Heat

Nunn Returning to His ROY-Frontrunner Self

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Kendrick Nunn was once a Rookie of the Year front runner. Since then, he’s been a mix of good and bad. What began as a slow start to the new season has all of a sudden bloomed into the ROY frontrunner of old.

Who is this Kendrick Nunn guy?

On opening night of the 2019-2020 season, an undrafted rookie was in the Miami Heat’s starting lineup. This came as a surprise to everyone, but that night, we learned that he was here to stay. Nunn’s NBA debut saw him drop 24 points on 10/18 shooting against the Memphis Grizzlies.

In his rookie season, Nunn started all 67 regular-season games, averaging 15.3 points, 3.3 assists and 2.7 rebounds per game. The then-24-year-old would score at least 20 points in 19 different games. Out of four months, Nunn was the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month three times. Additionally, his 112 points through his first five games are an NBA record for an undrafted played. He even got his name dropped in Polo G’s hit song “21”.

Issues in the Bubble

Once he got to the bubble, something wasn’t right. Nunn appeared in the first five games before leaving to attend a family funeral. In those games, he shot 20/64, or 31.3%, a drastic drop from his season average of 44.8%.

One of three Heat players to contract COVID-19, K-Nunn was simply not his regular-season self in the Bubble. Being away from family and essentially quarantined outside the arena isn’t good for mental health, either. With all of this adding up, it is very easy to see how the rookie’s production fell off.

Returning for the playoffs, Nunn was demoted from the starting lineup in favor of Goran Dragic. He would average just 6.1 points (39% FG, 26% 3PT), 2.1 rebounds and 1.4 assists over 16.2 minutes per game. Until the Dragon’s injury, Kendrick was used sparingly in the playoffs.

Appearing in all six Finals games, Nunn logged 22.6 minutes per contest, averaging 10.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game on 47.1% shooting and 39.1% from behind the arc. For a rookie who struggled their entire time in the Bubble, Nunn’s performance in the Finals after being thrust into 20+ minutes a game was a breath of fresh air.

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A Hot and Cold Start to 2021

In his first six appearances to start the new campaign, Nunn averaged 5.5 points, 1.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists across 14.6 minutes per game, a steep decline from his rookie year (29.3/game). His field-goal percentage (40%) was similar to last season (44%), but the noticeable difference is his three-point percentage — 35% through six games last season — was nearly chopped in half (2/11; 18.2%). Lastly, Nunn had 33 points compared to a much higher 117 in 2019.

In the past four games, Kendrick has had a revival. Without Tyler Herro, Jimmy Butler and Avery Bradley, Nunn has scored at least 18 points in these four games, including a 28-point game in a win over the Toronto Raptors. Over this four-game stretch, Nunn is averaging 21.5 points (56% FG, 44% 3PT), 5.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.8 steals over a whopping 34.9 minutes per game.

Nunn mentioned the only thing that’s changed is he is getting more minutes. The second-year pro should continue to improve as his minutes rise. With almost all guards missing for the Heat, Nunn has stepped up and shown that he can replicate last year’s performances.

Nunn of Old?

Nunn was in a groove as a rookie when basketball was paused for nearly six months. Coupled with a COVID-19 diagnosis, the situation wasn’t ideal. In 2021, the 6’2 guard is off to a fantastic stretch of production after a slow start out of the gate. We can’t ignore the slow start, but this is a guy who scored double digits in 52-of-67 games last season. He still attacks the basket as aggressively as ever.

Don’t overthink it– Nunn is a 25-year-old in his second NBA season who is capable of flipping the switch and returning to his old self.

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