Tyler Herro had an incredible rookie season for the Miami Heat, playing his way up to being a key player in the NBA playoffs.
The chip Tyler Herro carried on his shoulder this season, his first in the NBA, seemed to be as long as his wingspan. That very wingspan was one of many factors that led many basketball fans, including this writer, to question how much upside the Kentucky guard had and wonder if the Miami Heat made a mistake by drafting him 13th overall in the 2019 draft.
By the end of his first season, Herro extinguished the doubts about how good he can be. He was named to the All-Rookie Second Team but left the season as one of the most impressive rookies due to his stellar performance in the Orlando bubble as he helped propel his Miami Heat to the NBA Finals. His 17.3 points per game ranked fourth among rookies and his 3.8 assists and 2.1 made triples each ranked third. No other neophyte ranked in the top five in all three categories.
Similarly, no other rookie could match Herro’s production in the playoffs. His 16.0 points, 3.7 assists and 2.3 triples all topped every other rookie, a fact made more impressive considering he played the most games of any rookie.
Even among all players, Tyler Herro produced well. As the youngest player in the Eastern Conference Finals, he averaged the sixth-most points at 19.2 per game. He shot 52.3 percent from the field, 34.9 percent from deep and added 6.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game, which ranked second and third most on the Heat.
Herro’s masterstroke performance from Game 4 of that series served as the nail in the coffin that laid any doubts about his talent to rest. Against a stout defensive team in the Boston Celtics, who feature All-Defensive First Team guard Marcus Smart, Herro unleashed a barrage of buckets that the NBA hasn’t seen from anyone as young as him since Magic Johnson.
At the end of the Miami victory, Herro had tallied 37 points on 14-of-21 shooting – including 5-of-10 on 3-pointers – and added six rebounds and three assists. 17 of his points, including this deep off-the-dribble 3-pointer over Smart, came in the fourth quarter of a closely decided contest.
Tyler Herro made about as good of a first impression as a player can in his premiere season. His scoring abilities already makes him a good player, especially because the heightened intensity of the postseason doesn’t shake him. But how much more room does he have to grow? Can he become a star?
It’s important to note that player improvement is not always a linear path. Especially since the NBA calendar is wonkier than ever, it’s less predictable to guess whose games will rise, fall or stagnate. Recent reports suggest that the NBA could be back by Christmastime, leaving just over two months for the offseason.
Fortunately, Herro already showed a great deal of improvement once the NBA restarted in Disney World. His numbers improved across the board with his playmaking in particular looking better. His pre-bubble turnover-to-assist ratio of 1.26 ballooned to 2.00 in the eight seeding games.
Herro continuing to improve as a playmaker would allow him, and the Miami Heat, to punish defenses further. Already, he can make good reads quickly. Here, Miami uses two screens to give him a head start on his dribble. Giannis Antetokounmpo steps up to Herro because he respects his shot, leaving Bam Adebayo open in the paint. Herro places the pass perfectly over the Defensive Player of the Year.
Although he’s shown flashes of brilliance, Herro has plenty of progress to make before he can don the label of a star. Continuing to develop as a playmaker and improving his scoring efficiency are the most notable ways to improve but there are areas of his game that need to be tightened up.
For one, Herro can also improve his shot selection. He’s prone to being an antsy shooter, just looking to get shots up without establishing any rhythm. Sometimes, he isn’t fully aware of where he is on the court, which leads to shots with a foot on the 3-point line.
Herro’s defense needs work, too. At the moment, he’s not a bad defender, which is promising for a skinny 20-year-old guard. But he’s not a strong defender, either.
He has a habit of closing out on shooters too haphazardly. He doesn’t decelerate well, and it results in him flying by the shooter with a hand up. The result is a clean look at the hoop. Watch as he jumps right by the shooter in the corner.
The trajectory for stardom isn’t too far for Herro considering he was drafted to a nearly perfect situation to tap into his potential. Miami has a knack for player development and the roster in place offers tons of benefits for the young shooting guard.
Herro can lean on all-stars Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo and take advantage of the attention they draw from defenses. Miami’s collection of 3-point shooters give Herro space to operate and their defensive-minded veterans can guide him. A genius head coach in Erik Spoelstra coordinates both ends of the ball with spectacular discipline and selflessness, displaying an ability to get the most out of nearly every player graced by his team’s culture.
Miami offers itself as a state-of-the-art incubation system for Herro to grow. While he might not be as big of a focal point as other budding stars are within his team, Miami’s infrastructure rewards tenacity and confidence, which Herro boats plenty of.
He might not have been able to post the absolute best numbers of the rookie class – even though they are clearly up there – but Herro worked his way up to being one of the key players on a conference champion. He closed out games and hit big shot after big shot, stepping into a huge role for any player, let alone a 20-year-old.
The fact that Tyler Herro played better in the playoffs than he did for most of the regular season is incredible. It suggests that he already has the mentality of a big-time player. If his abilities match, the Miami Heat will have itself another homegrown star from Kentucky to build around.