One of the recurring themes of the Lakers offseason was nabbing players below their market value. Even before the start of free agency, the Lakers signed both Austin Reaves and Joel Ayayi to two-way deals after each turned down the chance to be drafted to join the Lakers.
In free agency itself, Kent Bazemore reportedly turned down more money from the Warriors to return to Los Angeles and sign with the Lakers. Kendrick Nunn soon followed the same track, turning down money to sign for the taxpayer midlevel exception with the Lakers.
After reaching the NBA Finals in his rookie season, the taste of nearly winning a title played a role in Nunn coming to Los Angeles in hopes of getting over that final hurdle.
“L.A. would be appealing to anyone, honestly speaking,” he said during his introductory press conference on Friday. “But just that chance to go out there and win a ring. A good chance, a great chance to win a ring. I wanted to be in that position again and also just to help my teammates and learn from them. I look at the roster around and I’m one of the younger guys, so I’m going to be a sponge to a lot of these guys in the locker room and just continue to grow and develop my game as well.”
Entering restricted free agency with the Heat, Nunn was expected to receive a contract north of eight figures annually. John Hollinger of The Athletic projected contracts for notable free agents before the offseason using a handful of available advanced statistics. For Nunn, Hollinger predicted a contract worth $11,467,484 annually.
Nunn’s reported deal with the Lakers at $10.25 million over two years, then, comes in at well under half of his projected contract.
Kendrick Nunn got part of the Taxpayer MLE from the Los Angeles Lakers:— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) August 8, 2021
Second season is a player option for Nunn.@spotrac
“It wasn’t that hard, to be honest,” Nunn said of turning down more money. “I’m a guy that knows how to sacrifice for the better of the team. I know how to do that and I’m willing to do that. It’s not about myself. It’s a team sport, and I want to win. That’s what I play this game for, to win.”
In signing Nunn, the Lakers land a former Rookie of the Year runner-up and that hit the ground running in Miami. Despite Miami contending for a title, Nunn remained a figurehead in the rotation. With the Heat opting to pursue Kyle Lowry and retaining Duncan Robinson, Nunn became a cap casualty as Miami pulled the qualifying offer, allowing him to join the Lakers on a discount as an unrestricted free agent.
“It’s an honor to be in this position, to put on an LA Lakers jersey,” he said. “It’s a powerhouse franchise. It means everything, it means a lot to represent this city. Obviously, I’m a kid from Chicago, the South Side of Chicago, but I love L.A., and I want to represent them as well as I can.”
For a team with the cap restrictions the Lakers had coming into the offseason, the key for a successful season is having players outperform their contracts. Nunn’s enthusiasm to be in Los Angeles and his willingness to sacrifice on and off the court already has him primed for a big season in the purple and gold.