2019-20 Rookie Review: Kendrick Nunn Is Still Slept On

(Image by Tomek Kordylewski)

By Nick Faggio

Kendrick Nunn entered the league undrafted and unheard of.  It did not take very long for Nunn’s name to be to the talk of the town, however. Nunn scored 112 points across the first five games of the season, setting an NBA record for most points by an undrafted rookie during their first five NBA games.

Now, the former G-League star sits second in rookie scoring (15.6 ppg), and serves as a fundamental piece for Miami’s success. Early in the season, Nunn was atop Rookie of the Year predictions and took the league by storm. More recently, he has dropped to fourth on odds to win ROY (+7500) and is not getting the same initial hype he got early in the year.

So what happened? Was Nunn’s hot start an unattainable average to keep up with? Has Nunn slowed down significantly, and bluffed the league? Or is the outstanding play of Ja Morant and Zion Williamson stealing headlines from Nunn’s dominance in Miami? Let’s talk about it.

Pick & Roll Scoring

In the modern NBA, no play is more coveted than the pick and roll. Nunn is one of the deadliest rookise to operate the pick and roll. The reason for his pick and roll perfection is Nunn’s three-level scoring ability. Especially from the mid-range, Nunn will make defenders pay for giving him breathing room. The rookie is in the 87th percentile for mid range accuracy, due to his ability to run his defender into screens.

Just watch this video to see how Nunn hugs Adebayo’s screens tightly and forces the 2nd defender to make a split second decision. 

Nunn uses his great midrange shooting to strengthen the rest of his game. Defenders know about his top-tier ability to knockdown middies, so he leverages his midrange shooting as a threat to open up driving lanes. Nunn freezes defenders, and opens up driving lanes because the tight coverage they must play. The rookie shows great patience in the pick and roll, and constantly uses a killer crossover to get into the lane for a tough finish.

Like so many NBA guards, Nunn excels in the pick and roll. But, he will need to continue to structure his game around the P&R if he wants to continue to grow and maximize his role as a scoring guard.

Struggling At The Rim

With every great rookie comes faults and weaknesses, and Nunn showcases his fair share. Nunn really struggles with his right hand around the rim, along with decision making in the paint. Nunn is not overly tall for his position (6’2) and not overly strong either. Because of his lack of physical dominance, Nunn struggles finishing against elite rim protectors.

Watch this video below to see how Nunn struggles with right hand finishes.

Nunn is one of the top rookies this year but similar to his freshmen peers, the good comes with the bad. Nunn will improve with his right as he progresses and I can envision him being the starting guard on a champion contender. As the Heat continue to grow around Jimmy Butler, Nunn will be a fundamental piece to bringing an NBA championship back to South Beach. The Heat are not quite yet ready to win an NBA title. As Miami continue to develop their young guys, Nunn will be put up to the test against playoff competition; which will only further strengthen Nunn’s NBA abilities.

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