When Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra lays eyes on 24-year-old point guard Kendrick Nunn, he sees both the future of this franchise and mirror images of its past success with underrated and overlooked hoopers.
"There's a long lineage of nondrafted Miami Heat players who have come through our player development program and he's the next notable one," Spoelstra said at training camp.
The Heat have mined the undrafted ranks to find a franchise legend in Udonis Haslem, a $50 million man in Tyler Johnson, a 13-year veteran turned assistant coach in Anthony Carter, a starting swingman in Rodney McGruder, just to name a few.
Now, Nunn looks like the latest to slip through the cracks and into this basketball factory in South Beach.
"It helps a lot that they embraced those guys, the undrafted guys, the underdog guys," Nunn told Heat Maven. "That just gives me a lot of confidence just to keep going."
Not that Nunn needed any extra confidence, of course.
His high school jersey was retired alongside the likes of Jabari Parker and Derrick Rose at Chicago's famed Simeon Career Academy. During Nunn's senior season at Oakland University, he led the country with 4.5 threes per game and trailed only Trae Young in scoring at 25.9 points per night.
Last season, before the Heat smartly snatched him up on the campaign's final day, he provided the G League's Santa Cruz Warriors with 19.3 points and 1.7 triples per outing. This summer, his 21.0 points per game were the third-most of any player with four-plus appearances in Las Vegas, and his 6.3 assists were third overall.
"I thought he could've been named MVP [in] Vegas, he played that well," Spoelstra said. "I would love to do that for one week like he did."
Nunn has a maturity to him that defies his age and lack of NBA experience.
On the court, he's relentless. Pat Riley dubbed him "a German Sheppard." Nunn, who eagerly embraces his K9 nickname, noted, "You know what those dogs are about."
He plays like he was built in the same laboratory that created #HeatCulture. He grinds on both ends of the floor, flashes three-level scoring ability and shows substantial improvement as a playmaker.
"[He's a] hard-nosed guy," Jimmy Butler said. "[He] can score the ball, can pass, can defend and he plays so damn hard, you gotta respect it. He's what the Heat are about."
Off the court, Nunn has a quiet confidence that reads so cool he can make you forget he's fighting for his professional life. While he seems near certain to make Miami's regular season roster, he still has only $150,000 of his $1.4 million salary guaranteed until opening night. And if he makes the roster, he could still be looking up at both Goran Dragic and Justise Winslow on the point guard depth chart.
But Nunn's attitude, approach and ability all mesh with the way Miami conducts business. His three-ball could alleviate some pressure on an offense that might be short on shooting. His defense could be needed to silence opposing spark plugs. His steady hand atop the attack could keep things humming when the Heat's top guns need a breather.
That's a long-winded way of saying the Heat might need Nunn more than people realize. And if they do, he's ready to seize the opportunity.
"I know I've been ready for this moment," Nunn said. "I've been working hard and getting prepared for the moment. ... I'm definitely confident. I'm confident enough to contribute. I believe I'm ready."