The Tyler Herro Conversation Part 2: A Deep Film Dive Into His Start

Insight2 months ago23 min readJohn Jablonka

Welcome, welcome, welcome! This is part one of the deep dive on Tyler Herro. It’s time to have the big conversation around him, especially with the start that he’s had. There are still the same conversations and questions surrounding him, so I’ve decided to go through all of that in extreme detail — going through stats and hours of film.

Here, in part one, it’s more of a discussion about the type of archetype he his(and how valuable those types are in general in the league), the role on the team, his usage, how that all impacts the team in general, and how he should be integrated when he comes back.

In part two, it’s all about film, film, and film. And after that it’s even more film. I’ve rewatched every single offensive possession to go through how exactly he gets his points(because the how matters a lot in his 25PPG), what he’s good at(and where he’s improved), what he’s bad at, his limitations, his habits and tendencies, and link all of that to this piece. All of that film breakdown will make the reasoning in this piece much clearer. It will show why those limitations matter a lot if he’s going to be playing in this type of role.

The goal of this 2-parter on him is to see where he’s at with the team in this current role. It’s to see the improvements and whether they even matter in what he’s doing now. It’s to see whether he fills their needs at all. And it’s to see where Tyler Herro stands in the league and on this team going forward.


We’re back to continue with the Herro conversation. In the previous part, it was all about his role and archetype in general, but now, we’re digging deep into the start that he’s had before going down with an injury.

Before going into the film and all of the little stuff, let’s get big-picture stuff and go through the main stats.

I’ve mentioned previously that there’s an issue with simply looking at his box-score stats(particularly just per game) to draw any type of conclusion, whether it’s positive or negative. That doesn’t tell you almost anything about the season the player is having or any significant improvements they may have had.

If you want to look at the basic stats, let’s look at it per possession. Here are the main stats from this year(I’m using the seven games for Herro and not counting the Memphis game) vs last year:

There are a few things that stand out — the increase in 2s, better 3pt percentage, higher usage(and similar efficiency), a big drop finishing at the rim, a big boost in finishing in the paint, and doubling his long 2s. There are a bunch of positives and negatives to take away from just this simple shot diet.

There’s the obvious stat that’s screaming from that table and it’s his efficiency at the rim, along with volume. On the other hand, his efficiency on floaters and around the paint is also screaming HOW GREAT HE IS. But then you get to his long-midrange volume, which is kind of a red flag at this point.

But looking at it this way and by going through all the ways he was getting his 25 a night, some of the takes of his leap is something I genuinely didn’t understand. None of the stats or anything that stood out when watching him play showed what a lot of people have suggested.

That’s not to say there haven’t been improvements. There’s clearly an improvement simply by just looking at some of the basic percentages. If a player jumps to mid-50s from any range, that’s a significant improvement, but that also doesn’t warrant say a leap or putting him in any of the conversations alongside other All-NBA caliber guards. When it comes to that conversation, there’s nothing he’s shown to put him there — that’s where the box-score stats or the fact he was a 25-point guy doesn’t tell the whole story.

I mean surely there’s a balance between saying a guy has objectively improved to being better in multiple areas and saying those improvements put him alongside legitimate offensive stars.

The way I see his start to the season is there have clearly been improvements in the stuff that he was already good at. He’s made strides in those areas to be even better. When you combine that with some extra usage and a better 3pt percentage on looks he was elite at, it’s easy to point to the increase in his overall stats — that’s where the box score is misleading. Him playing 4 more minutes and taking around 4 more shots, whilst progressing back to his usual self from catch-and-shoot 3pt(compared to a down year last year) explains this kind of jump.

At the same time, though, none of the improvements have been there when it comes to his weaknesses or things that have held him back from taking that leap. Honestly, almost everything that was a criticism of him last year, that’s still there. That’s where I don’t see that jump, at least not a jump to put him in that next tier. All this is to me is improving in the skills that are suited more for your role players on offense, though, it’s not an improvement to propel him to a tier with legitimate stars that are elite on-ball. BUT THAT’S NOT A BAD THING!

So, let’s break all of that down.

The way I’m breaking this down is mostly by his scoring on-ball and off-ball, and his passing. Within those sections, it will be focusing on different shots he’s getting, his tendencies and habits, as well as his passing. But because a lot of these play types can be similar at times, there might be some overlap here and there.

Herro On-Ball

With the increased touches, usage, and generally more responsibilities as the ball handler, pick-and-roll has been his main source of the offense. He’s averaging 9.1 possessions as the ball handler per game(40.3% frequency) and is scoring 0.85 points per possession(puts him in the 45th percentile). He’s shooting 46.0% eFG on 7.8 shots.

It’s not the best with that kind of volume. Out of 46 players with at least 5 possessions per game, he’s 34th in efficiency. Out of 25 players with at least 7 possessions, he’s 22nd. Out of 13 players with 9 or more, the only player worse is Cade Cunningham in Detroit. It’s fair to say that it hasn’t worked out as well as you could’ve hoped to.

A lot of it comes down to the shot distribution and struggling to score from off the dribble. These are just rough percentages based on what I tracked myself:

  • 29% come around the paint and floater range
  • 20% are pull-up 2s
  • 28% are pull-up 3s
  • 12% are drives to the rim
  • 11% ended in a turnover

The actual percentages might differ by a few points here and there, but the overall diet is clear — the main source of his scoring comes around the paint with his floater and off the dribble 3pt. After that, still a big portion comes as your pull up 2s from outside the paint(that’s kind of where the long midrange comes in). Lastly, the rim is almost non-existent to him(outside of one shot out of the PNR a game from him and almost the same rate as his turnover).

Floaters in the Paint off a PNR

These looks have been his favorite that he goes to the most(and makes the most too). He’s shooting:

  • 10-for-18 within 10-14ft
  • 17-for-29 within 8-16ft
  • 17-for-31 in the paint(non-RA)
  • 11-for-22 on floating shots

Now, compare those percentages to last year:

  • 47.3% → 55.6%
  • 46.2% → 58.6%
  • 50.9% → 54.8%
  • 52.3% → 50.0%

Obviously, a much lower sample size but the start has clearly been an improvement. His work in that 8-16ft has been great. I think two things have helped him in this area that have continued from last year — being able to snake his way deeper into the paint and putting his defenders in jail more often.

You can see in all of these plays, that instead of settling for a pull-up or going for a stepback to create some space, he’s finding his way deeper in the paint. If you’re going to take a contested pull-up or a contested floater, might as well get as close to the rim as possible. That’s what he’s doing here, just keeping his dribble alive to navigate his way inside.

Related to that, you also have him putting defenders in jail. That’s been something that showed up post All-Star break last year more often and it’s a good sign to see him carrying on with this skill. This again is all about getting himself closer to the rim and getting deeper into the paint. He’s putting the defender on his back, so they can’t recover and that simply gives him all the space he needs to attack. It’s in this area where he looks more patient and methodical in his PnR game.

But as good as he’s been within that floater range, there have been instances where he made the decision for that shot way too soon:

These are the very little details and habits that add up and hurt him. In all of these plays, he decides to go for that shot immediately and that’s mostly because he picks up the dribble way too early. In two of these plays, he’s ending his dribble above the elbow. There’s no need for that and what happens is he’s settling for a longer-than-needed floater. Take the last clip where he tries to put Connaughton in jail but at the same time, he ends the dribble there. Now, that’s a much more difficult, low-percentage shot.

This habit of picking up dribble way too early also hurts him in other areas too, which I’ll be touching on later on.

Pull up 2s in the PNR

Let’s continue getting further out. Now, we have his second favorite spot and that’s the pull-up jumper inside the arc. This is also the first criticism of his game, particularly with his shot selection and decision.

He is shooting 48.8% on 5.1 pull-up 2s, which is great and a significant improvement from last year where he shot 41.6% on 4.2. But there are issues here. The first is with the percentage in some of the areas:

  • 10-for-26 within 15-19ft
  • 8-for-23 within 16-24ft
  • 16-for-38 in the mid-range

Those are quite poor percentages but this wouldn’t matter as much if it wasn’t for the volume

Almost half of his 2s are pull-ups. That’s not good. Almost a quarter of his shots in general are pull-ups. That’s also not good. He’s also taking more pull-up 2s than 3s, which again, isn’t good. It’s these little changes that are needed for him to be more efficient.

Some people will probably push back on this because it’s more analytics, but that is highly important when it’s at this kind of volume. Take those pull-up 2s that he’s hitting almost at 50%. Let’s even round it up to that, that’s still 1.0 points per shot. A quarter of his shots is worth at that. Whereas he’s a 34.2% shooter on pull-up 3s, which is 1.02 points per shot. Little difference here because of a potential high 2pt% and a lower 3pt%, but if those numbers stabilize with more samples, the difference can be more significant.

That was significant last year when he was shooting 41% from 2(0.82) and shooting 37% from 3pt(1.11). That’s when you’re leaving points on the table. With Herro specifically, it’s an issue when 14.5% of his shots come above 16ft-3pt.

Let’s go back to the film above. On a lot of those shots, there is space for him to attack. There are other options for him to go to. The space isn’t packed and the defense isn’t forcing him into those shots either. A lot of it is him choosing to settle for those. I say settle because there’s literally no reason for him to be constantly pulling up like that.

I believe this right here has hurt him the most when it comes to his efficiency, especially in the PNR.

I want to highlight these four plays. These show the poor decision-making and settling for the jumpers, especially that second clip against Jayson Tatum. He’s out of position and the only player remotely close to the rim is Payton Pritchard, who should not be a jumper at all. That has to be a drive to the rim.

Pull up 3s off a PNR

This is the shot that Herro gets one of the most too. He’s going to have that space when the defense is in drop. It’s also these shots that I’d rather see more of than all of the long 2s, even if he’s not going to be as efficient — remember he doesn’t have to be shooting 37-40% to make this statistically a better shot than the pull-up 2.

But something that has come up when watching him go for those 3s is sometimes, it does feel like he hunts them too soon. There are many instances in those clips where he’s gunning for them.

There was also another stat that kind of has me concerned with these types of looks, especially if it’s him bombing more shots that way.

This had me questioning all of this. He’s had decent pull-up numbers, but something didn’t feel right. What I think it looks like is Herro is a really good pull-up shooter in the same sense as Duncan Robinson is. He’s a better threat coming off the screen, off a dribble hand-off, etc. That’s where he gets those quality looks that he’s good at.

But when it comes to actual off-the-dribble 3s, that’s something that over his career he’s been struggling with. I don’t think he’s a 25% guy, as he’s been this year, but his first three seasons were 32% with one 36% season last year. Right now, it does look like he’s a below-average shooter off the dribble, especially when he’s creating more.

I think that’s one of the reasons why him as a PNR guy hasn’t been as effective. It’s tough to be efficient when the only shots you get(even if you’re good at them) is mid-range or around the paint.

Drives to the rim

The reason he goes to all of that is because of the lack of rim pressure.

I’ve tracked only nine shots around the rim and it hasn’t been pretty when he gets to it either. That nine attempts is concerning, but what jumps out even more is shooting 45% at the rim(though a lot of that has been in transition simply getting blocked). What’s more concerning is that his finishing drops even more on self-created layups. He’s 3-for-12 on driving layups and that’s something that’s been an issue over the years too(this isn’t just a small sample this year).

These are all of his drives to the rim. A lot of them are in transitions(getting blocked):

That’s all it’s been and it’s been rough. This is also where I genuinely don’t understand why people try to tell me he’s a 3-level scorer. Nothing about this is a 3-level scorer. Not the volume, nor the efficiency.

ISO

This next play type is kind of linked to his ability as a 3-level scorer. When I think of a scorer, I want someone that is capable of beating guys off the dribble and getting to their spots — it doesn’t necessarily have to be to the rim, but that is ideal.

Here are his isolations:

It’s bunch of poor shots, not creating separations, not being able to get past the defender, it’s getting stonewalled, or it’s settling. He’s been a terrible isolation scorer all of his career and it’s something that I haven’t seen much improvement in. A lot of these plays are exactly what you were seeing from him 2-3 years ago — that’s not the same when it comes to other areas, such as his PNR, where you can see genuine growth.

Continuing with isolation, these are some of the plays that won’t show up in the stats:

This goes back to him being unable to take advantage of guys 1v1, even if it’s a mismatch. That’s why switching his PNRs is the best way to take him out of his game because he’s not going to hurt you there at all. Too many times here the defense simply switches, he either passes it off right away after picking up dribble the way too early or he tries to attack but doesn’t go anywhere, wastes time, and then passes it off. All of this simply drains the clock with him attempting to do something.

Passing

When we get to his passes, that’s an area in which he has shown significant growth. I do like his passing ability. His processing speed has got way better. He’s seeing(and attempting) passes that he was never making earlier in his career. There’s clear progress in all kinds of his passes.

This is a whole compilation of general passes that I liked from him. There are ones where he makes snap decisions where he instantly finds a cutter or the open kick. Some of them are basic kickouts, but again, it’s just the consistency of making the right read all the time. He’s showing more of that.

His best passes have come from the PNR:

There are some really good passes, I liked those overheads! He’s also improved when it comes to his skip passes, there have been reads where it felt like it was definitely new in his game, whether it was the speed he made it at or recognizing that window before it was even there.

But there’s also one other weakness in his PNR passing game and a lot of that has to do with his pocket passes:

This is another area that I haven’t seen much growth. The growth was there when it came to making the pocket pass read in the first place. That was good and he’s constantly making it — even if he shouldn’t. That’s the issue, though.

At this point, some of those reads feel like they are predetermined. It looks like they are the only passes that he’s looking to make regardless of what the defense is doing. Sometimes there was no need for the pocket pass or sometimes there was a pass elsewhere available. What happens instead is he makes the pocket pass too soon and the PNR with an advantage turns into an Adebayo ISO because the defense was already there.

The only other concern and criticism is compared to the amount he holds the ball, he should be attempting more. There are times when I feel like he’s not even looking to pass when the guy is right there. A lot of it feels similar to the same issue I think Adebayo has where they don’t have a seamless switch to be both passers and scorers at the same time.

Too many possessions have been with him with kind of a tunnel vision where’s only looking to score and it either results in one of those poor jumpers or a bail-out pass. There are too many of these possessions and it’s another part that has really hurt his PNR game for me.

There have been issues with turnovers, but that to me is related to a different issue. I don’t have much of a problem with him having higher turnovers if he’s at least trying to make good passes.

This is what I meant with the turnovers being related to a different issue:

It’s a very bad habit of killing his dribble way too soon. I touched on this earlier when it came to him settling too early for the floater. After he picks up the dribble, there’s not much he can do and that’s where some of his turnovers have shown up. But that’s not a hit on his passing ability, but poor decision-making elsewhere.

But if there’s an area that I honestly love about his growth is his passing.

Herro Off-Ball

Now, this area is something that he should be better at and I feel like he’s regressed as an off-ball player significantly compared to his previous years.

This is also my biggest and probably the only criticism of him. All of the rim pressure, poor shot diet, and too many mid-ranges would be helped with him simply being more and a better off-ball player. I’ve discussed this in great detail in the previous piece but all of this(as a lot of people will agree) comes down to him playing like Robinson instead of Devin Booker. Everything that I’ve talked about either gets elevated in terms of value or the criticism goes lower if he changes his role in the offense.

Earlier I mentioned his 3-point shooting and how he’s a good pull-up shooter but not a good off-the-dribble guy. This is what I mean:

These count as pull-ups and this is where he’s been great at. It’s these types of looks that he excels in. He’s shooting 1.27 points per possession on off-screen 3s. This is where his inner Duncan needs to rise.

These are also the type of 3s that he was great at to start the year. Some are in transition(also technically pull-ups), and some are standstill catch-and-shoot, but as you can see with the theme, a lot of them are off-ball. It’s not relying on him creating those shots.

He’s also been able to beat closeouts or curl off screens, but this is also where some of those earlier concerns come in. He’s attacking closeouts here, but it’s resulting in the same type of look as he gets in the PNR, which are long floaters, pull-ups, and picking up his dribble too soon. That’s not an effective way to beat closeouts and that also hurts his value as an off-ball player.

Compare that to what Duncan has been doing, when he beats closeouts, he fully gets to the rim or forces the defense to collapse for a kick. That’s something that hasn’t happened much. Count how many times he beat a closeout curled right to the rim for his shot or made a kick.

But the biggest issue is this:

Here’s a very short clip of his cuts. The issue is obviously with the volume. This is something that I remember him being much better at in the last couple of seasons. Now, that’s kind of gone away.

It got to the point where his off-ball ability is simply standing in the corner with maybe some lifting and an occasional movement or cut with little purpose. He has honestly looked as if he was James Harden and that’s not an exaggeration.

The thing about Herro and off-ball is he SHOULD be better. We know he’s better because we’ve seen him be better and more active. It’s also this that makes the fit with Butler worse than it should be. It’s also this why to me, currently he doesn’t have as much value or impact the offense as much. Fortunately, all of this comes down to his mindset and approach because the skill is clearly there.

So, this has been the long, hard conversation around Tyler Herro. He’s clearly a talented offensive player. He’s also quite clearly made improvements in many areas this year, particularly with his in-between game, around the paint, being more patient, and methodical.

But at the same time, they weren’t issues that needed to be improved to change how he is as a player. All of that had to do with his rim pressure, his ability to punish switches, better pocket passes, not picking up the dribble, being more active as a passer, and improving the shot selection. It was those areas that were needed significantly more if his role was to be as a ball-dominant guard.

It also doesn’t help that his off-ball ability has regressed significantly. He’s gone away from the things that worked(mainly his pull-up 3s off-ball rather than off the dribble). It also doesn’t help that his criticism from other areas are also bleeding into this too, with his long 2s and lack of rim pressure.

As a whole though, there are still things to look forward to, and have reasons to be optimistic. There are a lot of areas that can easily be worked on and improved. With a different approach and ironing out those areas, there’s a clear path with him being an elite role player on offense that is highly impactful with the Heat.