trade: sending out two players and getting one back. If they wanted to do that —and wanted to retain the possibility of dealing the new guy again at the deadline, they will have to do that by Friday. Players can’t be traded for 90 days under most circumstances and the trade deadline is 90 days from Friday.

Of course, this being Sean Marks’ decision, there could be a surprise.

For Nwaba, it will be just another day. The Nets are his fourth team. Not only did he go undrafted, he found his way to the NBA in a most unlikely way. After graduating from Cal Poly, he laid out a $150 registration fees to work out for the Lakers G League affiliate and made the team, then got called by L.A.

“I know what I bring to this team,” he said after the Heat game. “Whatever happens, I’ll use it as fuel and just compete. Actually, I’m not even worried about that. I just worry about contributing.”