Evaluating Tyler Herro’s Impact as a Primary Creator

Insight4 weeks ago19 min readJohn Jablonka

The Tyler Herro conversation. The conversation surrounding Herro has to be the most polarizing out of any player on the Miami Heat.

If you pick a fan randomly, they may say he’s a star that belongs in the same conversation as Trae Young or Luka Doncic and should be the guy on the team. Or you might get an answer that they’re a solid all-star caliber player that’s best suited to be playing off the ball, and leave it at that. Both answers depend on a number of factors.

A lot of it does depend on what you’re trying to argue in the first place. Are you considering their potential? What role are they in? What are their expectations? A player can look entirely different if you’re expecting them to be LeBron James or Justise Winslow.

To make matters more difficult, the team’s context surrounding him matters just as much. Who else is on the team? What their scheme is? and what their goals and expectations matter a lot in how you should view a player.

Now, to clarify going forward, this piece isn’t a projection. I don’t consider his contract, his potential, or anything beyond this season alone — he could end up being better than Michael Jordan but that doesn’t change anything for me in 2023. Secondly, I’m coming from a team perspective. The team’s goals and expectations for this season come first. Their expectation is to be a contender — whether that expectation is valid or not is a different conversation — so, everything surrounding Herro considers their goal and needs.

With that said, that’s why the conversation surrounding Herro amongst fans wildly differs where it’s not clear cut as to decide how he should be used going forward this season.

Some will argue that he needs to have more on-ball reps, more responsibilities, have the keys to the offense, and be the guy they run the offense around. And it’s easy to see why that might be the case — in December, he averaged 24.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, 5.1 assists on 61.9% true shooting, including 42.6% on 9.9 3-pointers.

He has taken another leap this season across the board. He increased his scoring, assists, rebounding, more 3s on the same volume, more efficient from 2, more efficient from the free throw line, more efficient all around, and his decision-making, in general, has got better. There is a clear difference between the player he was last year compared to him now.

At the same time though, despite that improvement and the wild December he just had — including dropping 76 points across two games — I don’t think his play translates to efficient offense and I wouldn’t say that’s where he gives the most impact on offense yet. All of his high-scoring games, especially the games in Oklahoma City and Houston, actually make me believe that his impact on offense is still better for this team when he’s off the ball.

That’s not to say what he’s done and the improvement he’s shown is anything but impressive. This is all relative to what the Heat would need to contend. If Herro was putting up these numbers and improved the way he has on a team like the Orlando Magic, it wouldn’t matter at all whether it has translated to efficient offense because development is what you’re looking for.

The fact is, right now, his impact as a lead guard or even as a second option isn’t good enough for a team that’s expecting to contend.

He’s in a weird place where he’s too good to be boxed into an off-ball role given his skillset on many playoff-caliber teams, but he’s also not on a good enough level as a lead guard on a contending team. His stats differ significantly when comparing him to off-ball guards, secondary ball handlers, primary ball handlers, and shot creators.

At this stage of his career, his best games and the ones that have the most impact comes as an off-ball guard or a secondary ball handler.

So, let’s go through some of the ways he impacts the game well and areas that are holding him back from being what the Heat need this year.

Marksman

His best skill, without a doubt, is his 3pt shooting and that’s where he has the most impact whether it’s on or off the ball. He came into the league as a shooter and damn, he’s a shooter-shooter. It doesn’t matter who he’s compared to, he’s an elite shooter in the league — there are only a handful of players that are on his level or better.

Per BBall-Index, here are some of his 3pt shooting metrics compared to off-ball guards/primary ball-handlers/shot creators

  • 96th/89th/87th percentile in 3pt shooting talent
  • 98th/92nd/96th in 3pt pull-up talent

There are only three other players — Tyrese Haliburton, Donovan Mitchell, and Stephen Curry — that are ranked in the same percentile or higher in 3pt pull-up, 3pt catch-and-shoot, and overall 3pt talent.

His volume per game has been gradually increasing each year:

  • 5.4 → 5.5 → 6.7 → 8.4

It’s not just the raw attempts that have been going up; it’s his 3pt rate.

  • 47.2% → 42.5% → 39.1% → 50.2%

His shot diet was over 40% from beyond the arc in three of his four seasons. Last year, that dropped to 39%, which was the reason for his lower efficiency — he was taking too many long 2s. That changed this year, as he went down from 12.3% of his shots coming from 16ft-3pt to 8.9%. That may seem like a small decrease, but you’re trading 2s for 3s and on higher efficiency. That’s the ideal range you want.

The biggest change has been how he gets these 3s. In the first two seasons of his career, over half of his 3s were catch-and-shoot, but that has flipped now:

Herro transitioning into also being a pull-up threat makes him an even deadlier shooter. This gives him more options. It gives him versatility as a shooter. He can be a dribble-hand-off guy, a spot-up shooter, or by creating his own shot on a pull-up.

Although the C&S efficiency is down, he’s still an elite spot-up shooter and that’s key with a player like Jimmy Butler or even Bam Adebayo drawing the defense in the paint for plays like these:

It’s this shooting that makes him a dangerous off-ball player and able to fit with practically any team, scheme, or player. That’s also another thing he should do more of. He should embrace playing more off-ball.

Per BBI, here are his percentiles over the past four seasons in movement attack rate percentage, which measures the percentage of a player’s first chance half-court scoring possessions spent either cutting or in an off-screen action:

  • 2023: 31st percentile
  • 2022: 40th
  • 2021: 54th
  • 2020: 54th

As good as he is as a shooter, he isn’t involved in as many off-ball actions as he should. What’s funny is in December over 68% of his 3s were assisted!

Whereas each season, his assisted 3s have been dropping:

  • 78.4% → 72.9% → 70.9% → 58.8%

This isn’t a good trend and to have the most impact, he needs to get that number higher.

But outside of his off-ball, it’s the pull-ups this year where he also brought a lot of value. That’s because with his ball-handling duties and more pick-and-rolls, he can do t.his against a drop all day long:

It’s this pull-up threat where he’s able to draw the defense as a lead guard. This is where he’s able to make something happen. It forces the defense to go over and have the defensive big stepping up, which can open other windows.

At the end of the day, there’s a ceiling on how much you can pressure the defense off shooting alone (unless your name is Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, or maybe even Damian Lillard). That’s where his impact levels off when compared to other lead guards and shot creators.

And that’s mainly because of three things — lack of rim pressure, inability to break down defenses off the dribble, and being able to consistently beat multiple PnR coverages.

Lack of Rim Pressure

His lack of rim pressure is one of the main things that prevent him from being able to have an impact as a lead guard. A player that has the offense run through him needs to create easy looks constantly to force the defense to react — and those easy looks come at the rim.

This has been my main criticism of Adebayo’s role as a creator, too. It’s very, very unlikely to have a high offensive impact without generating many shots at the rim — again unless your name is Durant, Chris Paul, or Curry, but they are the outliers, not only this season but throughout many seasons.

What’s encouraging is his ability to get to the rim has improved each season and there is no issue with his finishing ability — once he gets to the rim, he can finish well:

But as good as that has been, it’s not on the level you’d expect from a primary ball handler.

His finishing numbers can either be looked at as elite or well below average depending on the role. When you compare him against off-ball guards, it’s clear he’s beyond that — it doesn’t make sense to compare him to those players:

  • 93rd percentile in drives per 75 possessions
  • 57th in unassisted rim FGA per 75
  • 82nd in rim shot creation
  • 96th in rim shot making
  • 96th in finishing talent

Even amongst secondary ball handlers he grades out pretty damn good — ranking in the 85th percentile in finishing talent.

It’s only when you compare him to the role of other ball handlers and shot creators that you see that the volume and the impact aren’t the same. Compared to 70 primary ball handlers and shot creators with at least 500+ minutes:

  • 27th percentile in rim shot creation
  • 73rd in rim shot making
  • 13th in unassisted rim FGA per 75

It’s tough to have a significant impact as a primary creator and be asked to run an efficient offense without generating easy looks consistently. That also wouldn’t be as big of an issue if he was able to break down the defense one-on-one.

Isolation

This is another area that if you want to have a high impact on the ball, you need to be able to do consistently. But with this, the volume isn’t that important. You don’t have to run a lot of isolations to be a threat to score on your own, but you do need to be a threat regardless.

If you’re unable to do that or you require more help to either get a shot off or simply get to your spots, then it’s much easier to take the player out of the game — you can take them out by playing more aggressively, press, or simply switch every screen.

Unfortunately, this has been his weakest area, even when it comes to improvement. In every other area, you can see constant growth year over year and throughout the season.

When compared to rotations shot creators:

  • 6th percentile in ISO per 75 possessions
  • 6th in ISO eFG%
  • 3rd in ISO points per possession
  • 29th in overall shot creation
  • 12th in one-on-one talent

And when you look at the shot profile, it’s even more yikes:

  • 7/19 at the rim
  • 7/18 in the short-mid
  • 3/9 in the long mid
  • 3/11 above the break 3

There isn’t a single area of the court where he can get a bucket on his own — and most of the time, he settles for those tougher shots:

His stats also don’t tell the whole story. As you can see he doesn’t rank high when it comes to volume, but that’s misleading in a way. He technically doesn’t have many possessions in isolation because he doesn’t attempt a shot, draw a foul, or commit a turnover. He does, however, get the ball with the intention to do so:

There are many possessions like these where he does wave someone off and drains a clock to try and get a shot off, but can’t create the space.

This not only drains the clock but it hurts his pick-and-roll game, as it makes him less versatile.

Pick-and-Roll Game

This area has been the biggest improvement he’s made in his career so far — everything from volume, efficiency, versatility, passing, and scoring. Just look at the growth in volume and efficiency:

As mentioned earlier, because of his threat as a pull-up shooter, he does most of his damage against a drop. It’s there that he gets most of his shots. He’s shooting 26-for-67 on pull-up 3s out of a PnR and 10-for-23 in the long mid-range.

However, at times it does feel like he makes up his mind for the pull-up way before he reads the defense. These shots feel pre-determined and it doesn’t matter if there is an open man or a better shot to take:

When he’s not going for a pull-up, he does manage to get inside the paint for a floater:

Though earlier in the season, I felt this was him settling for that shot because he couldn’t get further into the paint. Now, however, it seems he’s quite comfortable around that area and has looked like the go-to move that he seeks out. You combine that with his improved ability to put the defense in jail and make a read off that, and now it’s effective:

And it’s not just scoring that he can do out of a PnR. He has developed his passing significantly this season alone. His most common read is a pocket pass to the roller.

It’s a simple read but it’s not that easy to make these reads consistently and quickly. Some of these passing windows may disappear before you even realize it. That’s why his processing speed on making that read makes these actions better.

Similar to the pull-up, these reads also feel pre-determined. He does make them fast because he’s looking only for those reads. At times you can see that he doesn’t even realize what’s happening around him or what the defense is doing.

But the growth is there. He has been attempting other reads with great accuracy — the only issue now is the volume. It’s these skip passes that he needs to make part of his PnR game more. It’s him keeping the dribble, seeing what the low man does, and then making whatever the correct read is:

As you can tell, though, these are all actions against a defense in a drop. These aren’t aggressive PnR coverages and have the defensive big dropping into the paint. This is where, although he ranks high in terms of efficiency out of a PnR, I wouldn’t call him one of the best PnR players.

Whenever the defense adjusts their coverage to a more aggressive one — whether it’s a soft/hard show, blitz, or a straight-up double — that’s where he struggles at the moment. And that was the biggest area of weakness in the series against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Any action involving Herro can be neutralized with a more aggressive defense:

There are many areas of improvement here, too. He picks up the dribble too early, isn’t able to process where the open man is quickly, or can’t go around it and beat it. He doesn’t yet have the seamless switch to score himself and at the same time make reads for others whether it’s to a roll or a skip pass.

There haven’t been many counters developed to that either. One of his main counters is recognizing where the big is and being able to reject the screen:

The issue here, though, is because he can’t get to the rim consistently, he settles for those stepback long 2s. Before anyone comments, that isn’t necessarily a bad shot in itself, but it is a bad offense if it’s at this volume and it makes up the majority of the shots.

Another counter when the defense decides to switch is a pull-up 3:

This is a pre-determined read as a LeBron James’ 3 when he spins the ball and looks at it. If the space isn’t there he picks up the dribble and passes it off.

Now, that’s not faulting him at all. To be able to beat multiple coverages and have counters to your counters is elite of the elite. You don’t see many players in the league doing that, so that’s one hell of a high standard to try to meet.

But even compared to a lower standard, I don’t think I’ve seen enough to make me think there’s been legitimate consistent growth in that area this year.

And this matters if you’re going to have more on-ball responsibilities and have more PnRs run through you. You can’t be a single coverage merchant. This makes your play highly predictable and easy to take out. That’s what pushes you from a secondary option to a primary option, and it’s what’s going to be needed if the Heat want to succeed in the playoffs.

Wrapping Up

So, Herro has made tremendous growth since coming into the league. A high lottery pick meant to be a shooter developing into this. If we’re simply looking at his development as a player and not looking at any team context around him, it’s hard to say he hasn’t done enough to prove he deserved that contract extension.

In each year, he improved his finishing stats across the board. His passing and creating for others is leaps beyond what he’s shown in his first attempt as the team’s starting point guard. And his PnR game has improved significantly in every area.

But when looking at it from the team’s point of view and their needs and expectations, it’s clear that he doesn’t have the skill set to be effective in that role and have that impact as a primary creator.

That’s the main difference here. As a second or third option, where he doesn’t have the burden to be the team’s creator, he not only meets those expectations but exceeds the hell out of them. Your team is in a damn good place if he’s your third option on offense.

If you’re asking him to be your first or at least share the responsibilities evenly, that’s where you over-exert him and don’t get the same impact.

He doesn’t provide consistent rim pressure at even an average volume, can’t beat multiple PnR coverages, create his own shot in isolation, and hasn’t been able to master the balance between creating for himself and others.

Now, that wouldn’t be the issue or even the expectation if he was on a lesser team. Take Tyrese Haliburton — you switch them and my entire point of view changes on Herro. That’s because the player’s growth and development are the priority over winning.

Whereas on a contending team, he impacts the game more off the ball. He literally had the best month of his career on all accounts and that came mostly as an off-ball scorer. He was second in 3s made in December and the biggest change was over two-thirds of his 3s were assisted.

Regardless, this is still a good place to be, especially in the long term. This may not pan out well when it comes to the team’s goal of contending, but at least you have a guard that has not only shown flashes but consistent growth and there shouldn’t be any worry about his potential.