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The Meteoric Rise of Kendrick Nunn

Miami Heat rookie, Kendrick Nunn, has certainly grabbed his NBA opportunity with both hands. However, it’s been a long and winding road for the 24-year-old.

After being dismissed from the Illinois basketball team as a junior in college, Nunn transferred to the Oakland Golden Grizzlies. But was red-shirted for the 2016/17 season.

The following season, Nunn averaged 25.9 points per game. Placing him second in NCAA Division 1 scoring, behind Trae Young. Impressively he led the nation in 3-point percentage (39.4%).

Despite his emphatic season, the 5th year senior fell undrafted in the 2018 NBA Draft. Nunn then joined the Golden State Warriors for summer camp, who declined to pick him up. A season in the G League awaited for the 2018-19 campaign.

Heat Nation Exclusive: Q&A With Miami Heat Guard Kendrick Nunn ...
(Image/Steve Mitchell/USA Today Sports)

Nunn represented Golden State’s affiliate, the Santa Cruz Warriors. Where he erupted for 19.3 points per game on the season. Along with 3.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.5 steals. He shot 47.3% from the field and 33.3% from 3-point land. The 23-year-old played in 49 contests for Santa Cruz, only starting in 1 of those.

In his final game, he scored 30 points on 14-20 shooting against the Agua Caliente Clippers. As the team finished the season with an impressive 34-16 record. Although, they lost in the G League Western Conference Finals to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. In the postseason, Nunn averaged 30 points per game, on a 75% conversion rate from downtown.

After leading Santa Cruz in scoring (948), steals (71), field goals made (375), 3-point field goals made (84), and free-throws made (114), the Miami Heat swiftly signed Nunn upon the conclusion of the G League season.

In his first 3 games for the Heat in the 2019/20 preseason, Nunn was averaging 7.2 points per game. In the preseason finale against the Houston Rockets, Nunn posted a huge 40-point game. The highest individual scoreline by the Heat player in a preseason game in 20 years.

This earned him a start in the season opener, against the Memphis Grizzlies. Where he dropped 24 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals. His performances in the first week of the season, where he was averaging 22.3 points, saw him receive an NBA Player of the Week nomination. Numerous records followed.

His 112 points through the first 5 games of the season, was the most points scored in as many games by an undrafted player. That point total was the most recorded by a rookie, period, since Kevin Durant in 2007 (113).

Nunn was named the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for October/November and on December 10, scored a career-high 36 points in a win over the Atlanta Hawks. After 31 games, Nunn became the fastest rookie in franchise history to record 500 points.

The 24-year-old went onto win Rookie of the Month awards for December 2019 and January 2020. Joining Caron Butler as the only Heat players to win the award multiple times. Nunn then went onto play in the Rising Stars Game at the 2020 NBA All-Star Weekend. Where he represented Team USA, recording 16 points.

At the time of the COVID-19 suspension, Kendrick Nunn was averaging 15.6 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 3.4 assists. On 44.8% shooting, 36.2% from 3. He has started in all 62 of his season appearances, as the Heat sit 3rd in the Eastern Conference with a 41-24 record.

When on the court, the Miami Heat covert 113.2 points per 100 possessions. Additionally, with Nuss, the team has a 55.7% effective field goal rate (91st percentile). All statistics are from Cleaning the Glass.

Nunn’s impact on the Heat is clear to see. His rise and success to date has been nothing short of remarkable. Especially as an undrafted prospect that many teams overlooked.

Kendrick Nunn’s success story is proof that grinding it out in the G League, for a single moment of recognition, can lead to a team acquiring a solid contributor on an NBA roster.


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