Miami Heat rookie Kendrick Nunn has been one of the pleasant surprises of the season, averaging 16.9 points, 3.3 assists and 1.3 steals in 29.4 minutes per game, shooting 48.9 percent from three and 40.7 percent from three.
The Heat have trusted him enough to start him in all 16 of their games this season, and Nunn believes he deserves to be considered the front-runner for Rookie of the Year, as he told Shams Charania of Stadium and The Athletic:
Nunn opened up on a number of topics during his interview with Charania:
Shams Charania @ShamsCharania
“Sometimes guys will take nights off. I’m taking their lunch that day, f'sho.” Meet Heat's Kendrick Nunn (@nunnbetter_): HS ball under Jabari Parker spotlight, rise into ROY candidate, starting for Heat after developing as Lou Will-type in Warriors G League system, more. https://t.co/zCgN03jsPW
The 24-year-old will have some stiff competition for the award, however.
Top overall pick Zion Williamson has yet to play this year and averaged 23.3 points per game during the preseason. Second overall pick Ja Morant (19.1 PPG, 6.3 APG, 46.7 percent from the field, 40.6 percent from three) is balling. Golden State's Eric Paschall (16.5 PPG), New York's RJ Barrett (15.1 PPG) and Nunn's teammate Tyler Herro (14.3 PPG, 38.0 percent from three) are also making their cases early in the year.
Regardless of whether Nunn wins the award, his rise to starter for the 12-4 Heat has been one of the better stories of the young season. He went undrafted in 2018 and spent all of last year in the G League for Golden State's affiliate, the Santa Cruz Warriors. After averaging 19.3 points per game for Santa Cruz, he was signed by Miami in April.
One interesting storyline for the Heat is that they added Jimmy Butler in the offseason, a superstar from humble origins himself, as he was the 30th overall pick by Chicago in the 2011 NBA draft and wasn't expected to become an All-Star-caliber player.
Nunn has appreciated having Butler on Miami for that reason.
"Jimmy's been great. He's been willing to teach," Nunn said. "I'm a sponge and I listen. So he's been great, he's been a veteran for me. A bunch of guys in the locker room have definitely been helping me along the way as well."
Whether that help translates into a Rookie of the Year award for Nunn remains to be seen. But he's clearly established himself as a key piece for the Heat going forward.