The Miami Heat has been one of the early season surprises in the NBA, and the numbers say the team belongs among the NBA’s elites. But nothing was more surprising than the sudden impact of rookies Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro.
But both rookies, who came to Miami under very different circumstances, have regressed considerably in the last two weeks.
Despite the slumps, both rookies remain integral parts of Miami’s best lineups and the future.
Kendrick Nunn was signed by the Miami Heat on the final day of the season last year and played brilliantly through the summer and into the start of this season.
Nunn burst onto the national scene, scoring the most points by an undrafted player through five games. He averaged 22.4 points-per-game on 51.8 percent shooting and 48.4 percent from three. Nunn was +8.2 at that point.
After Miami’s victory over the Hawks on Halloween, Nunn credited his success to “hard work, most definitely my faith in Jesus Christ, and hard work.”
Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro have combined for 194 points so far this season 🔥
In the same time span, only Wilt Chamberlain and Joe Ruklick had more as rookies in 1959 (196 points). pic.twitter.com/Iqfyay5dYT
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 1, 2019
Since his torrid start though, Nunn has cooled considerably.
In his last four games, Nunn is averaging just 9.3 points-per-game on 34.1 percent shooting and 19 percent from three. He’s been -5.5 in those games.
Nunn’s rookie counterpart, Tyler Herro, had a different arrival to Miami, but a similar start to his career.
Through the first five games, Herro seemed to prove his first-round pedigree by averaging 16.4 points-per-game on 45.3 percent shooting and 35.7 percent from three. His plus/minus was +1.8.
But over the last four games, Herro produced nine points-per-game on 35.3 percent shooting, but 40 percent from three and +3 overall.
It will be interesting to see how these two young players respond to the first slumps of their careers. Although how they’ll produce is unclear, what is certain is both will be on the floor.
Nunn has been an anchor in the starting lineup and is part of the most used and effective 5-man lineup for Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra. The lineup of Nunn, Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Meyers Leonard and Duncan Robinson is a team-high +33 over it’s 46 minutes of usage.
Herro and Nunn are both part of the second most-used lineup for Miami, with Adebayo, Leonard, and Justise Winslow. That lineup has seen the floor for 37 minutes and is +10.
Both players seem to play well with Miami’s new franchise corner piece, Jimmy Butler. Butler and Nunn have shared the floor for 140 minutes and their two-man lineup is +8. Herro and Butler have played 80 minutes together and are +16. Nunn and Herro are +3 in 109 shared minutes.
According to ESPN’s John Hollinger, both Nunn (No. 12, 14.73) and Herro (No. 13, 11.97) are top-15 among rookies in Player Efficiency Rating. (Heat rookie Chris Silva leads the list with 21.69). They would be No. 5 and No. 6 respectively if the list were only rookies averaging more than 25 minutes per game.
Among all players, Jimmy Butler is Miami’s top PER player at 25.50.
Spoelstra has confidence in both rookies.
“The most important things were that [Tyler Herro] embraced the competition, and he was very open and eager to learn about how we operate. Tyler’s very ambitious, and he has a terrific capacity for work,” Spoelstra told Shandel Richardson of The Athletic.
And he’s been complementary of Nunn as well.
“There’s a long lineage of non-drafted Miami Heat players that have come through our player development program, and he is the next notable one,” Spoelstra said on Media Day. “He’s a talent, and he has a great work ethic.”
Nunn joins Miami’s undrafted ranks with the likes of franchise all-time leader in rebounding and three-time champion Udonis Haslem, as well as recent success stories like Rodney McGruder and Tyler Johnson. Included in these undrafted annals are Heat stalwarts Keith Askins, Joel Anthony, and Anthony Carter.
Both rookies will get the opportunity to breakout of their slumps this week when the Heat play host to Detroit on Tuesday. The Pistons (4-6) have played recently without All-Star Blake Griffin, starting guard Reggie Jackson, and their top reserve Derrick Rose.