Despite the Bulls loss, David Nwaba had a really good game in Philly


The Chicago Bulls hit the road to Philadelphia to take on the 76ers on Wednesday night. Who was the Bulls player of the game?

This game, unlike many games the Chicago Bulls have been playing recently, wasn’t close. And it wasn’t close in favor of the Sixers, as they beat the Bulls in blowout fashion, 115-101.

The Bulls starting unit continued to struggle on Wednesday night. The foursome of Lauri Markkanen, Justin Holiday, Robin Lopez, and Jerian Grant all had a plus minus of -20 or worse.

We’re used to the bench outplaying the starters this season; almost all of the Bulls most effective lineups this season have one, or multiple, of Nikola Mirotic, Bobby Portis, or David Nwaba. Against the 76ers it was David Nwaba. Nwaba was the player of the game for the Bulls.

It’s not always pretty with Nwaba, as he often twists and turns his way into the paint before flailing something towards the hoop. When it works, though, he sure is a lot of fun. Nwaba finished with 10 points, five rebounds, and four assists. I think he should replace Jerian Grant in the starting lineup for as long as Kris Dunn is hurt.

The pre-Lavine starting five of Kris Dunn, Denzel Valentine, Holiday, Markkanen, and Lopez is being outscored by six points per 100 possessions on the season. That’s… not an inspiring number.

Replace Valentine with Nwaba, though, and that number jumps all the way up to the Bulls outscoring opponents by slightly over nine points per 100 possessions; that’s a difference of 15 points, for the non-math people.

What does this have to do with Wednesday night’s game? With Kris Dunn injured, Jerian Grant has been getting the starts at point guard. However, David Nwaba started for Grant in the second half. This was likely so Nwaba could guard Ben Simmons; Justin Holiday proved pretty quickly he couldn’t do it. Nwaba provided a bit more resistance.

It’s time to start David Nwaba

I think this is a change that is worth making permanently. Or at least until Kris Dunn is healthy again. It’s clear that Fred Hoiberg wants to experiment with Zach Lavine at point guard; Lavine has been playing point guard alongside the bench unit frequently since his return.

It hasn’t worked well so far. Bulls are only scoring 102 points per 100 possessions, and are also allowing 126 per 100 possessions in 21 minutes.

At the same time, Lavine should be handling the ball, both in order to get better at it, and for the Bulls to see what they have in him. What’s the consequence if it doesn’t work? The Bulls lose more games? That was the point to this season after all.

Next: Markkanen and Dunn named to Rising Stars Challenge

You might worry about the spacing, but Nwaba is no worse of a shooter than Kris Dunn is, and he’s a better cutter. I don’t know if a Lavine, Nwaba, Holiday, Markkanen, Lopez starting lineup would work, but I think it’s worth a shot.

Honorable mention to Bobby Portis, who put up 22 points and 11 rebounds while going up against Joel Embiid. Some poor defense prevented him from being tonight’s player of the game, but he generally did a good job going up against Joel Embiid for the minutes he did.