27 September 2020

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Top 15 Duos in 10 Years: #11 – Adebayo/Nunn

The opening of the 2019-20 NBA season marked a change of balance in the league. Many superstars left their prior teams to strategically pair with other stars in the league. With this, the era of superteams concluded and was replaced with the era of power duos. 

Richard Mackson – USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

Most fans and media will focus on the popular pairs in the league – some examples include Lebron and Davis, Kawhi and George, and Irving and Durant. But over the last couple of years, many teams in the rebuilding process still utilize the duo method. There has been an abundance of young talent entering the league, and these young players join teams with similar young talent. As a result, many young, developing teammates have proven to succeed off each other and experience maximum production when on the court together. This begs the question, which teams will contain the most effective duos when these young players hit their prime?

This article continues a series counting down the top 15 duos in the year 2030 (10 years from today). Each article is categorized through tiers; this post addresses tier 4 – Promising All-Star Duo. Tiers are classified as followed:

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Tier 1 = #1 – #3: Established Superstar Duo

Tier 2 = #4 – #6: Promising Superstar Duo

Tier 3 = #7 – #9: Established All-Star Duo

Tier 4 = #10 – #12: Promising All-Star Duo

Tier 5 = #13 – #15: High-Quality Teammates

Before starting, we must define some terms. Although improbable in reality, this list assumes every player will stay with their current organization in theory. The success of each duo is based on the ability of each teammate to approximately produce at an equal rate. Moreover, each player of the pair must generate production through each other. Lastly, the team should show success when both players share the floor together.

11) Bam Adebayo and Kendrick Nunn – Miami Heat

Last year, the Miami Heat was a struggling franchise who finished 10th in the Eastern Conference. They suffered from the inconsistencies of Richardson, Whiteside and Wade, and they didn’t have a go-to player who they could rely on for production. Specifically, while no one could replace what Wade did for the team and city of Miami over his career, there’s no denial that Wade’s presence held the franchise back by being compelled to hold on to him.

But after D-Wade retired at the end of last season, GM Andy Elisburg was able to undergo a new, fresh vision for the future of the franchise. He made a myriad of talent acquisitions in response to losing the future Hall-of-Famer, the most significant action being the involvement in the blockbuster 4-team trade with Philly, Portland, and the L.A. Clippers. In the deal, Miami gained centerpiece Jimmy Butler from Philly while getting rid of center Hassan Whiteside to Portland. This is meaningful as the clearing of Whiteside meant full opportunity, exposure, and confidence in Miami’s new center, Bam Adebayo.

Jasen Vinlove – USA TODAY Sports

In his first 2 seasons with Miami, Bam showed signs of potential but was often held back as his minutes were often shadowed by Whiteside. But after Hassan left over the summer, Bam was hopeful to prove himself with steady playing time and a more polished role. Fast forward to today, and any NBA fan would know how well he used his opportunity. 

He is averaging 16 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 assists per game while putting up a steal and block in as well. For his position, he is ranked 2nd in assists, 5th in steals, and 5th in blocks. He is also ranked 3rd in rebounds for his position, and 8th in rebounds within the entire league. And to top it off, he is shooting 57% from the field, completing one of the most unique statlines seen in the NBA today.

While his statistics show how well he is already, his multitude of mental and physical attributes show how much better he could evolve into the future. 

Bam has 3 main attributes that he uses to punish opponents in an abundance of manners – these attributes are intelligence, athleticism, and strength. On both sides of the ball, we can use characteristic examination to analyze his potential.

Offense

  • Intelligence – 
    • Demonstrates high IQ
      • Can read the defense 
      • Recognizes switches
    • Ball-Handling
      • Strong passing accuracy and vision
      • Forces big men out of the paint – vulnerable situation
      • Can make plays, run point guard as needed
  • Athleticism –
    • Great speed to beat defenders off the dribble
    • Exceptional finishing ability – puts spin and draws angles
    • Polished feetwork
  • Strength –
    • Strong enough to muscle it in the paint – low post
    • Sets tough screens to exhaust defenders and free up teammates

Defense

  • Intelligence – 
    • Demonstrates high IQ
      • Poised decision-making
      • Accurate anticipations and interpretations
      • Mental agility when rebounding
  • Athleticism
    • Outstanding lateral quickness – moves his feet well to stay with opponent
    • Fantastic vertical ability – can block or alter shots in paint or perimeter
    • Great acceleration to act as help defense – can move into position to defend others, as well as chase-down opportunities 
    • Tremendous timing when rebounding
  • Strength
    • Has physical durability to defend big men down low – good interior presence
    • Has physicality to switch to center when needed
    • Has physical tenacity to establish good rebounding position and boxing out

Given these 3 attributes, it is clear that Bam has an array of plays in his arsenal. He has shown cultured defense guarding all 5 positions at a young age, and he has expressed offensive similarities to superstars like Nikola Jokic and Draymond Green. 

Not only is this combination of skill rare given his inexperience in the league; but there aren’t many players in the history of basketball with these talents who play at Bam’s position. The traditional deficits of being a big man include lack of lateral quickness, inability to make plays, and athletic weakness. But Bam’s exclusive characteristics of being a guard while having the qualities and height of being a big man give him the capability to be a 2-way superstar in the near future. ***

Michael Reaves – Getty Images

There are many young teammates Bam utilizes to produce for Miami. Of these players, there is one who shows a higher ceiling of success over others – combo guard Kendrick Nunn. Unlike most rookies, Nunn has an unorthodox background.

Although Nunn went undrafted in 2018, he worked himself up from the G-League and eventually earned himself a starting spot in Miami. Through the first 5 games of his career this season, he scored 112 total points, more than any other undrafted rookie through the span in NBA history. Throughout the next 2 months, he continued to defy odds as his play earned him Rookie of the Month in November. And as the months continued into the present day, he proved to every NBA scout why he deserved to be in the NBA. 

Nunn is a multi-dimensional scorer who can shoot from anywhere on the floor. He has a quick first step and he uses his explosiveness to blow by defenders and get to his spots. Altogether he can attack the rim, create his own shot, and his 6’2 frame gives him budding defensive potential as well.

Steve Mitchell – USA TODAY Sports

Today, Bam and Nunn have already proven to succeed off each other’s production. But in 10 years, this duo has the potential to be an unstoppable one-two punch. Nunn’s ability to shoot opens up the driving and passing lanes for Bam to produce. Correspondingly, Bam’s ability to handle the ball and make plays make it easier for Nunn to shoot well-adjusted shots. 

Together, they employ different play types to utilize these hypothetical ideas in a real-game scenario, such as the dribble handoff. In this play, Bam doesn’t just simply hand it off to Nunn; because the former ball-handler is a big, Bam can double down by setting a screen after the hand-off occurs. Not only does this give more scoring options for the duo, but it puts even more stress on opposing teams to defend. In fact, this play is so successful for Miami that they run it more than any other team in the league.

This example is just one illustration of how these 2 inexperienced players have already found new techniques to succeed. And with these new approaches to success, Bam and Nunn have already put themselves as one of the most statistically productive duos in the league. Out of every possible teammate pairing in the league, the Miami duo is in the top 10 ranking for both the highest offensive and highest defensive ratings. Furthermore, the duo is 1st in the league in assist percentage, and they are 2nd in the league in assist ratio. They are also the number 1 duo for rebounding percentage as well (minimum 1500 minutes played for all).

Layne Murdoch – NBAE via Getty Images

In conclusion, these contentions show how in only their first year together, Bam and Nunn have already established a bond and built certain chemistry that can’t be revoked. And since they have their entire career to continue to evolve and flourish as a unit, this pair shows great potential to be a promising all-star duo in 10 years.

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