In an NBA Finals rematch on ABC Saturday night, the story lines were fluid. LeBron James vs his old team, the Miami Heat. LeBron James vs Jimmy Butler in yet another duel. But well, none of that compared to the explosion of Kendrick Nunn occurring right in front of our eyes once again.
So, let’s take a dive into the success of Kendrick Nunn as of late, and what has led to this resurgence.
– Taking defenders off the dribble
Nunn has had an ability to take players off the dribble for quite some time now, but it finally appears to be more than going through the motions. By that I mean he’s not just utilizing pump-fakes as an add-on, since he’s beginning to use it to his advantage, which means he’s playing the game at his own speed as he continues to grow.
He’s currently shooting 64% from the field less than 10 feet from the basket, which is up from last season’s 55%. The attempts are pretty identically, which means he’s just increasing the comfort level in that area.
On this possession, he sells the pump-fake due to his improved shooting, as he dashes by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. He has a very quick first step when putting the ball on the deck, which allows him to get to the rim with a 2 on 1 opportunity. Marc Gasol didn’t step up, which took the lob pass out of the equation, leading to an easy finger roll at the rim.
– Floaters from just about anywhere
Nunn’s floater has been utilized this season much more than his rookie year, and it’s been working quite well for him. It’s not just about the floater itself, but the spots on the floor in which he’s shooting them, which is just about anywhere in the half-court.
He’s very comfortable with push-shots, which he attempts here at the free throw line over Gasol. This shot leads to many things in Nunn’s game being added, such as a hesitation dribble. This will slowly become a shot defenses will look for out of a pick and roll, leading to lob passes and slight hesitations to get to the basket when a big steps out.
– An improved three point shot on the move
Nunn has become a much better spot-up shooter from deep as of late, shooting 39% on catch and shoot triples compared to last season’s 35% shooting, but there’s a certain element to his shooting from deep that must be discussed. It’s not just about shooting on the move, but the direction in which he’s shooting on the move.
When he goes left off of screens, it usually ends with good things. It’s a bit odd for a lefty shooter, since it’s usually the exact opposite direction that they tend to thrive.
On this play, Nunn dribbles left off of a double screen, as Montrezl Harrell begins to drop. He immediately pulls-up at the top of the key, with his jumper looking as fluid as ever.
Now, here’s an example of Nunn leaning left on three point shots and looking as comfortable as he does with spot-up opportunities. This unorthodox ability leads to other things as well, such as a quicker getaway to put the ball on the deck and drive baseline.
Nunn is a pretty unique scorer, and the reason for that is because he has unique abilities to be effective, and it just comes down to consistency which has occurred lately.
– Creativity in the pick and roll
As I pointed out in Tyler Herro’s game the other day, creativeness out of the pick and roll is beginning to progress for Miami’s second year players. Most young players become more and more effective out of simple offensive sets of with the more playing time that they get, which is what we’re seeing right now.
On this play, Nunn realizes a bit of indecisive play from both defenders, which leads to him utilizing a snake dribble to find a dead-spot. Precious Achiuwa being the screener adds to this as well, since he always seems to be running at full speed on the roll, making a defense uncomfortable as a lob threat.
– Offense to defense
If there’s anything that I’ve noticed from Kendrick Nunn’s game over time, it’s that his defense elevates when his offense is effective. And after his jumper continued to fall throughout last night’s game, he showcased his defensive will in spots that were necessary.
He had to deal with a tough match-up all night, against a much lengthier Kyle Kuzma, but gave Miami a huge spark on this play. When the Lakers could’ve cut the lead to 2, Nunn rose up and blocked his shot from behind, after Kuzma caught him off-guard with a slip screen. Even if Nunn struggles defensively when on an island, he is trusted to make defensive plays, such as hitting passing lanes to get into transition or make an unexpected block to get the team going.
– Taking advantage of Adebayo’s gravity
After Bam Adebayo’s early aggression, taking advantage of the Lakers lack of interior defense, it led to many other things for Miami. Halfway through the third quarter when the Lakers made their big run, they tried to eliminate Adebayo’s offensive presence as much as possible, which led to him adapting.
He has been needed to put his back to the basket and take advantage of smaller match-ups, which is what he began to do. But as Alex Caruso came for the double team, Adebayo made the right read, passing out to Nunn for a triple.
Although this has more to do with Adebayo, Nunn reading the situation as well must be noted. He was putting that shot up no matter who ran out on him, as they tried to recover on their rotation, which are the small areas Nunn has showed a ton of growth with.
– Back door cuts becoming a staple
Backdoor cuts have been Miami’s thing for the last couple of weeks, mostly since defenses are overplaying the three point line on shooters time and time again. But this has nothing to do with overplaying defensively, since the Jimmy Butler effect came into play.
As he attacked the basket on this play, the Lakers defense looked pretty lost with their defensive communication. Butler unfortunately picked up his dribble, looking toward the corner at Nunn, giving him the signal to cut to the basket. He hits him in stride for an easy bucket, which shows the level of chemistry Nunn is reforming with the new starting lineup.
– The play-making leap incoming
Nunn has made huge strides as of late as a play-maker, mostly in games like last night, where defenses are focused on his scoring.
On this play, he tries to blow by a good defender, in Alex Caruso, while Harrell cuts him off to eliminate that baseline floater that has been working all night. Once Harrell gets caught in the air, he dumps it off to Adebayo at the rim.
Although he missed, Nunn continues to battle down low, going back up with a reverse layup on a key possession for Miami’s offensive rhythm. While he continues to become a lethal offensive weapon, the play-making abilities become more and more essential, which will lead to a major increase in assist numbers.