Coming off a historic 2019-20 regular season that featured a disappointing end, controversy regarding Miami Heat guard Kendrick Nunn’s value was something to monitor. And early on, those worries became more concerning.
Through the first five games – not including Miami’s 49-point loss to the Milwaukee Bucks – Nunn averaged 2.75 points on 7.25 minutes per contest, quite devastating compared to his early rookie campaign.
That sluggish start showed that Nunn simply wasn’t playing at the same level he did prior to his stay at the NBA bubble, and the hot-skid that had him as a serious contender for Rookie of the Year seemingly vanished.
“It’s tough sitting on the bench and watching your teammates,” Nunn said in a recent interview. “I know I can help us win.”
But with injuries and COVID-19 plaguing what has been a horrid 6-12 start to the season for Miami, Nunn has seen significant playing time, resulting in serious scoring numbers. In his last six games, Nunn’s racking up 19 points per game off the bench on 35.7 minutes of action. That said, he’s served as a vital piece for the Heat with Tyler Herro and Goran Dragic out and has reentered the groove that he’s better known for.
How Nunn’s success has expanded
One trait that Nunn possesses is his ability to get through lanes and create open space for himself. His vision allows him to see the easier lane, like in this clip below against the Brooklyn Nets, where he makes a move to locate enough space to drive towards the rim.
Another feature of Nunn’s arsenal is his ability to pass the ballOne of his most impressive plays in 2021 is this alley-oop assist to rookie Precious Achiuwa against the Toronto Raptors. In the first part of the clip below, the defense is ready for Nunn’s drive and attempt for a layup. Instead of going to the rack, he uses his vision to see Achiuwa driving next to him, allowing Nunn to toss the ball up perfectly for the rookie to catch and dunk it.
The second clip displays an insight into Nunn’s patience. The second-year pro looked as if he was going to pull up from mid-range and take the shot, but once he spots Raptors forward O.G. Anunoby ready for the block, he hits Duncan Robinson in the corner – who was originally guarded by Anunoby – and passes to the open Robinson for an easy three-pointer.
Finally, one massive improvement in Nunn’s game is his defensive awareness. In the clip below, Nunn is following his man in press defense. During the entire play, he’s locked in on guard Norman Powell. As soon as the ball leaves Powell’s hands, Nunn jumps in front of Kyle Lowry to steal it and drive down the court for the easy layup.
To say the least, Nunn is playing the best basketball he has played in the past few months.
“We’re going to need him,” Dragic said.
As Miami looks to end their five-game losing streak, the presence of Nunn off the bench could certainly come in handy. His all-around features could just make that happen.