Leap of Faith: Tyler Herro’s Early Season Emergence Is Wondrous

Commentarylast month5 min readJuan Carlos Pardiño

Despite the Heat’s unpleasant 1-3 start, it’s been difficult not to enjoy the growth of Tyler Herro’s game. The tape and numbers show he’s made leaps as a pick-and-roll hub and an isolation scorer on the offensive end. Perhaps more importantly, he seems much more stout when isolated against wings on the defensive end.

Second Spectrum currently has Tyler Herro in the 93rd percentile among all pick-and-roll scorers, notching 1.22 points per pick-and-roll possession and coming in right behind Steph Curry (1.23 PPP). What’s more encouraging is that he’s averaging a respectable 6.5 possessions as a pick-and-roll handler per game. This has him nestled snugly in a tier between some of the highest-usage players in the league like Luka Doncic and Curry and some of the elite second fiddles in the league like Jaylen Brown.

The clips below demonstrate how Herro feels more at ease operating in the pick-and-roll. He’s probing more patiently and using his body to create space. He’s seeing the floor well and remaining calm against aggressive coverages. His process, simply put, is much smoother.

And Herro has not always needed a screen to jar loose from his man during these first few games. Though the sample size is small, InStat has Herro generating 1.18 PPP in isolation through his first four games of the season. Again, the tape reveals that this isn’t just tough shot-making from Herro.

Rather, he’s getting around long wings, stopping and popping after getting his man off balance with his handle, and attacking his opponent’s top foot. Early in the season, he appears to be delivering on his promise that he’d fortify his ability to attack without a screen.

Add to all this that Herro is supplying higher quality rim pressure than he ever has in his career, and I believe what the Heat have on their hands is a quality offensive hub who’s coming into his own.

On 10.3 drives per game, Herro is putting up 5.8 field goal attempts (FGA), shooting 60.9 percent from the field, and drawing 2 free-throw attempts (FTA) per game. Compare this to his breakout Sixth Man of the Year campaign last season, in which, on more drives per game (11.8), he averaged fewer FGA (5.5), shot significantly worse (45.5 percent), and drew fewer FTA (1.3). InStat has Herro averaging an efficient 1.19 PPP on 2.7 catch-and-drives per game.

A quicker first step and a greater willingness to absorb contact have no doubt contributed to the young combo guard’s improvements as a finisher.

Yet, the offensive growth isn’t all that has been on display in October. Herro has also held opposing players to a staggeringly low 0.77 PPP in isolation. Herro’s ability to defend on an island was a concern on the forefront of Heat fans’ minds when they heard the news that he would be taking a starting role. For now, Herro has assuaged those concerns.

All of this growth in his individual repertoire may still leave one wondering, Why aren’t some of the advanced numbers tracking this individual leap?

For instance, Herro has posted a minus-13.5 net rating (per NBA.com). Diving deeper into the combinations Spoelstra has put on the floor may render some answers. The Heat’s starting 5 (Kyle Lowry, Herro, Caleb Martin, Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo) has posted a respectable plus-5 net rating. When Martin is subbed out for Strus, that unit is surviving, posting a plus-3.4 net rating.

Beyond these units, there seems to be some lineup trouble. The 5-man unit of Lowry-Herro-Butler-Strus-Dedmon has a minus-13.3 net rating in nine minutes and Lowry-Herro-Strus-Martin-Adebayo are a minus-27.8 net rating. These are the fourth- and fifth-most used lineups with Herro on the floor, and it is safe to say that they are tanking his net rating.

So, we must conclude with a caveat: Though Herro’s individual growth has been astonishing, Erik Spoelstra is still searching for the right combinations to put around him. Of course, this should not be a surprise, as Herro spent most of last season leading the bench charge but currently finds himself alongside Butler and Adebayo in the starting unit.

Based on the stats and the eye test, Herro is hitting the benchmarks he set for himself and we fans set for him. It’s now up to Coach Spoelstra to find the combinations that will both keep Herro’s potential untapped and allow the other four Heat players on the floor to flourish.