Kendrick Nunn was just named a finalist for NBA Rookie of the Year. Along with #1 pick Zion Williamson and #2 pick Ja Morant, Nunn had a great rookie season.
In fact he started all 67 games that he played this year for the Miami Heat, averaging 15.7 points and 3.3 assists for the team.
But the un-drafted rookie just started his playoff career with a DNP-CD (that is Did Not Play-Coach’s Decision).
It’s not simple. But Nunn was late coming into the bubble...most likely COVID-19 related. He missed the Heat’s mini training camp together to get ready for the restart. And then he also had to leave in the middle of the seeding games for an unrelated issue. All during that time when he was on the court — Nunn struggled.
He couldn’t regain his rhythm from his great start to the season. During the seeding games, Nunn was averaging 10.8 points in five appearances while he shot just 31.3% from the field and 20.7% from 3-point range.
While that was going on, Goran Dragic was finding his rhythm and groove and was leading Miami to great basketball when he was on the court. It’s almost like a perfect storm of the situation to take someone who had started every game he played to out of the rotation.
Moving Nunn to the bench, and out of the rotation is not the first rodeo for Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. Once the seeding games started, he moved Meyers Leonard out of the starting lineup and out of the rotation in favor of Jae Crowder. Likewise, Leonard had started 49 of the 51 games he played in this season before disappearing from the rotation.
The acquisitions of Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala were going to cause some noise in the rotations — we knew that. They brought in two guys to immediately help, and they shipped out 3 guys who weren’t playing. There was bound to be trouble.
Many of us thought that a more level minute distribution would happen. But few thought a starting lineup that had been so successful most of the season would be shook up like this.
Erik Spoelstra did not address the decision to sit Nunn other than the team wanted to add the veteran leadership of Dragic into the starting lineup. There probably is still a role for Kendrick Nunn on this team during the playoffs, but the Heat can’t afford to have a guard shoot so poorly as Nunn has when they also can play their other rookie Tyler Herro who’s game has gone in the opposite direction of Nunn’s since entering the bubble.
The Heat play the Pacers in Game 2 on Thursday at 1 PM.