The Miami Heat’s starting point guard has surprised everyone. He’s gone from undrafted to starting and now, is certainly making a case for rookie of the year.
Heading into the season, no one and not even Miami Heat fans could have predicted that Kendrick Nunn would be a definite top-five candidate for the Rookie of the Year award. Even according to the pre-season predictions by Bleacher Report, he was not in the top-10, while they even had Heat’s other rookie, Tyler Herro in contention.
Nevertheless, Nunn has solidified himself as being a starting-caliber point guard for the Miami Heat and one of the best rookies this year. Although it is acknowledged that Nunn is certainly one of the top rookies and has been top-3 throughout the season, I still believe he should be second to Ja Morant.
I am not alone here though. Just last week, ESPN released a poll in which 70 voting-eligible members cast ballots on their best rookie and the results were as follows in the tweet from their official Twitter account:
I am not denying the fact that Morant deserved all 70 first-place votes, that is not the issue, but how exactly did Nunn get so little second-place votes in comparison to Zion Williamson? Do we not care that Williamson has only played in 19 games, whilst Nunn has been a key player for a top-five team in the conference? For some reason, the media does not seem to care.
An article from Sports Illustrated mentioned Nunn only once. Once.
The main topic was whether Williamson can surpass Morant or whether the NBA should hand out “co-Rookie of the Year honors”, simply forgetting about Nunn. When did Williamson surpass Nunn?
Enough of what the media thinks though. Let’s just dive into why Nunn rightfully deserves that second place.
The main reason is his consistency. Nunn has appeared in 62 games and in those games, he has averaged 15.6 points, 2.7 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 0.8 steals on .448/.362/.847 splits.
Those numbers may not scream Wow! like Williamsons’ does, but his impact goes beyond the stat sheet. On a nightly basis, this is what Nunn has brought to the table and on some nights, he has brought way more.
The Heat were lacking guards and other creators, especially with injuries to Justise Winslow. So, who stepped up? During the first game of the season and with his first start, he gave you 24 points on 55 percent shooting.
After that, there have been other great performances like those throughout the season. Nunn has shown that when needed, he can come out and be the best player on the team with his ability to flat out just put the ball in the basket.
He quickly became a much-needed player. With him starting, it allows Goran Dragic to come off the bench. He is also another player that is capable of handling the ball in spurts, giving players like Jimmy Butler breaks while decreasing his overall offensive workload.
Also, if you have not been watching many Miami Heat games, the impact metrics also agree. According to the ”wins added” metric, he is second only behind Morant. In yet another impact metric called RAPTOR, he ranks third amongst rookies.
So as it stands, you have stats, impact metrics, the eye-test, consistency, and also the storyline in place that leaves you asking, what else could you want from a rookie?
I understand that in the few games he’s played, Williamson has been more explosive than Nunn at times, but contributing to a top-four team across the entirety of the season seems much more valuable than contributing to a team that is fighting for the eighth seed. Or perhaps we are just missing something.
Regardless, Kendrick Nunn has been exceptional this season and especially considering that he came into the league simply as an undrafted rookie. In the long-term, it does not matter if he finishes second, third, or even first in the final voting. Miami Heat nation knows he was at worst, the second-best rookie, while he should be a key part of a lot of winning moving forward.