When the Los Angeles Lakers signed Kendrick Nunn, it was quite the surprise. His acquisition offered a boost for their offense that was supposed to be a game-changer for their new identity. The Lakers shifted from a defense-first mentality headed by the likes of Alex Caruso and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. The additions of Malik Monk and Nunn meant they wanted buckets now. Nunn played sparingly in the pre-season before disaster struck and robbed him and the Lakers of any opportunities of success.
Nunn missed the entire regular season with a bone bruise in his right knee. There were moments where he ramped up for a return, but setbacks laid dormant. The Lakers never got the injection of youth and scoring that made Nunn a Rookie of the Year runner-up. Luckily for both sides, Nunn’s two-year deal worth $10.4 million, has a second season with a player option. Reportedly, Nunn has picked up that option and will return to the team, per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin.
Kendrick Nunn, as expected, has elected to opt in for his contract with the Lakers for next season, sources tell ESPN.
— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) June 21, 2022
Depending on what happens with Russell Westbrook, Nunn could serve as either a starter or reserve next season.
The Lakers have to fill in a great number of rotation spots. Nunn, despite last season’s circumstances, is one less position they have to address this summer. As a member of the Miami Heat, he had averages of 15 points on 36.4 percent shooting from the three-point line. Arguably, he could have served as a great change of pace guard during Westbrook’s struggles. That’s the exact role he should have this season.
Judging from their shift last season and moves made during the year – he also checks their boxes of youth and flexibility. One year of Nunn could give them a “young” player to plug into their core. He’s only 26 years, and that’s damn near infancy considering how many guys they had close to 40 years old last season (Hello LeBron and Trevor Ariza!).
Nunn provides the ying to Russ’ Yang at the point guard position. Where Russ is a hammer on the floor, Nunn is a scalpel. He shows both a quickness and athleticism that would be juiced next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis. At times, depending on opponent, he could also play alongside Westbrook due to his shooting ability. Take a look at some of the damage he did during the pre-season.
Compared to many small guards in the playoffs, Nunn offers the ability to generate his own offense akin to Jalen Brunson or Jordan Poole. He also brings a level of post-season experience as a member of the Heat’s 2020 Finals roster and the 2021 playoff squad. Nunn was called upon against the Lakers and gave them a dose of what he brings to the table, scoring in double-digits in three of the six games they played in the Finals. Two of those three games were the Heat’s lone wins in the series.
As mentioned, Nunn also provides the Lakers with a tradable asset. If the Lakers don’t see him as a player that can be of use for them, there could be teams with their eyes on him. Talen Horton Tucker, Russell Westbrook, and their first rounders in 2027 and 2029 are all in the war chest. Whether teams value those parts is another question yet to be answered. If the league still values the work that he did in Miami, that could be a positive for the Lakers continuing to fill in their rotation.
Next week marks the beginning of free agency. What the future holds for Nunn could be revealed at that time. If the Lakers are smart, it’s a no-brainer to make the best decision possible within all options. Nunn deserves his redemption. It wasn’t his fault that he got a fluke injury. He sacrificed money and opportunity to try to be a part of something great. The least the Lakers could do is allow him to fulfill that and show them he was worth it.