Don’t sleep on Kendrick Nunn’s potential impact on the Lakers

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If the Los Angeles Lakers start the upcoming season with the exact roster they have right now, many fans won’t feel good about the team’s potential.

Many think the current team is a play-in team or, even worse, bound for another lottery season.

Such pessimism is perfectly understandable from a visceral standpoint. The Lakers are coming off the most disappointing season in franchise history, as they were expected to contend for the NBA championship but instead missed the playoffs.

Yes, poor roster construction was a big culprit, but so were injuries.

LeBron James played in just 56 games due to multiple injuries and ailments, and Anthony Davis appeared in just 40 contests because of a sprained MCL and sprained foot.

Then there was Kendrick Nunn, who didn’t play in even one regular season contest because of a stubborn bone bruise.

He is apparently 100 percent healthy now, and it’s easy to forget how good a player he was previously with the Miami Heat.

A healthy Nunn could make a significant difference in the Lakers’ fortunes this coming season. Is he going to be an All-Star? Probably not, but he can really help.

Nunn can score - efficiently

At first glance, one may think there was nothing wrong with L.A.’s offense this past season. It averaged 112.1 points per game, which was 11th in the NBA.

Sounds pretty good? Not so much.

The team ranked just 23rd in offensive rating, which means it was a very inefficient offensive unit. The Lakers were also just 22nd in 3-point shooting percentage and 29th in free throw accuracy.

Nunn has the ability to make a positive dent in all those categories.

In the 2020-21 season (his last healthy one), he shot 48.5 percent from the field overall, 38.1 percent from downtown and a sizzling 93.3 percent from the charity stripe.

A closer look shows just how efficient he was throughout the floor. He made an outstanding 75.5 percent of his shots from within three feet, 40.5 percent from 3 to 10 feet, 42.1 percent from 10 to 16 feet and 52.9 percent between 16 feet and the 3-point line.

Overall, he made a ridiculous 58.3 percent of his 2-point shots and had a true shooting percentage of 59.6 percent.

The undrafted guard is also very effective in transition. From all appearances, it looks like new head coach Darvin Ham will re-emphasize playing fast-break, or at least up-tempo ball, and Nunn will certainly be a significant part of that aspect of L.A.’s attack.

Nunn may not end up taking a high volume of shots for the Lakers, but there’s a good chance he’ll end up finishing at least fourth on the team in shot attempts per game, and as long as his prior efficiency holds up, it will greatly help the team.

Ball Handling

Nunn is not much of a playmaker, as he has a career average of just 3.0 assists per game.

But he is a ball-handling guard who can bring the ball upcourt, push the ball and attack in transition as well as create his own shot.

This could make him an ideal companion for James, as he could reduce the 37-year-old’s ball-handling workload while still deferring much of those responsibilities to him and still being effective off the ball.

Nunn has proven to be a good catch-and-shoot player. In such situations during the 2020-21 season, he made 42.1 percent of his 3-pointers.

Unlike Russell Westbrook, who seemed minimally effective without the ball, Nunn looks like a good candidate to play well off James and develop chemistry with him while making his life easier and keeping him fresh.

Defense

No one should expect Nunn to be a defensive stopper, but he will bring the effort on that end of the floor and help an area in which the Lakers were woeful in.

People around the league think at least somewhat highly of his ability on that end of the floor.

Via Los Angeles Times:

“Another name, though, that’s come up is Kendrick Nunn. Scouts love his toughness and think he could be a factor on that side of the ball, too.”

Perhaps Nunn can help pressure the opposing team’s ball-handler as he brings the ball upcourt, therefore taking time off the shot clock and making the opposing team have to work harder to get a good shot.

It remains to be seen how Ham will use Nunn in a detailed fashion on the defensive end, but his ability there is clear.

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Story originally appeared on LeBron Wire