As soon as the Heat drafted guard Tyler Herro with the 13th overall pick Thursday night, a photo of Herro in a Heat jersey as a child surfaced.
Herro didn’t know it then, but it would turn out to be foreshadowing for the Greenfield, Wisconsin, native.
Now 19 years old, Herro held up his own Heat jersey at his introductory press conference Friday afternoon on the AmericanAirlines Arena practice court with team president Pat Riley to his right and coach Erik Spoelstra to his left.
“I just grew up a Miami Heat fan, growing up loving the game of basketball,” Herro said, with family members sitting in the audience. “I’m just happy to be here. This is a big opportunity and great experience to be a part of this organization.”
Now, the Heat hopes Herro takes advantage of his opportunity.
Herro (6-6, 192 pounds) was rated as one of the top 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.
While his three-point shooting percentage for the season doesn’t seem especially impressive, Herro flashed his shooting ability against SEC opponents as he made 42.1 percent of his threes in conference play during the regular season.
“His skill set is something that jumped out of the gym,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Herro’s pre-draft workout in Miami. “The way he shot the ball. You’ve probably seen some of it on our social media. That was not edited, those are consecutive makes. But really the film work and the study of what he did during the season, that meant a whole lot more than the workout. This was just to get to know him and see him in a live setting.
“We just really saw a lot of upside, a skill level that we like. This league is really about skill and being able to do multiple things and Tyler has those qualities. He really can shoot the ball and handle, and there’s a big upside. We love the fact that he played a role and embraced it at Kentucky. You have to be able to do that there.”
Herro also displayed a consistent shooting stroke at the free-throw line in his lone season at Kentucky, making 70 of his final 72 foul shots. He made 87 of 93 (93.5 percent) free throws for the season. That will help the Heat, which finished this past season as the NBA’s worst free-throw shooting team (69.5 percent).
But the Heat believes Herro can be more than just a shooter at the NBA level, which is where the upside Spoelstra spoke about comes into play.
“I would not limit him just to the shooting,” Spoelstra said. “He’s got a much broader skill set than that, and that’s what I meant when I said ‘upside.’ That you can see an ability to handle the ball, to make plays off the dribble and things that will play well at this next level. ... Even [Kentucky coach John Calipari] mentioned that Tyler bought into the system, and a lot of it was to play off the ball and play off screens and create actions without the ball in his hands because there was a great deal of talent on that team. But it was a sacrifice, and that’s also a word we use here in this organization quite a bit.
“The other thing that Cal mentioned that you’re looking at somebody that is 19 and is going to grow and develop and mature physically, mentally and emotionally — but particularly physically and we don’t expect this to happen overnight. But he said, ‘What people are missing out on is this is 30, 40 percent more of whatever you’re seeing right now just based on the natural physical development in the next two to three, four years. We’re excited about that.”
One of the concerns regarding Herro is his below average 6-3.25 wingspan on his 6-6 frame and how it will translate to the NBA. Herro laughed off that critique.
“I think people just try to pick something that they can take away that’s negative about someone’s game,” Herro said. “I don’t think my arms have anything to do with how I shoot the ball or how I play defense, anything like that. I’m going to be the same player whether my wingspan was 7-2 or 6-4 or whatever. I’m the same player.”
Yes, the Heat admits Herro fills a need with his shooting and provides depth at guard with Dwyane Wade now retired and Goran Dragic’s contract expiring at the end of this upcoming season. Miami also needed reinforcement at guard after trading Tyler Johnson and Wayne Ellington and waiving Rodney McGruder this past season.
But the Heat truly believes Herro also brings upside. That upside has brought on comparisons to JJ Redick and even Devin Booker.
Only time will tell if the Heat is right.
“I’m not going to compare him to anybody, but if you were to compare him to somebody you would compare him to the Redicks, the Kyle Korvers,” Riley said. “He shoots like Ray Allen, so he’s a shooter, but he’s more than that. We feel like he’s going to be more than that, as those players are, too.”