The Launching Pad: Are the Heat “Really” Better Without Herro

Insight3 weeks ago11 min readJohn Jablonka

So, your Miami Heat have won seven straight. Last week, they ended their week being 4-4 and tied for sixth after going on a three-game winning streak. Now, they won four more and are third in the East with an 8-4 record.

After the slow start that they had, it’s encouraging and pleasant to see this team finally win this much — the last time they won seven in a row was back in January 2018, where they were led by Goran Dragic and Tyler Johnson in scoring. What a time that was.

But this has been an interesting win streak, particularly with these last four games. Because as always, when the team does well when Tyler Herro doesn’t play, there is a big outrage on social media.

I’m in the camp where there is some validity to the whole notion that they “play” better, but not necessarily that they’re better. I don’t think I can get behind a team being better without a player who has all the skillset that fits this team perfectly. The things Herro has makes them better.

But so far through these four games and last year, playoffs, I do think it changes how they play significantly. That makes a lot of sense, though! And it’s not an indictment on Herro entirely but it does raise questions about his role on this team and what it could be to keep this kind of flow going.

So, let’s go through all of this “the Heat play better without Herro” discussion.

One of the things that have stood out is their touches and usage and how that has been distributed.

This was the touches distributions in the first seven games(I’m not counting the Memphis game because that included Herro and the team had to adjust mid-game without him)

Now, compare that to the last four games:

So, some takeaways:

  • Butler is now leading the team in touches with 70.7(but less than what Herro was doing)
  • Bam Adebayo and Kyle Lowry remain around the same but both ended up handling the ball more
  • Duncan Robinson, Jaime Jaquez Jr, and Haywood Highsmith all jump up significantly

Here are the player’s usage in their first seven games vs their last four:

  • Herro: 28.5% vs –
  • Butler: 23.3% vs 30.8%
  • Adebayo: 29.3% vs 24.7%
  • Jaquez: 16.0% vs 18.3%
  • Robinson: 18.7% vs 20.9%
  • Lowry: 9.4% vs 11.3%

There’s one very huge difference. Butler started to play basketball. To me, that’s the main reason why the Heat are playing significantly better.

I talked about their offensive issues last week and a big reason for that was when all three(Butler, Adebayo, Herro) were on, their usage was entirely different. It was Butler taking a step back. It was actually Herro leading them in usage.

That’s the difference why the offense is better and that’s not an indictment on Herro, nor is it why I think there’s validity to the Heat playing differently without him.

This was a completely different thing. We have never seen this type of usage distribution with all three on. Herro and Adebayo taking charge of the offense was new and something they couldn’t be effective in.

That was the reason the offense sucked to me,

That all changed in these last four games with Butler finally deciding to want to play basketball.

In these last four games, Butler is averaging 31.9 points per 75 possessions on 61.7% eFG and 69.1% TS with 60.5% from 2pt. He has also upped his rim frequency to 31.9% where he’s converting 66.6% there.

This has nothing to do with Herro that we don’t already know. A team where Herro ends with the most touches, handles the most, and shoots the most isn’t going to translate to efficient offense. He’s not a primary, lead guard for a reason.

His high usage with the shots diet he lives on, the lack of rim pressure, and a scoring mentality are the main reasons why the offense looked the way it did.

That’s not his fault. That’s on Butler. It’s on the best player deciding to take his time warming up to play. Obviously, that all has changed. But this still has nothing to do with Herro. Everything had to do with the players that took his minutes.

Firstly, look at Herro’s time of possession and average dribble per touch over his career:

  • 2020: 2.4 & 2.7
  • 2021: 3.2 & 3.12
  • 2022: 4.7 & 3.83
  • 2023: 4.3 & 3.20
  • 2024: 4.6 & 3.73

That’s a guard that has had the ball in his hands. Sure, it may be what the team wants and wanted to give him those reps, but it doesn’t change the fact that he has needed the ball in his hands.

Whereas, this was Robinson’s touches over the years:

A HUGE difference. Even in his leap year, he’s not handling the ball. This is the same for Jaquez. That’s the second main difference to me why this team seems to look “better” without him.

You’re removing a player that has the ball in his hands with players that really don’t need the ball in their hands. You combine that with Butler playing much better and you get a seamless offense that fits better.

You already have a ball-dominant guy that has the most impact with the ball. Taking away Herro’s touches in that role doesn’t make a big difference.

That’s why these stats look the way they do:

Okay. That’s not saying Herro is a ball hog. That’s not saying he makes the ball stick because he’s that kind of player to do so. But with how he’s been playing(might be because he’s been asked to), where he does need the ball to get his off-the-dribble shots that does change the offense a lot.

All of this has also changed the entire shot distribution for the Heat. Here are their stats in the first seven games and the last four:

  • Rim: 20.4 FGA /100(23.1% freq) vs 26.6(30.9%)
  • Short mid-range: 24.0(27.2%) vs 17.5(20.4%)
  • Long mid-range: 10.8(12.2%) vs 6.9(8.1%)
  • 3pt: 32.9(37.3%) vs 34.8(40.5%)

They went from one of the more inefficient shot diets to one of the better ones. More shots at the rim and more 3s, as well as more free throws with Butler playing better.

A lot of that has to do with both Robinson and Jaquez somehow being elite at rim pressure. Here are the team’s rim stats in the last four games:

  • Jaquez: 12/23(47.9% freq)
  • Adebayo: 14/16(26.2%)
  • Robinson: 9/16(28.1%)
  • Butler: 10/15(31.9%)


So, now you have Butler leading the team in touches(but impacting it differently that doesn’t involve over-dribbling), playing at an elite level surrounded by guys that don’t need the ball, move a lot, pass the ball a lot, that also get to the rim.

It’s no surprise that they’re playing better and that in the last four games with Butler on that they have 126.9 offense in 105 minutes(whilst shooting 57.4% from 2pt and 37.1% from 3).

But is that on Herro?

100% not. This also doesn’t show that they’re better without him because we haven’t seen Herro yet with a Butler who wants to play.

With the skillset that Herro has and how he started his career with the Heat, it’s nonsense to think they’d be better without him. However, I should add that this depends on how they integrate him back.

But there are two versions and it depends on how Butler will play because there’s a world where they try to “save” him by having him take a step-back again whilst leaning more to a Herro-oriented offense to also give him and Adebayo more reps as primary creators. But with Herro leading the team in touches, that offense will struggle again.

The other version is a team that’s around Butler again. That doesn’t necessarily mean high usage though. Here, it’s more about what type of Herro will we see.

I do think if we see a Herro that’s closer to how Robinson plays but with more usage on-ball, that would be a better fit for this team. With this team, with Butler, he should be playing like Robinson or Klay Thompson rather than a lead guard. The only question is, would he?

But then again, everything depends and starts with Butler. He’s the one that will dictate everything and everything else will follow. If they want to save Butler because the season is a grind, then get ready for offensive struggles again. If they remain with this route(though limited at times), then Herro needs to adapt to this style of play, which I don’t think it’s a wild thing to expect.

Things That Caught My Eye

On the topic of the whole offense flowing better. This was apparent in the game against the Brooklyn Nets.

I loved the lineup with Adebayo, Jaquez Jr, Robinson, Caleb Martin, and Josh Richardson on offense. That’s the type of offense that was flowing and they were getting a bunch of different looks.

It’s a bunch of cuts, drawing defenses inside, kick-outs, and a whole lot of ball movement.

Surprisingly(actually, is it surprising at this point), a lot of the offense started flowing because of a Robinson-Adebayo action.

In the second clip, it’s a side PNR. Duncan immediately drives baseline, forces help, and finds Jaquez cutting. In the third clip, it’s a DHO with him curling to the paint as Martin relocates to the corner for 3.

My favorite is the clip at the 30s mark. They flow into a Robinson-Adebayo DHO. He again looks to quickly attack. Jaquez with a smart cut along the baseline. Robinson finds him open as Cam Johnson is busy defending his drive. That cut forces weakside help, which opens up a pass to Martin in the corner. That again forces rotation. Richardson lifts up, which forces another help. Now, that opens a kick to Robinson — just beautiful basketball.

This is the kind of offense I want to see with Herro. There’s no Butler in those lineups, so it’s not just playing off of him. There’s no reason that offense can’t happen with Herro and Adebayo, with that type of movement — though a lot of those possessions started with rim pressure, which hasn’t been the case at all with Herro running actions.

Did you know that Robinson has one make less at the rim than Herro in these four games and in 130 fewer minutes?

However, the offense wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows:

There have still been plenty of stretches where they seem to shoot themselves in the foot with poor decision-making.

A lot of their offense feels without purpose or goals, or anyone knowing what they should be doing. It seems(my favorite word to use lately) discombobulated.

At times, it seems like they make their life harder by not making a decision earlier on what they should do and end up “freelancing” into a bunch of nothing.

Lastly, I have mixed feelings with Kevin Love on defense as the backup 5. Their minutes have been great with Love on since Haywood Highsmith started — the Heat have a +20 net in 57 minutes with Love on with a 133 offense.

But then there are a lot of very good possessions and very bad possessions with him on defense in the PNR hedging.

Finally, some random stats and tidbits!

  • The Heat are still getting killed in the fourth with a minus 15.4 net for the season — but that number has dropped to minus 5.8 in the last four games
  • Surprisingly, it’s their defense that hurts them in the fourth in these four games, as they have a 114.4 offense and 120.2 defense
  • Their best is in the second quarter as they always come out with an elite defense. They have a 96.1 defensive rating in that quarter. That would rank the third best single quarter defense — that number is even better in the last four games with 92.1
  • Their DRB% has dropped quite significantly in this winning streak. They currently rank 17th where they’re usually are top in previous seasons
  • They are, however, second in that span in causing turnovers — fourth in causing live turnovers
  • Adebayo is currently fourth in total fouls drawn
  • Adebayo also has a 31% FT freq in transition. Has been elite at drawing fouls in transition
  • In these last four games, the Heat have a plus 8.8 net in 142 minutes with a 122.0 offense with Robinson on. That drops to plus 0.8 in 50 minutes with a 111.8 offense without him