Heat Notes: Nunn, Culture, Dragic, Crowder

Ja Morant is considered the consensus frontrunner for the NBA’s 2019/20 Rookie of the Year award, and figures to be a unanimous or near-unanimous winner when voting eventually takes place. However, one person who’s not on board with the consensus choice is Heat guard Kendrick Nunn, who believes he should be this season’s Rookie of the Year, as he tells Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

“I think people will say that (Morant) is Rookie of the Year, but I don’t believe it,” Nunn said. “The most value should be in the wins. And we’re both starting guards on teams, and our team has been holding it down. We’re a playoff team, so go ahead and give that Rookie of the Year to Kendrick Nunn.”

While there’s no chance Nunn beats out Morant in the final vote, the Heat’s starting point guard is certainly worthy of a spot on voters’ Rookie of the Year ballots. He has averaged 15.6 PPG and 3.4 APG with a solid .448/.362/.837 shooting line in 62 games (29.8 MPG).

Still, Morant’s numbers (17.6 PPG, 6.9 APG) have been better in a similar role and while the Grizzlies’ record isn’t as strong as the Heat’s, Memphis is still a playoff team in the West. Perhaps most importantly, Nunn is a complementary option on a Miami roster that features multiple All-Stars (Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo), while Morant has been the Grizzlies’ MVP this season.

Here’s more on the Heat:

  • After a handful of up-and-down years in Miami following LeBron James‘ departure, the 2019/20 season represented “rebirth, regeneration, (and) renewal” for the Heat and their culture, according to Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. In Winderman’s view, it has been a long time since the Heat looked so different from one year to the next, which could be attributed to the departures of players like Hassan Whiteside and Dion Waiters, along with the arrivals of Butler, Tyler Herro, and others.
  • While there appears to be mutual interest between the Heat and Goran Dragic in extending their relationship beyond this season, Dragic will be one of the top point guards on the free agent market and he’s no stranger to relocating, Winderman writes for the Sun-Sentinel. This will be the first time that Dragic has reached free agency since he signed a five-year deal with Miami in 2015, just a few months after being traded to the club.
  • In a separate Sun-Sentinel mailbag, Winderman wonders how the Heat’s decision on Jae Crowder in free agency will be impacted by the fact that the team only really got to evaluate him for a month following his arrival at the trade deadline. As Winderman notes, Miami has Bird rights on all its key free agents – including Crowder, Dragic, Derrick Jones, and Meyers Leonard – so it could be a matter of picking and choosing which players the team is most comfortable investing in — and which ones won’t require commitments that compromise the Heat’s 2021 cap flexibility.
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