Kendrick Nunn

Heat Notes: Okpala, Two-Way Players, Nunn, Adebayo

The precarious nature of a bubble environment could force the Heat to rely on young players who haven’t seen much court time so far, notes Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. The team is intrigued by the development of second-round pick KZ Okpala, who missed the early part of the season with a strained Achilles tendon but showed promise in 20 G League games and five games with Miami.

“Once mid-January came around, we saw the strides,” said Adam Simon, vice president/basketball operations and assistant general manager. “He was feeling more comfortable with the ball in his hands. The game was slowing down for him. The greatest things he was doing were on the defensive end, making an impact guarding multiple positions. At times, he was switched onto (centers), guarding both forward positions, being versatile, doing a great job on the glass. All those things were positives.”

There’s more Heat news to pass along:

  • Jackson also looks at two-way players Gabe Vincent and Kyle Alexander, who were both dealing with knee injuries when the G League season was cut short. The NBA has discussed making two-way players eligible for the postseason this year. Simon proclaims Vincent “good to go,” while Alexander is expected to be ready if the season resumes at the end of July. “(Vincent) was determined to not use (the injury) as an excuse,” Simon said of the rookie point guard. “He has the qualities we looked for — being a real gym rat, a real hard working kid with great character, well liked wherever he’s been, good teammate, unselfish.”
  • Kendrick Nunn admits he hit the “rookie wall” as the season dragged on, writes Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel. Rest from the hiatus should benefit Nunn, who has never had to deal with the rigors of an NBA schedule. “One thing that I want to improve on going into my second season is how I maintain my body, to be able to be prepared for that full season,” he said. “There was a time in this season where I felt my body had hit a wall, and that’s just because I wasn’t used to playing that many games.”
  • Bam Adebayo has concerns about the possible spread of COVID-19 no matter when the season resumes, according to The Associated Press, saying the conditions surrounding the game are naturally unsanitary. “Some players like Steve Nash used to lick his hands,” Adebayo said. “Some people still have that in their routine. Some people wipe the sweat off their face and put it on the ball. It’s going to be weird how they try to control it, because we have to touch each other. And then you have to worry about the family members that we may be touching.”

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.

Heat Notes: Olynyk, Workouts, Herro, Nunn

A month ago at this time, Kelly Olynyk appeared to be facing a difficult offseason decision on his $13.2MM player option, says Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. However, given the uncertainty that the NBA’s hiatus has created for the salary cap going forward, Olynyk’s decision may be getting easier.

As Jackson writes, Olynyk’s player option is worth more than the mid-level, and only a small handful of teams project to have the cap room required to match or top $13.2MM. Most of those teams with cap space are in the process of rebuilding, which may not appeal to Olynyk — it’s unlikely that any would even be willing to spend big money on him anyway, since the market will be “saturated with players of similar quality,” Jackson observes. It all points to Olynyk likely opting in for at least one more year with the Heat, barring a trade.

Here’s more on the Heat:

  • Goran Dragic said on Tuesday that Heat coaches are overseeing video-conferencing workouts for Heat players for 90 minutes a day, tweets Jackson. Heat players complete the workouts – including weight-lifting exercises – from home and see their teammates on their screen going through the same drills.
  • In a mailbag, Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel acknowledges that the NBA’s suspended season and lost revenue could have a ripple effect on the Heat’s 2020 and 2021 free agency plans. In addition to impacting presumed cap increases, this stoppage could result in more players opting for the financial security of longer-term contracts, Winderman suggests. That might limit Miami’s ability to re-sign veterans like Dragic to one-year deals to maintain cap flexibility for the summer of ’21.
  • Another Sun Sentinel mailbag explores the Heat’s point guard situation, with Winderman writing that he wouldn’t be surprised if Tyler Herro supplants Kendrick Nunn as the starter as soon as next season.

Heat Notes: Crowder, Big Three, Player Options

Heat forward Jae Crowder hopes to stay with the team past this season and re-sign in free agency, Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald writes.

Miami traded for Crowder, along with Andre Iguodala and Solomon Hill, in a deal that sent Justise Winslow, Dion Waiters and James Johnson to Memphis in February. Crowder played just 13 games in a Heat uniform, averaging 11.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per contest.

“I’m just very happy to be a part of this organization because I’ve always envisioned that, but I never knew if it could come true,” Crowder said. “But I always wanted to play for this city.”

Crowder, an eight-year veteran, is a proven three-and-D forward who can provide major minutes in traditional or small-ball lineups. It’s unclear whether he’ll play for the Heat again, with the NBA currently waiting to see if it will be possible to proceed with the season and postseason.

“I’m a Southern guy for the most part. I’m from Atlanta, but I just didn’t want to live back home,” Crowder said. “Whenever I was coming here and my agent was here and I was able to train here when I’m not doing my workouts and stuff, it just felt right. It just felt like home. I quickly adjusted and I made it home. I didn’t want to live in Atlanta. … Then I was able to make some money here and I bought a house. Once I did that, it was like a no-brainer that this is my home.”

There’s more out of Miami tonight:

  • Former Heat superstar LeBron James thought a loss to the Celtics in the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals could’ve ended the famous “big three” consisting of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, as relayed by ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. A loss to Boston would’ve marked the second consecutive dissappointing season for Miami, with the well-documented 2011 Finals collapse coming less than one year prior. “My mentality was if we lose, [Heat president] Pat Riley may break us all up. And I [didn’t] want that,” James said. “It might be the quickest breakup in basketball history.” Miami ultimately bounced back from a 3-2 deficit to win the series, advancing to the Finals and defeating Oklahoma City 4-1.
  • Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel examines whether some NBA player options will become moot this offseason in his latest mailbag. Heat big man Kelly Olynyk is among the talents who have a player option for next season, valued at $12.2MM. Winderman speculates that just about every player with a sizable player option (i.e. DeMar DeRozan, $27.8MM), will strongly consider staying with their team due to the current state of economics and lack of salary cap space that clubs are set to have.
  • Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald examines where the Heat’s young talent — Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson and Kendrick Nunn — would be selected if each of their respective drafts were re-started. All four players have proven their worth this season, with Adebayo making his first All-Star selection, Herro showing promise as a scorer, Robinson transitioning into one of the league’s best three-point shooters and Nunn playing as one of the top rookies.

Scotto’s Latest: Gallinari, Nunn, Pacers, Nuggets, More

When the Thunder and Heat discussed a potential Danilo Gallinari trade leading up to last week’s deadline, James Johnson, Kelly Olynyk, Kendrick Nunn, and draft compensation were among the various assets that came up in talks, league sources tell Michael Scotto of Bleacher Report. Miami reportedly wanted to extend Gallinari’s contract as part of a deal, but couldn’t agree to terms with his camp, which is one main reason the trade didn’t happen.

ESPN’s Zach Lowe wrote last week that he believed the Heat could’ve acquired Gallinari without surrendering any of their young players like Nunn. So even though his name came up in discussions, that doesn’t necessarily mean the Thunder would have insisted on his inclusion, depending on what other pieces were involved.

While Gallinari remained with the Thunder for this season, Scotto suggests the Heat and Knicks could be among his potential suitors this summer. Miami clearly has interest, and created some cap flexibility for 2020/21 by moving Johnson and Dion Waiters last week. New York, meanwhile, will have cap space and is hiring veteran CAA agent Leon Rose as its new president of basketball operations. Gallinari is a CAA client.

Here are a few more noteworthy tidbits from Scotto’s look at the post-deadline landscape:

  • The Knicks and Pacers discussed a possible Marcus Morris trade. According to Scotto, a package that featured Aaron Holiday, Doug McDermott, and T.J. Leaf was “briefly kicked around,” but didn’t end up going far.
  • McDermott’s name also came up in discussions about a potential Pacers trade with the Bucks involving Ersan Ilyasova, says Scotto. It’s not known which team initiated those talks.
  • Before the Cavaliers traded for Andre Drummond, they called the Pacers to ask about Myles Turner‘s availability, per Scotto. Indiana has remained firm on keeping Turner, though many executives expect the team to eventually break up its Turner/Domantas Sabonis frontcourt.
  • The Nuggets discussed the possibility of trading Gary Harris, Malik Beasley, and Juan Hernangomez as part of a package for Bulls guard Zach LaVine or Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday, sources tell Scotto. New Orleans set a very high asking price for Holiday, while LaVine was said to be “off-limits” for Chicago, so Denver didn’t get far on either front.

Doncic, Young, Zion Headline Rising Stars Rosters

The NBA has officially announced the 20 rookies and sophomores who have been named to the league’s Rising Stars game for All-Star weekend. Those 20 players, selected by assistant coaches from around the league, will be divided into a U.S. Team and a World Team, as follows:

U.S. Team:

World Team:

Williamson’s inclusion is notable since he has appeared in just four games due to injuries. It’s not surprising that the NBA found a way to get him into the game, since he’s one of the most exciting prospects to enter the league in years, but it’s a tough break for youngsters who have been on the court since the fall for contenders, such as Sixers wing Matisse Thybulle. or Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr.

Snubbed players like Thybulle, Porter, and others could eventually make their way into the Rising Stars game if players have to pull out due to injuries, or if All-Stars like Doncic and Young opt not to play in both events.

The Rising Stars game will take place in Chicago on Friday, February 14.

Southeast Notes: Hornets, Clark, Nunn, Fultz

Allowing the contracts of Marvin Williams, Bismack Biyombo and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to expire, rather than trading those impending free agents, might be the best course of action for the Hornets, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer opines.

The Hornets would have to take back comparable salary unless the team they’re dealing with has a large trade exception. The player or players they take back might have contracts that extend beyond this season and unless they figure into Charlotte’s long term plans, it would not be worth it, Bonnell continues. The Hornets’ players on expiring contracts wouldn’t bring back much more in future assets than a second-round pick anyway, Bonnell adds.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Magic forward Gary Clark hopes his defensive skills and rebounding will allow him to stick with the club, as he told David Yapkowitz of Basketball Insiders. Clark signed a 10-day contract after getting waived by the Rockets. “Just bringing some energy and knocking down shots. Being versatile defensively, being able to switch on multiple guys if need be, and use my athleticism,” Clark said. “Knocking down shots is one thing, but my activity on the glass on both ends has been solid.”
  • Kendrick Nunn‘s value to the Heat goes beyond his on-court production, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel notes. Nunn is only making $1.4MM this season and $1.6MM next season and the Heat can an extend a low-cost $2.1MM qualifying offer in the summer of 2021 to make him a restricted free agent. He can then be re-signed above the salary cap after luring a quality free agent. That makes his current contract a major bargain by providing the team plenty of cap flexibility.
  • Sixers coach Brett Brown is pleased that 2017 No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz has revived his career with the Magic after his struggles in Philadelphia, Rich Hofmann of The Athletic tweets. “From a human standpoint, with complete sincerity, you’re happy for him,” Brown said. “It’s a journey that none of us could have imagined and good for him. Like he didn’t blink, he kept moving forward and I wish him well.”

Heat Notes: Nunn, Winslow, Butler

Impressive rookie guard Kendrick Nunn has regained his hot hand by staying true to himself, not becoming overconfident and continuing to push the action, Khobi Price of the Sun Sentinel writes.

Nunn, a Rookie of the Year candidate, was averaging 16 points on 46% shooting entering Sunday’s game against San Antonio. He’s provided solid production as starting point guard with Justise Winslow still rehabbing from a back injury.

“He has to [pick his spots offensively] because there are a lot of guys that are very similar, that are efficient with their shooting attempts,” head coach Erik Spoelstra said, as relayed by Price. “Our team is built, the success is built on the more guys having an impact. But he’s ignitable. He’s finding his own way to fit into this offense, but fit in with Jimmy [Butler]. Kendrick can score in a lot of those random situations because he has a great feel for getting the ball in the basket.”

Nunn finished with 18 points on 8-for-14 shooting against the Spurs, also recording four assists and two steals in 36 minutes of work. Miami will continue relying on his production as the team shoots for a high playoff seed this spring.

“We want Kendrick to be aggressive and we try to put him in the right spots to have a quality shot,” Goran Dragic said. “He’s great at reading those situations and you can see he can make shots.”

Here are some other notes from Miami tonight:

  • Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel examines whether the timing of Justise Winslow‘s back injury has sabotaged potential trade options, with the forward set to be re-evaluated by the team’s medical staff in two weeks. Winslow would likely play just a few games before the February 6 trade deadline, and that’s only if he returns after his evaluation. Miami currently holds a 29-13 record, but the team is just 5-5 in its last 10 games.
  • Winderman listed his mid-season report cards for each Heat player in a separate Sun Sentinel article, giving Jimmy Butler the highest grade of an A+. Butler has struggled in clutch situations and behind-the-arc this season, but the veteran forward has propelled Miami to the second-best record in the East on All-Star-level play.
  • Despite a very strong first half, Miami remains focused on improving throughout the rest of the campaign, Price writes in a separate story. “We got something special in the making,” All-Star hopeful Bam Adebayo said. “We just have to keep our heads down and keep the same mentality we’ve been having and we’ll be okay.”

Southeast Notes: Nunn, Robinson, Wizards, Goodwin

Several players around the NBA with non-guaranteed contracts have already been waived or remain in danger of being cut as this week’s salary guarantee deadline approaches. However, Heat youngsters Kendrick Nunn and Duncan Robinson have nothing to worry about.

While their contracts still aren’t technically guaranteed, Nunn and Robinson have started all season for the 26-10 Heat and will, of course, be retained through the January 7 deadline. While it’s a mere formality at this point, Nunn and Robinson are happy to assure themselves of those full guarantees, as Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel writes.

“It’ll definitely be a relief,” Nunn said, admitting that he had “kept an eye on” the guarantee deadline. Robinson, meanwhile, said he isn’t taking his seven-figure salary for granted.

“I hope I never get used to that or that it ever becomes normal,” he said. “Well, I guess I hope it does. Well, you know what I mean: I hope I have the perspective to appreciate that it’s not normal. Every two weeks, I just try to be appreciative of it.”

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • Hassan Whiteside seemed “genuinely confused” by the frequent boos he heard from Heat fans during his return to Miami this weekend, writes Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. Shortly after he was traded from Miami to Portland this summer, Whiteside filmed himself yelling, “We’ve got shooters!” on social media, a phrase Heat fans chanted back at him near the end of Sunday’s game. “I didn’t really realize they felt it was a diss,” Whiteside said after the game, per Reynolds.
  • Ben Standig and Fred Katz of The Athletic examine why the Wizards elected to keep Gary Payton II, a 27-year-old on a one-year contract, over Justin Robinson, a 22-year-old who had been on a team-friendly three-year deal. Washington released Robinson on Sunday before his 2019/20 salary could become guaranteed. The Athletic duo also pointed out that the Wizards don’t have the G League rights for Robinson or Johnathan Williams, who was cut on Sunday too.
  • Hawks point guard Brandon Goodwin, who is on a two-way contract, logged just five total minutes before Christmas, but has averaged 14.8 MPG in the team’s last five games. Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution looks at what sort of impression Goodwin is making in Atlanta.

Heat Notes: Butler, Adebayo, Nunn

In an excellent piece, SB Nation’s Ricky O’Donnell takes a look at Heat superstar Jimmy Butler‘s sterling start for his new squad. O’Donnell contends that Butler has been everything the Heat wanted him to be when they inked him to a four-year, $141MM maximum contract in a sign-and-trade with the Sixers this summer.

Butler has been the rising tide to lift all ships on the Heat’s lengthy, defensive-oriented roster. As of this writing, Miami has leapt from No. 26 last year to No. 11 in offensive rating. The Heat are rated No. 8 on defense. Their 16-6 record is good for the third seed in the East, and they remain perfect (9-0) at home.

The 6’8″ wing has been stuffing stat sheets in every traditional and advanced category. Butler is averaging 20.5 PPG, plus career highs in rebounds (6.3 RPG) and assists (6.8 APG). In a 112-103 win over the Wizards last night, Butler recorded his second triple-double over the past three games. He scored 28 points (on 9-of-16 shooting from the field), pulled down 11 boards, and dished 11 dimes.

Following his Friday output, Butler currently ranks No. 5 in Player Impact Plus-Minus and No. 5 in FiveThirtyEight’s RAPTOR (“Robust Algorithm (using) Player Tracking (and) On/Off Ratings”) metric. He also sits at No. 6 in box score plus-minus, No. 5 in win shares per 48 minutes, and No. 7 in Value Over Replacement Player. Butler’s impact on the team can be felt on both ends of the court.

There’s more news out of South Beach:

  • David Furones of the South Florida Sentinel reports that Butler might be giving at least one player an additional financial incentive to expand the breadth of his offense. After scoring a career-high 24 points in a win against the Wizards (in addition to blocking two shots and pulling down 14 rebounds), Bam Adebayo apparently owes Butler $500. Why? Because he didn’t shoot a triple during the game. Apparently, Adebayo owes Butler money for every contest in which he does not attempt a three, a fact that Adebayo only discovered “literally before the game,” according to the Heat center. Though this new arrangement appears to be all in good fun, Adebayo might want to keep his checkbook handy: he has only attempted six threes in 22 games this season.
  • After going undrafted in 2018 out of Oakland University, Kendrick Nunn has earned some early Rookie of the Year buzz this season. The Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson details how the Heat’s vice president of basketball operations Adam Simon and general manager Andy Elisburg landed Nunn. As a backup guard for the Warriors’ G League affiliate last season, Nunn averaged 19.3 points. Miami inked Nunn on the final day of the 2o18/19 regular season, which equipped Nunn with full Bird rights for the moment his $3.1MM two-year-plus-one-day contract expires in 2021.
  • Nunn, his fellow Heat rookie Tyler Herro (the No. 13 pick in the 2019 draft), and the team’s other new veteran additions haven’t just been impressing fans and NBA writers with their play this season. They’ve been impressing their longer-tenured teammates, too. The Athletic’s Andre Fernandez and Manny Navarro spoke with 17-year Heat vet Udonis Haslem about his new teammates’ obsessive ambition. “We have a lot of guys that have a chip on their shoulder, something to prove, so naturally it’s in a lot of these guys’ DNA,” Haslem said.