Earlier this week, the Golden State Warriors offered one of their two-way contract spots to Damion Lee, a 6-6 wing who brings athleticism and shooting ability to Santa Cruz and Oakland. He also brings NBA experience, as he averaged 10 points a game in the final month of last season with the Atlanta Hawks. Lee is also Stephen Curry’s future brother-in-law. After signing Lee, the Warriors have one two-way contract left and it’s anyone’s guess who will receive the offer.
Before the Warriors offered Lee a two-way, fans and writers alike viewed guard Kendrick Nunn as a possibility for a two-way. He can still land a spot on Golden State, but his chances seem diminished given the Warriors already signed a guard on a two-way.
Jeremy Woo, a writer for Sports Illustrated, specializes in evaluating college prospects. Woo and I grew up in Chicago together and watched Nunn play in high school. We caught up at Summer League to discuss Nunn’s fit with the Warriors and his potential in the NBA.
“During high school, it was clear he was a high-major type talent and could score,” Woo said. “I think he’s refined his game and has become a more consistent shooter.”
Nunn’s path to the NBA
As Jabari Parker’s wingman at Simeon Career Academy, Nunn was a national top 100 prospect entering the University of Illinois in 2013. After his junior season at Illinois, he was dismissed from the team after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor battery charge.
He was required to sit out a season after transferring to Oakland University in Auburn Hills, Michigan. The Warriors took Nunn’s misdemeanor charge quite seriously and opened up about their vetting process with the Detroit Free Press last month — in short, after conversations with Nunn and those who knew him, the Warriors felt comfortable giving him a chance. On the court last year, in his senior season at Oakland, he was named Horizon League Player of the Year, averaging 25.9 points a game.
“At Oakland, everyone saw his big scoring numbers. In a smaller conference, those points will get you noticed. Teams might take a look at you, but mid-major scorers aren’t necessarily created equal,” Woo said. “As a scorer he’s definitely improved his craft. At the Portsmouth Invitational, he began to distance himself from other players.”
With players like Quinn Cook finding success on a two-way contract with the Warriors, Nunn fits the mold as a player who can hone their skills in the G-League and also be available for the NBA team. If you can score, there is likely a space for you on an NBA roster. And while it may not be for the Warriors, Kendrick Nunn can score. From the sound of it, Nunn would love to stick around in the Bay.
I asked Kendrick Nunn what he’s learned from being a part of the Warriors. He said it’s one of the best organizations in the league, then corrected himself: “THE best organization in the league” pic.twitter.com/BcJ0qrEIPU— Golden State of Mind (@unstoppablebaby) July 10, 2018
“It’s been an honor—playing for one of the best organizations in the league, the best organization in the league. I’ve had the opportunity to meet guys, and they’ve been helping me transition and giving me a lot of confidence too,” Nunn told Golden State of Mind.
Nunn’s strong summer league performance
Nunn’s Summer League run with the Warriors was a strong one for a player battling for a two-way contract. He averaged 11 points per game in Vegas, including an 18-point game against the Clippers. Before Vegas, he scored 19 in a victory against the Heat in the Sacramento Summer League. Nunn’s scoring ability cooled down after Golden State’s victory against the Clippers, but he looked calm and collected throughout Vegas in a sea of jittery players.
Willie Green, the Warriors Summer League coach, was also impressed with Nunn’s play. He noted Nunn’s work ethic and competitiveness as particular strengths.
Post game, Willie Green talked about what Kendrick Nunn brings to the team, and why his minutes were lower tonight. pic.twitter.com/H95WowbggP— Golden State of Mind (@unstoppablebaby) July 9, 2018
“Nunn offers quite a bit. He can get down hill and he’s athletic. Though he’s not really a dribble-breakdown guy, he’s become a consistent three-point shooter. He can handle the ball, and he’s pretty strong finisher around the basket,” said Woo. Nunn showcased those skills in Las Vegas.
Woo and I talked before the Warriors signed Lee to a two-way, but his assessment of Nunn extends beyond the Warriors. If Golden State chooses to sign a big man for their other two-way, Kendrick Nunn is an option for other teams. Yet Santa Cruz would be a unique landing spot for a two-way contract.
“The Warriors really value Santa Cruz as a development program. I’ll don’t know if he’ll [Nunn] be able to contribute next year, but I could see them keeping him around as someone on deck if there’s an injury or if they need an extra scorer — someone who is worth having the exclusive rights for,” said Woo. “I think he’s shown enough to deserve that. The scoring ability and his toughness will definitely help him moving forward.”