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Nunn’s Case to Be Crowned Rookie of the Year

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For most NBA fans, the common prediction for the 2019-20 Rookie of the Year is Ja Morant of the Memphis Grizzlies. Well, that’s unless you are talking to New Orleans Pelicans fans, who will argue that it should be Zion Williamson.

Entering the 2019-20 season, Zion Williamson was the early frontrunner to be Rookie of the Year. Before being the 2019 NBA Draft’s number one selection, Williamson was a superstar at Duke. He averaged 22.6 PPG, 8.9 RPG, and 2.1 APG, leading the Blue Devils to the 2019 NCAA Tournament Elite Eight.

During a Pelicans preseason game, Williamson went down with an injured right knee. After undergoing an arthroscopic procedure, doctors determined that Williamson had torn his meniscus. The original diagnosis listed him as out for 6-8 weeks, but he ended up missing closer to 14 weeks.

 

With the number one selection sidelined for three months, the NBA’s eye turned to 2nd overall pick Ja Morant. Morant, selected by the Memphis Grizzlies, took the league by storm. Before the NBA paused its season, Morant was averaging 17.6 PPG, 3.5 RPG, and 6.9 APG.

As Morant became the leader for Rookie of the Year, who’s the projected runner-up (or “dark-horse” winner)? Kendrick Nunn.

Nunn’s Case For Rookie of the Year

Nunn, who actually was not a part of the 2019 draft class — he went undrafted in 2018 — is the man in second place for ROY. The former Illinois Fighting Illini and Oakland Golden Grizzly signed with the Santa Cruz Warriors of the NBA G League. In his only season as a Warrior, Nunn averaged 19.3 PPG– 30.0 PPG in the playoffs.

Because he had never played in an NBA game, Nunn was eligible as a rookie entering the 2019-2020 season. The Heat signed Nunn and he never looked back. The 24-year-old has been a part of the Heat’s starting five in all 62 games. Starting as a rookie is already a hard feat to accomplish. Becoming a starter as an undrafted rookie is almost unheard of. In his 62 games, Nunn averaged 15.6 PPG, 2.7 RPG, and 3.4 APG.

The Argument

Usually, the NBA Rookie of the Year award is awarded to a player drafted in the first round. Dating back to the 1958-59 season, there have only been three Rookie of the Year awards given out to players drafted outside of the first round. Malcolm Brogdon is the most recent second-round pick to win the prestigious award. The Bucks selected Brogdon 36th overall in 2016.

Nunn could potentially become the first undrafted rookie to win the award, which would solidify him as one of the league’s greatest rookies ever.

When a player is selected near the top of their draft class, it is expected of them to have an immediate impact on their team. As an undrafted player, the “bar” was set lower for Nunn. The NBA and its fans would never expect an undrafted rookie to put up the impressive stats that Nunn has totaled.

After playing basketball at two different colleges, going undrafted, spending a year in the NBA G League, joining the Miami Heat, and then earning a starting position, Nunn has never been able to “let off the gas”. He has always had something to prove. Who’s to say that Nunn shouldn’t win the award? He averages similar numbers to Morant. If an undrafted rookie can average nearly the same stats as the second overall draft selection, should the undrafted player win the Rookie of the Year? Only time will tell.

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About Josh Katz

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