On a roster that boasts the likes of Jimmy Butler, Justise Winslow, Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters, Kendrick Nunn’s name most likely isn't one that you would be very familiar with unless you are a follower of the NBA’s G-League. However, following the Miami Heat’s preseason campaign, his name (quite rightly) is now rippling around the NBA world, as the young 24-year-old rookie rounded out preseason with a huge performance despite the Heat falling to the Houston Rockets 144-133.
By finishing the game with 40 points, shooting 15-of-27 for 55.6 percent from the field, Nunn’s showing was nothing short of phenomenal and should his preseason form carry over into the regular season, then Nunn could well be the next name that you will find yourself talking about a lot over the next eight months.
So, as we prepare for what could be a solid rookie year from the Chicago-born guard, where did it all start and how did the Heat manage to find him?
High-School & College
Born in Chicago, Illinois, Nunn attended school at Simeon where he played alongside Atlanta Hawks forward Jabari Parker and during their time together, the two won four state championships at the Chicago school. Nunn and Parker formed a strong relationship which is still going strong today. Prior to committing to Simeon, Nunn also considered offers from other schools such as Marquette, Memphis, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, and UCLA
After leaving school, Nunn attended the The University of Illinois for three years and in his first start for the college he scored 19 points which subsequently ended Fighting Illini’s previous eight-game losing streak. He was also named in the 2013–14 Big Ten All-freshman team.
Through his three years at Illini, his best year would ultimately be his last where he averaged 15.5 points, 5 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 1.7 steals per game. Nunn averaged 42.8 percent from the field, and 39.1 percent from behind the arc.
Following his time at Illinois, Nunn was transferred to Oakland University where he picked up from where he left off in Chicago but not without having to sit out for a year due to the transfer rule. In his second year with the Golden Grizzlies though, he was once again showing the talent that he clearly has as he went on to led the NCAA Division I in three-point shots made (4.47) and finish second in scoring (25.9) only behind the now Atlanta Hawks point guard Trae Young (27.4).
For all his efforts throughout that season, Nunn was announced as the Horizon League Player of the Year, something of which was heavily influenced by him having more 30-point games than any other NCAA player (11).
Undrafted & G-League
Nunn undoubtedly had very successful high school and college careers, and having declared for the 2018 NBA Draft, you could have bet the house on someone taking him. However, unfortunately for the guard this wouldn't be the case as no team decided to take him and he would ultimately go undrafted.
This wasn't the end though for Nunn as shortly after the draft, he agreed to a partially guaranteed deal with the Golden State Warriors which would see him participate in the Summer League. Although he showed flashes of his college self, Nunn was eventually released by the Warriors and ended up playing for their G-League affiliate the Santa Cruz Warriors.
During his time with Santa Cruz, he averaged 19.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.4 steals in 49 games with just the one start. Nunn had a stand out game in which he scored 32 points off the bench against Iowa Wolves - affiliate of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Heat & Summer League
On the April 10, the Heat announced that they were signing Nunn to an undisclosed deal, and he would once again have the chance to prove that he belongs in the league.
The first chance that Heat Nation got the chance to see Nunn in action was this past July at the annual NBA Summer League, and Nunn did not leave Heat fans disappointed. The 24-year-old averaged team-highs in points (22) and assists (5.2) to go along with 4.3 rebounds and 1.7 steals on a 62.4 true shooting percentage.
Nunn’s showings at the Summer League camps in Sacramento and Las Vegas were rewarded with the biggest achievement that a young player looking to impress could achieve as he was named in the All-MGM Resorts NBA Summer League First Team.
Due to his outstanding efforts during Summer League, Nunn was rewarded with some playing time over the Heat’s preseason and as you can imagine, once again he has shown that he deserves every chance at getting some minutes moving forward as we head into the regular season.
Through the Heat’s five preseason games, Nunn averaged 13.8 points, 1.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists and one steal. While his stats are very encouraging and his field goal percentage of 51.9 and 47.8 from behind the arc are very impressive, it has been his two-way ability that has caught the eye. Not only can Nunn shoot but he can also pass with precision which is something that will be music to all ears of the Heat Nation.
Not the first time we’ve seen a Chicago kid ball out in a HEAT jersey... pic.twitter.com/DyNCyecWUQ— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) October 19, 2019
His ability to play either at the one or two spots will provide Coach Erik Spoelstra with a lot of flexibility in how he will play and fit Nunn into his system heading into the new season.
As mentioned above, Nunn is definitely a player who will give Coach Erik Spoelstra something to think about which will only excite many fans as after all, the Heat’s roster this season is very much set in terms of how good they can be defensively. But if Spoelstra needs a playmaking two-way shooter to make an instant impact from the bench and tune up the crowd, then Nunn will not be overlooked and will be that player.
There's no telling just yet how Coach Spo will use Nunn but there's one thing for sure, he will use him and at long last Kendrick will get his opportunity to show he belongs in the NBA. Luckily for us, it’s for the Heat.
So, as we head into the new season, and without adding too much pressure onto the young man’s shoulders, its time to see if Nunn can become a part of the long list of undrafted Miami Heat success stories and reach the potential that he undoubtedly has.