On April 11th through the 14th, 64 of the best seniors of this past NCAA basketball season ventured their way to Virginia to compete in the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament (PIT). This event has been the premier NBA Draft scouting event since it started way back in 1953. Since that time, legends like Scottie Pippen, John Stockton, Earl Monroe and Tim Hardaway made a journey to Portsmouth before they started their brilliant careers in the NBA.
Although we really don’t see players of that high caliber compete in the event anymore due to the introduction of the one-and-done rule, there’s still some diamond-in-the-rough talent that compete at Portsmouth. Over the last decade, we’ve seen the likes of Robert Covington, Tyler Johnson, Jeremy Lin, Kent Bazemore and even NBA All-Star Jimmy Butler compete at Portsmouth before they made their way to the Association.
One prospect that used the event to try to join the ranks of those quality NBA players is former Oakland guard Kendrick Nunn, He arrived to the event after an incredibly strong senior season where he put up 25.9 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.5 steals on 43% from the field and 39% from beyond the arc on 11.3 perimeter attempts per game. His points per game average only trailed Oklahoma guard Trae Young as the best scoring average in the NCAA. That terrific work on the offensive end allowed him to be named to the 1st team All-Horizon League and as the Horizon League Player of the Year.
Despite competing against better competition like Brandon Goodwin, Tra Holder and Justin Bibbs, Nunn’s level of play actually improved during the PIT. In 27 minutes, he averaged 20.7 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.3 assists on 51% from the field and 43% from beyond the arc on 7.7 perimeter attempts per game. His great play at Portsmouth ultimately allowed him to be named to the PIT All-Tournament Team.
Whether he’s playing against Horizon League or PIT talent, Nunn has clearly showcased himself to be an extremely consistent offensive weapon no matter who he’s going against. Most of his stellar offensive work is due to his stellar shooting, as he’s able to combine high volume with great efficiency.
As is the case for the whole scope of basketball in 2018, most of the intrigue regarding Nunn’s work as a shooter comes from his work beyond the arc. When you watch Nunn play, one of the first things that you realize is how confident he is in his perimeter stroke.
No matter who he’s going against, Nunn seems more than willing to fire off a long-range shot from well beyond the arc after showing off his handles. While that confidence might make his coaches hair turn grey, it makes sense as his shooting stroke is smooth like butter. An example of his confidence is seen in the play below as he just casually launches up a shot a few feet behind the three-point line.
Alongside his great work as an off-the-dribble shooter, Nunn also shines in catch-and-shoot situations. Through these methods is where you really see how quick his jumper actually is as he’s able to go from catching the rock to releasing it in a blink of an eye. That quick release is largely due to how he seems to be on his tip-toes before he retrieves the ball. That small preparation allows him to quickly utilize the power in his legs when he releases the rock.
His work as an off-the-dribble shooter is also evident from inside the perimeter line, as Nunn displayed himself to be a solid mid-range shooter. Although the range is different, his technique and just flat-out confidence doesn’t change which allows him to shoot a solid 41% from shots inside the perimeter, according to Hoop-Math.
Alongside his fantastic work as a shooter, Nunn also shines as an on-ball driver. Although he won’t wow you with Kyrie Irving-like handles, a quick first step and just sheer persistance allowed him to get past most perimeter defenders. After he explodes past that initial defender is where Nunn really shines.
Through a mix of athleticism and a solid 193 pound frame, he’s able to be an efficient scorer from around the rim, as he shot 61% from around the rim, according to hoop-math. That efficiency came whether he had an open lane or he was driving into contact. An example of him driving into contact is evident in the play below as he finishes with an impressive up-and-under move.
While Nunn stood as one of the best scorers in college basketball during his senior season, I believe he actually has a ton of potential as a facilitator. From a statistical standpoint, he wasn’t too impressive as he averaged 3.7 assists per game with a 1.28 Ast/TO ratio during his senior season with Oakland. However, his potential becomes apparent when you watch him actually play as his court vision is pretty solid. Whether he’s working in transition or half-court, he does a good job of quickly recognizing open teammates and throw precise passes.
I believe his best work is done when he’s working with a pick-and-roll partner as he displays great patience in waiting for the roll man to get open before he throws the pass. After that process takes place, he hits them with a nice chest or bounce pass. If that pass to the roll man doesn’t work, Nunn can easily sling it to an open perimeter or mid-range shooter.
His work on the other end of the court is more of a mixed bag as him standing at 6’3 means that he can only really defend point guards. Although he does work hard on that end of the court, which can lead to some steals or blocks, Nunn still has a lot of issues that he needs to work out. For example, he gets trapped way too many times in pick-and-rolls, as he struggles to determine whether he should go over or under an opposing screen.
Despite his struggles on the defensive end, I honestly believe that Kendrick Nunn stands as one of the real sleepers in this year’s NBA Draft class. His stellar perimeter shooting combined with his explosiveness as an on-ball driver allowed him to be one of the best scorers in college hoops last year. That combined with his underrated work as a facilitator makes me imagine that he’ll definitely get some significant looks from NBA teams.
Whether that comes from a team taking a flier on him with a late 2nd round pick, two-way contract or just a standard summer league invite, he’s someone that’s must-watch whenever he steps on the court.