Welcome to our annual Lakers season in review series, where we’ll be taking a look back at every player on the team’s roster this season, evaluating their play, and deciding if they should be a part of the organization’s future. Today, we take a closer look at Kendrick Nunn.
How did he play?
Let’s take a look at Kendrick Nunn’s total statistics for the regular season. Examine them, review them, and come up with our own conclusions about how he played. I’ll explain what I think about his season afterward, but after all, I’m just another blog boy on a keyboard... your analysis might be just as good as mine!
0 points, 0 rebounds, 0 assists, 0 steals, 0 blocks, 82 great outfits (I am not a fashion blogger I am just trying to be a little nice, and his fits were pretty great in my opinion)
In a Lakers campaign full of disastrous individual seasons combining for one catastrophic mess, none were as ineffective as Nunn’s. That’s because he literally never saw the court during the regular season due to a bone bruise in his right knee that came about after he initially missed the end of the preseason and the beginning of the season with a right ankle sprain.
Here’s an approximate timeline of the injury updates we received throughout the season regarding Nunn’s attempts to return to the court after only playing in the team’s first four of six preseason games:
- Oct. 11: The Lakers list Kendrick Nunn on their injury report with a right ankle sprain.
- Oct 21: Nunn’s right ankle sprain turns into a right knee bone bruise. The team announces he will be re-evaluated in 2-3 weeks.
- Nov. 15: After three weeks had passed, Frank Vogel indicated that Nunn was “still a ways away” and that he didn’t have a “specific update” on his injury.
- Nov. 29: ESPN’s Dave McMenamin and Zach Lowe indicate they’ve heard Nunn is “not close” to returning.
- Dec. 6: Frank Vogel says it’s unlikely Nunn will play in 2021, setting January 2022 as the earliest he will make his debut. A Shams Charania report a week later says the same.
- Dec. 17: There’s no indication this impacted his rehab, but adding illness to injury, Nunn hits COVID-19 health and safety protocols on a road trip following Austin Reaves’ game-winner in Dallas that turned out to be a bit of a super-spreader event for the team.
- Jan. 18: A series of positive updates regarding Nunn’s return come in early January before Jan. 18 comes around with news that he’s suffered a setback and that he’s been “pulled back from his workload until it calms down,” according to Vogel.
- Feb. 7-10: Just like in November, Vogel indicates Nunn is “not close” to returning on Feb. 7. The next day, Vogel indicates Nunn will not be coming back until March at the earliest with Rob Pelinka making it “late March” just a couple of days later.
- Feb. 25: Vogel says Nunn has begun ramping up again.
- Mar. 18: Vogel says there is no update on Nunn.
- Mar. 29: During the TNT broadcast of the Lakers’ game against the Mavericks, Chris Haynes indicates that Nunn “is expected to sit out the remainder of the season to continue rehabbing.”
What is his contract situation moving forward?
The Lakers signed Kendrick Nunn in the 2021 offseason using their taxpayer mid-level exception, giving Nunn a two-year, approximately $10 million deal with a player option for the 2022-23 season.
And guess what, Nunn erased what little speculation could be had for someone taking a player option after missing all 82 games in the preceding season by saying the decision to opt-in would be a “no-brainer” in his exit interview. So, barring the Lakers trading him, he will be returning.
Should he be back?
Lake Show I promise I want to be out there helping my team. Stay patient with me. This process has been just as frustrating for me. I’ll return as soon as I’m healthy! It’ll be worth the wait— Kendrick Nunn (@nunnbetter_) January 21, 2022
I actually think the Lakers should want Nunn back, and even more than that, I think he could end up being an extremely impactful player for the team next season if they have real championship aspirations.
Lakers fans may scoff at that idea after his season from hell left a terrible taste in their mouths, with the team’s fifth-highest-paid player playing zero minutes, but just think about how this offseason may shake out.
No matter what you think of Russell Westbrook, his probable departure this season will leave a lot of ballhandling and scoring opportunities available (depending on what types of players come to the Lakers in a possible trade). As for Malik Monk, it may be a battle for the Lakers to retain him this season, as he will almost certainly command a contract larger than the veteran’s minimum one he played on this year.
If those two players leave, Nunn could build off a productive offseason (he indicated in his exit interview that he was feeling healthy) and become a low-cost version of the highly-talented playmaker that the team has seemingly desired during LeBron’s entire time with the team. That role for Nunn would be even more necessary if the Lakers finally end up dealing Talen Horton-Tucker and his $10.2 million contract in a trade this offseason.
Also, B-Ball Index indicates that he’s no slouch when it comes to point-of-attack defense either, an area the Lakers could have definitely used some help in this season. Below are the site’s evaluated top talent areas for Nunn during the 2020-21 season, which he spent in Miami with the Heat.
However, Nunn could also be included in that theoretical THT trade. Given the fact that THT and Nunn have the highest-valued contracts (aside from Westbrook) that would realistically* be used in an offseason trade, it reasons to believe that Nunn would certainly be paired with THT (as well as a pick or two) if the Lakers found a wing-type player that could help them.
(*I’m not here to entertain the idea of the Lakers trading LeBron James or Anthony Davis. Those ideas can stay in unhinged Twitter discussions where they belong)
Sure, teams wouldn’t be clamoring for a guy coming off a mysterious bone bruise injury, but the Lakers would definitely want to include him to get a higher-paid, more-talented player than what they could get with solely dealing THT. And if that trade partner values THT enough to do said trade, why not take Nunn as a potentially high-upside cherry on top of the sundae?
That type of deal being theoretically on the table will leave continued doubt about if we will ever see Nunn play a regular-season game in a Lakers uniform. However, if he does finally play with the team... we could end up having much more rosy thoughts about him at the end of the 2022-23 season than we did after this one, depending on how the rest of the team’s offseason goes.