Miami Heat

Heat turns to familiar place for first-round pick — Pat Riley’s alma mater, Kentucky

The Heat could have used its first-round pick in a variety of ways.

It could have been attached to a multiyear contract in a deal to offload salary. It could have possibly been packaged with a player in a trade for an earlier first-round selection.

But the Heat decided to keep the 13th pick in Thursday night’s NBA draft, taking Kentucky shooting guard Tyler Herro. It marks the second consecutive Kentucky product Miami has taken in the first round after selecting Bam Adebayo with the 14th pick in 2017.

The Heat bypassed Guinean forward Sekou Doumbouya, North Carolina wing Nassir Little, Indiana wing Romeo Langford, Gonzaga forward Brandon Clarke and Southern Cal guard Kevin Porter Jr, who were all still on the board when Miami picked.

The 19-year-old Herro (6-6, 192 pounds) is known as one of the most talented shooters in this year’s draft class, especially off the dribble. He averaged 14 points on 46.2 percent shooting from the field and 35.5 percent (60 of 169) shooting on threes, 4.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 37 games as a freshman at Kentucky this past season.

Herro was voted as the Southeastern Conference Newcomer of the Year, and named to the All-SEC Second Team and All-Freshman Team this past season.

Herro, who is from Milwaukee and worked out for the Heat in Miami during the pre-draft process, should help in the free-throw shooting department as he made 93.5 percent of his free throws in his lone season at Kentucky. The Heat finished this past season as the league’s worst free-throw shooting team (69.5 percent).

“I’m definitely a shooter,” Herro said Thursday night when asked to describe his game during a conference call with South Florida reporters. “I think I can play in pick-and-rolls. I can create a little bit more than people think. Offensively, I think I’m definitely a complete player on that side with a lot of things to, obviously, to improve on. But I think I’m much more than a shooter.”

According to the NBA’s scouting profile on Herro, he “is a supremely confident shot-maker who can get to his jumper in a variety of ways, hunts scoring opportunities in the open court with great instincts, and plays with a competitive streak defensively.”

ESPN’s scouting report on Herro: “Has offensive upside beyond shooting. Played some [point guard] at the prep level. Comfortable in second-side pick-and-roll. Can make basic reads out of pin-downs or ball screens. Changes speeds to get into his pull-ups. Has touch on floaters.”

One of the concerns regarding Herro was his below average 6-3.25 wingspan on his 6-6 frame and how it translates to the NBA.

Herro provides depth at guard, especially with Dwyane Wade now retired and Goran Dragic’s contract expiring at the end of this upcoming season. The Heat also needed reinforcement at guard after trading Tyler Johnson and Wayne Ellington and waiving Rodney McGruder this past season.

“I think Tyler [Herro] has proven in his short time at Kentucky that he’s not only a great shooter but he’s a competitor, he’s tough, and he can defend. We’re very excited to have him,” Heat president Pat Riley said in a statement.

The Heat added another piece to its young core, which now includes Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson, Derrick Jones Jr., Adebayo and Herro.

Wade reacted to Miami’s selection of Herro on Twitter: “Ok Tyler Herro i hope you’re ready to work. It’s the @MiamiHEAT way. Let’s go!”

“It means a lot,” Herro said of Wade’s tweet. “... I can assure you I’m not no Dwyane Wade yet. Obviously, that’s far-fetched because he’s definitely a great player. He’s a Hall of Fame player. I’m just going to try to work my hardest to try and be like him.”

The Heat also ended up with a second-round pick, taking Stanford small forward KZ Okpala with the No. 32 overall selection. Miami, which entered the week without a second-round pick in this year’s draft, acquired the 32nd pick from Indiana in exchange for three second-round selections.

Herro is slotted to make about $3.6 million next season and will be under team control for five seasons. Next up for Herro is likely summer league basketball with the Heat in Sacramento and Las Vegas next month.

Herro, who will wear No. 14 with the Heat, joins a Miami roster that already entered Thursday’s draft with 13 players under contract for 2019-20 who are due about $140 million.

That number does not include Udonis Haslem, who becomes a free agent July 1 and is still deciding whether to return for a 17th NBA season or retire. But it does include the four players (Derrick Jones Jr., Yante Maten, Duncan Robinson, Kendrick Nunn) who don’t have their full 2019-20 salaries guaranteed yet. It also includes Hassan Whiteside, who is expected to opt into his $27.1 million player option for next season by the June 29 deadline to remain under contract with the Heat.

The $140 million of combined salaries can be lowered by about $6 million by waiving Ryan Anderson by July 10 — a move that’s expected. But even with that cap savings, the Heat has about $138 million in 2019-20 salary cap commitments when factoring in Herro’s cap hit. That still puts Miami above the projected $109 million salary cap and just above the projected $132 million luxury tax line for next season.

As for the Heat’s second-round pick, Okpala, that cap hit is still to be determined. Players taken in the second round may sign for any amount from the minimum to the maximum, but end up signing for a minimum salary most of the time. A second-round pick can also take a two-way deal, which doesn’t count against the regular-season 15-player roster limit or the salary cap.

But even when taking Okpala out of the equation, the Heat currently has no cap space to spend and is above the luxury-tax threshold. Free-agent negotiations are allowed to begin on June 30.

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Anthony Chiang covers the Miami Heat for the Miami Herald. He attended the University of Florida and was born and raised in Miami.
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