Kendrick Nunn

Heat Notes: Harden, Butler, Haslem, Nunn, Attendance

The Heat reportedly removed themselves from the James Harden sweepstakes before the regular season began and weren’t believed to be a finalist when the Rockets ultimately moved the former MVP last week. However, a few Heat players were still willing to offer their thoughts on what it might have looked like if Harden had ended up in Miami, as Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel relays.

Acknowledging the concerns about Harden’s ball dominance on offense, Jimmy Butler said during an episode of GQ Sports’ Actually Me that really good players “always find out a way to win,” even if the fit doesn’t look perfect on the surface.

“He wants to win a championship,” Butler said of Harden. “And if we were to end up playing together, we’d make it work and we’d find a way to win.”

One of Butler’s teammates, Udonis Haslem, seemed less convinced that Harden would have been a great fit in Miami, joking during an appearance on Complex’s Load Management podcast about how the 31-year-old’s fondness for the nightlife would mesh with playing in South Beach.

“I mean, you can’t bring James Harden to Miami,” Haslem said. “As much as I wanted that to work out, in my mind, I was like, ‘Uh, no way.’ … I would have aged 15 years trying to be his OG down here. He’d have had to move me in the guesthouse, to keep a close eye on him.”

Here’s more on the Heat:

  • After playing well in the regular season as a rookie, Kendrick Nunn saw his role reduced during the postseason and got off to a slow start in 2020/21. However, the Heat’s shortage of players has resulted in increased minutes this week, and Nunn has taken advantage, with two big games in wins over Detroit and Toronto. If he can build off his hot streak, the 25-year-old guard – who is in a contract year – could substantially improve his value as a trade chip and/or as a 2021 free agent, writes Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel.
  • The Heat intend to allow “an extremely limited” number of fans to begin attending their home games as of January 28. Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald has the details on the plan, which will fill AmericanAirlines Arena to less than 10% of its capacity and will apply to six games through February 9. Presumably, the team will see how things go before committing to anything beyond that date.
  • Be sure to follow our Miami Heat team page for all the latest news and notes on the club.

Duncan Robinson First 2021 RFA To Meet Starter Criteria

Heat sharpshooter Duncan Robinson became the first potential restricted free agent in the 2021 class to meet the “starter criteria” earlier this week, increasing the value of his qualifying offer.

As we explain in our glossary entry, a restricted free-agent-to-be is considered to have met the starter criteria if he plays at least 2,000 minutes or starts 41 games in the season before he reaches free agency, or if he averages 2,000 minutes or 41 starts per season in the two years before his free agency. If a non-lottery pick reaches the starter criteria, the value of his qualifying offer increases; if a lottery pick fails to meet it, the value of his QO decreases.

Because the NBA was unable to play a full season in 2019/20 and only has a 72-game schedule on tap for ’20/21, the thresholds for the starter criteria have been prorated downward. According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, the criteria will vary from player to player, since it’s now based on games played by his team prior to the hiatus in ’19/20, as well as the 72-game schedule for this season.

For instance, the Heat played 65 games before the coronavirus stoppage last season and will play 72 games this season, for a total of 137 contests. Robinson needed to start at least half of those games (68.5) to meet the starter criteria.

Having started the first nine games of this season, Robinson is technically up to 77 starts over the last two years, but eight of those came in Miami’s summer seeding games and don’t count toward the starter criteria. As such, his 69th start of the last two seasons – which pushed him above the starter criteria threshold – came on Tuesday vs. Philadelphia.

Having met the starter criteria, Robinson – who came into the league as an undrafted free agent – will now be in line for a qualifying offer worth $4,736,102 (equivalent to what the 21st pick would receive if he signed for 100% of his rookie scale amount) instead of $2,122,822.

That bump likely won’t be all that important for Robinson, who figures to sign a lucrative multiyear deal that far exceeds that amount. However, the difference between a standard QO and the starter criteria QO could have a major impact on certain players.

Last season, for example, Kris Dunn met the starter criteria, ensuring that his qualifying offer remained at $7.09MM instead of falling to $4.64MM. The Bulls subsequently opted not to extend him that QO, making him an unrestricted free agent, and he left for the Hawks, signing a new contract with a per-year value ($5MM) in between those two figures. If Dunn hadn’t met the starter criteria, the Bulls may have been more comfortable issuing that QO and his free agency could have played out a whole lot differently.

While Robinson is the first player to reach the starter criteria this season, he won’t be the last. RFAs-to-be like Devonte’ Graham, Jarrett Allen, Lonzo Ball, Lauri Markkanen, and John Collins are in position to get there soon if they stay healthy and remain in their teams’ respective starting lineups. Kendrick Nunn isn’t far off either, having started 62 games for Miami before last season’s hiatus, but he isn’t currently a starter for the Heat.

Eight Heat Players Unavailable Due To COVID-19 Protocols

3:58pm: In addition to Bradley, the Heat will be without the following players for Tuesday’s game in Philadelphia due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols, per Reynolds (Twitter link): Jimmy Butler, Goran Dragic, Bam Adebayo, Kendrick Nunn, Maurice Harkless, Udonis Haslem, and KZ Okpala.

That would leave the team with nine available players, assuming everyone else is healthy. Meyers Leonard (shoulder) is currently listed as questionable, while Kelly Olynyk (groin) and Gabe Vincent (knee) are probable, Reynolds notes (via Twitter).

2:14pm: The Heat are preparing to be without “at least five” players for the next several days due to possible exposure to the coronavirus, reports Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press.

Miami didn’t have the required minimum of eight players available on Sunday due to an inconclusive COVID-19 test and subsequent contact tracing, per Shams Charania of The Athletic. As a result, the team’s scheduled game in Boston was postponed. Subsequently, the Heat spent Sunday and Monday awaiting the results of the NBA’s contact tracing investigation to find out which players may be required to self-isolate for the next week, says Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald.

According to Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel, the Heat are arranging for the players who need to self-isolate due to contact tracing to fly back to Miami on a private plane. The player who tested positive for COVID-19 will be sequestered in a hotel, while the rest of the team flies to Philadelphia in anticipation of playing vs. the Sixers.

Based on Winderman’s report, it sounds like the Heat expect to have enough players to resume their schedule on Tuesday vs. Philadelphia, though we don’t know yet who will and won’t be available. Avery Bradley‘s absence due to the league’s health and safety protocols was the only one reported on Sunday — all signs point to Bradley being the player who tested positive for the coronavirus, Winderman notes, but that hasn’t been confirmed.

Heat Guarantee Salaries For Kendrick Nunn, Duncan Robinson

The Heat have guaranteed the 2020/21 salaries for guard Kendrick Nunn and forward Duncan Robinson, a league source tells John Hollinger of The Athletic (Twitter link). Previously, their matching minimum salaries ($1,663,861) for next season had been fully non-guaranteed.

Given the impact Nunn and Robinson had for the Heat in 2019/20, guaranteeing those salaries was always considered a mere formality.

Nunn, a contender for Rookie of the Year, averaged 15.3 PPG and 3.3 APG in 67 games (all starts), while Robinson emerged as one of the NBA’s most dangerous outside shooters, knocking down 44.6% of 8.3 three-point attempts per game in 73 contests.

Both Nunn and Robinson will be eligible for restricted free agency in 2021. Meeting the starter criteria next season would increase the value of their qualifying offers and accompanying cap holds. However, those holds will still be modest enough that they shouldn’t be an impediment to Miami maximizing its cap room to pursue a star free agent.

Southeast Notes: Nunn, Williams, Hawks, Heat

Heat guard Kendrick Nunn is working to flip the narrative after a rough first experience in Orlando, Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald writes.

Nunn has received quality rotation minutes in the Finals so far, showing great effort on both ends despite playing scarcely in previous rounds. In Game 1, he finished with 18 points and five rebounds, playing 19 minutes off the bench. He followed that up with a 13-point, three-assist outing in Game 2, providing depth behind Tyler Herro and Jimmy Butler.

“It has been an experience for me,” Nunn said. “Obviously I had some pretty rough days. Now it’s getting better. It just comes from sticking with it every day, putting in work, grinding, not making any excuses and just sticking to basically my routine and my style of play.”

The runner-up for the Rookie of the Year award, Nunn contracted COVID-19 this summer, struggling to regain his footing and seeing his role change in the weeks that followed. With Goran Dragic (plantar fascia tear) still sidelined, the Heat will need Nunn to continue producing at a high level.

There’s more from the Southeast Division tonight:

  • Marvin Williams has a standing offer to work for the Hornets in the future, his father, Marvin Williams Sr., told Spencer Davies of Williams retired from the league this year after spending 15 seasons as a player, with his next job immediately unclear. “He mentioned to me that he really likes the [Basketball Without Borders] program, but because of the COVID, that whole process may have changed,” Williams Sr. said. “I think that’s the avenue he would like to go down, but if not… he’s a kinda laid-back guy, so he’s like, ‘Dad, I could be content working with North Carolina, being a film guy for the basketball team, making $60-70K a year. I’d be content with that.’ Larry Jordan, Michael Jordan and them guys have told him — and sat down with me and told me — that if he wanted to come back and work for the [Charlotte] Hornets, he was more than welcome to. So he’s got some options, it’s just a matter of which one he chooses to pick.”
  • The Hawks ended their mini-camp five days early, Sarah Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution notes, with the team choosing to halt activities on October 1. Spencer reports the team always planned to end early with a focus on injury prevention and keeping players engaged in voluntary workouts. “We wanted to maximize the opportunity that we had and to compete at the level that we’re doing, to be in a new environment and situation, we wanted to do what made most sense, and that’s why we’re ending today,” head coach Lloyd Pierce said.
  • John Hollinger of The Athletic examines why the NBA should be rooting for the Heat to win the NBA Finals. Miami is known for promoting high-level competition and is strictly against rebuilding, Hollinger notes, a formula the league would love to see more of.

Heat Notes: Roster, Haslem, ECF

Zach Lowe of ESPN tracks the Heat‘s impressive front office maneuvering that took them from the lottery in 2015 back to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2020, despite having traded away a number of their draft picks during that time. Lowe applauds the team’s savvy drafting of All-Star Bam Adebayo and potential future All-Star shooting specialist Tyler Herro in the 2017 and 2019 drafts, respectively.

“The doubt was whether [Adebayo] could really do much on offense,” said Heat senior adviser of basketball operations Chet Kammerer. “I just felt like, with his love for the game and his work ethic, he’s going to be OK in that area.”

The Heat also hit on three undrafted free agent role players in point guard Kendrick Nunn this season, shooting guard Duncan Robinson last year, and forward Derrick Jones Jr. in 2017 after a brief stint with the Suns. Miami was apparently one of two contenders for Dorian Finney-Smith after the 2016 draft, but lost out to the Mavericks.

Of course, All-Star Jimmy Butler was the key addition this offseason. During the 2016/17 “Three Alphas” Bulls season – when Dwyane Wade teamed up with Butler and Rajon Rondo in Chicago – Wade and Butler discussed just how special the much-ballyhooed “Heat culture” really was. That conversation apparently set the stage for Butler prioritizing the Heat above all other suitors in free agency during the summer of 2019, despite Miami lacking any room to sign a maximum-salaried free agent. Miami made a four-team sign-and-trade for the team’s now-top star.

There’s more out of South Beach:

  • The Heat’s playoff-ready roster, comprised by acquiring key under-regarded prospects and never fully bottoming out, is also examined by HoopsHype’s Frank Urbina in another quality piece.
  • 17-season Heat lifer Udonis Haslem, a crucial role player for each of Miami’s three titles, remains noncommittal on whether or not 2019/20 will prove to be his final season as a player, per Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. “There is a value and a need for me here,” Haslem said. “It doesn’t have to be the way that everybody thinks it should be. If I have to put on a suit and stand on the sideline, just because everybody else thinks I should. I found value in this locker room, and I’ve been able to move the needle and help us win games, and that’s what it’s all about.”
  • Ahead of the first game of the Heat’s Eastern Conference Finals series against the Celtics, we asked you who you expected to advance to the NBA Finals from Eastern Conference. As of this writing, the third-seeded Celtics have received 54% of over 1,300 votes.

Ja Morant, Kendrick Nunn Headline All-Rookie Team

Grizzlies guard Ja Morant, who previously won the Rookie of the Year award, was the only player unanimously selected to this year’s All-Rookie First Team, the league announced in a press release.  A panel of 100 sportswriters and broadcasters selected the team.

Heat guard Kendrick Nunn collected the second-most First Team votes (98) and total points (197). Grizzlies forward Brandon Clarke, Pelicans forward and top overall draft pick Zion Williamson, and Warriors forward Eric Paschall rounded out the First Team.

Morant and Clarke became the first Grizzlies duo named to the All-Rookie First Team since the 2001/02 season, when Pau Gasol and Shane Battier earned the honor. Nunn is the first Heat player named to the First Team since Michael Beasley in 2008/09.

Heat guard Tyler Herro, Raptors guard Terence Davis II, Bulls guard Coby White, Hornets forward P.J. Washington, and Wizards forward Rui Hachimura gained All-Rookie Second Team honors.

Knicks wing and third overall pick RJ Barrett finished 13 points behind Hachimura for the final spot on the Second Team, with Sixers forward Matisse Thybulle narrowly missing a spot as well.

The voting was conducted based on regular-season games played prior to the restart.

Heat Notes: Rebuild, Crowder, Nunn, Riley

Pat Riley‘s decision to pursue an accelerated rebuild over a “process” has allowed the Heat to make the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2014, Brian Windhorst of writes.

Riley, as Windhorst notes, always approaches his job as team president in a highly competitive manner. The Heat typically don’t fixate on a slow process, rebuild or “tank.” Rather, the organization maintains a winning culture and mentality every season — regardless of the circumstances.

“You know me, I’m all about now,” Riley said earlier this season, as relayed by Windhorst. “We’re going to press on and we’re not going to stop.”

Riley acquired star forward Jimmy Butler in a four-way trade last summer, solidifying the team’s stance of competing for a title now. Miami has exceeded expectations thanks to the rapid improvements of Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson and Kendrick Nunn, along with the trade deadline acquisitions of Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala. Thus, the club’s first trip to the conference finals in six seasons.

“Miami’s strategy is always to be as good as possible every season,” one league executive said told Windhorst. “They are studs at team building. But you have to acknowledge that strategy also led them to miss the playoffs in three of the last five years.” 

Here are some other notes out of Miami:

  • Jae Crowder has officially found his footing after being traded to the team earlier this year, a re-occurring theme in the 30-year-old’s professional career, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel writes. Crowder has been traded a total of six times since entering the league in 2012. “I look at it like this,” he said, “this is what keeps me going: You see a lot of guys who are being traded and they get waived once they get to the team. That’s never happened in my career. So once I’ve gotten traded, I’ve been able to sustain a role. I’ve been wanted. I feel like another team wants me. I just think that speaks of my work. I don’t look at it as bad thing. I don’t get frustrated with the process, because I feel like I’ve every team I went to, I’ve had a role to play.”
  • Winderman examines whether Kendrick Nunn‘s stock is in the rise in his latest “Ask Ira’ mailbag. Nunn, the runner-up for the 2019-20 Rookie of the Year award, contracted COVID-19 this summer and struggled to get back into his old form during the restart, but the 25-year-old is also starting to find his footing as the back-up point guard behind Goran Dragic.
  • The Pat Riley-Danny Ainge rivalry is set to add another chapter with the Heat and Celtics meeting in the conference finals, Windhorst writes in a separate story for ESPN. Both executives share a strong rivalry going back to their playing days, more recently with Riley’s Heat beating Ainge’s Celtics in the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals and Ainge beating Riley in the race to sign Gordon Hayward in 2017.

Ja Morant Named NBA Rookie Of The Year

Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant has been named the NBA’s Rookie of the Year for the 2019/20 season, the league announced today in a press release. Morant was a near-unanimous choice, receiving 99 out of 100 possible first-place votes.

Heat guard Kendrick Nunn finished second in Rookie of the Year voting, receiving 56 second-place votes and 36 third-place votes. Pelicans forward Zion Williamson, who only appeared in 19 games prior to the NBA’s shutdown in March, received the final first-place vote and finished third.

The No. 2 overall pick in the 2019 draft, Morant had an outstanding season in Memphis, averaging 17.8 PPG, 7.3 APG, and 3.9 RPG to go along with a .477/.335/.776 shooting line in 67 games (31.0 MPG).

He was unable to lead the Grizzlies to the final playoff spot in the Western Conference this summer, as Memphis lost the play-in game last month to the Trail Blazers. However, voting was based on games completed as of March 11, and despite the disappointing finish to the season, Morant and the Grizzlies significantly outperformed their expectations for 2019/20.

Nunn, an undrafted free agent, averaged 15.3 PPG and 3.3 APG in 67 games (29.3 MPG) as the Heat’s starting point guard this season.

Williamson would have been the frontrunner to win the Rookie of the Year award if a knee injury hadn’t sidelined him for much of the season — he recorded 22.5 PPG, 6.3 RPG, and 2.1 APG in just 24 games (27.8 MPG). His limited playing time created a dilemma for voters. Despite receiving one first-place vote, last year’s No. 1 overall pick was also left off 38 of 100 total three-man ballots.

Here are the full Rookie of the Year voting results:

  1. Ja Morant, Grizzlies (498 points)
  2. Kendrick Nunn, Heat (204)
  3. Zion Williamson, Pelicans (140)
  4. Brandon Clarke, Grizzlies (50)
  5. Coby White, Bulls (3)
  6. Eric Paschall, Warriors (2)
  7. Terence Davis, Raptors (2)
  8. RJ Barrett, Knicks (1)

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Heat Notes: Closers, Butler-Dragic, Benched Players, Injuries

The Heat have found playoff success thus far with a closing lineup comprising Goran Dragic, Tyler Herro, Jimmy Butler, Andre Iguodala and Bam Adebayo, per Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald. This closing lineup resolved the last 7:57 of the team’s Game 1 victory in Miami’s quarterfinals series against the Pacers (posting a +10 plus-minus), plus the final 7:45 of the Heat’s hard-fought Game 2 win (where the group finished with a +1).

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra praised the groups effectiveness on both sides of the ball. “Defensively, they’ve been good,” Spoelstra said. “Offensively, we’ve been able to keep it simple and get it to either Goran or Jimmy to make the plays and you trust that they’re going to get you something good, a clean look.”

There’s more from South Beach:

  • A key duo within the Heat’s closing lineup, guards Goran Dragic and Jimmy Butler, have benefited from their playing minutes together being expanded from 14 MPG to 22.5 MPG in the postseason, according to Manny Navarro of The Athletic. Butler and Dragic have become a very effective dynamic duo for Miami. “One of my all-time favorite teammates,” Butler said. “We just connect.”
  • Heat power forward Meyers Leonard and rookie point guard Kendrick Nunn both have yet to crack Miami’s postseason rotation, as Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel details. Nunn started for the Heat all season. Though frustrated about the benching, Leonard voiced optimism that both he and Nunn would see action soon. “[S]taying ready is important, so when I get my opportunity I’ll be prepared,” Leonard said. “There’s going to be a moment that we need Kendrick Nunn, make no mistake.”
  • Heat forwards Jae Crowder and Derrick Jones Jr. have both been listed as questionable to play in Game 3 of their series against the Pacers on Saturday due to ankle injuries, according to Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel (Twitter link).