Who leads the Heat in scoring this preseason? A 19-year-old rookie.
Guard Tyler Herro, whom the Heat selected with the No. 13 overall pick in this year’s draft, is averaging a team-high 16.3 points while shooting 54.5% from the field, 53.3% from three-point range and a perfect 100% from the foul line during the first three preseason games of his NBA career.
It’s only the preseason, and teams are still installing defensive schemes and full scouting reports are still being developed. But while Herro’s early success has come as a surprise to some, his Heat teammates insist they expected it after watching him shine in offseason workouts and training camp.
“We see him make those shots all day long, so we’re not worried about him shooting,” Heat forward Derrick Jones Jr. said. “We tell him to shoot more. So him doing this is nothing new to us. It’s just new to everybody else.”
The amount of points that Herro is scoring will receive most of the attention, but it’s the efficiency with which he’s scoring those points that stands out.
Herro, who shot 46.2% from the field and 35.5% on threes in his lone college season at Kentucky, has made 14 of 28 jump shots this preseason. The pull-up and step-back jumpers have been particularly effective, with Herro 5 of 8 on pull-ups and 3 of 5 on step-backs over three preseason games.
That type of efficiency is likely not sustainable, but his plus shooting is evident.
“He asks all the right questions,” Heat four-time All-Star Jimmy Butler said. “When he has a question for anybody, he asks it. He’s always listening, he’s always studying film. But he’s just comfortable. He knows what he can do well, and he sticks to it. That’s the whole thing in this league ... if you can get to your spots, get your shot off, get out in transition. Obviously, he’s going to play for a very long time. But he’s going to be very key for us moving forward for a long time.”
If anybody is still labeling Herro strictly as a shooter, he’s proving there’s more to his game. Most of the points that he has scored this preseason have come off the dribble, with Herro using the dribble to hit 13 of his 18 made shots.
And when the 6-5 Herro gets into the paint, he usually turns to a reliable one-handed floater to get his shot off against bigger players. He’s 2 of 3 on floaters in the preseason.
Herro has also recorded eight assists to only four turnovers, and is averaging 4.7 rebounds in three preseason games.
“He’s not just a shooter,” Heat point guard Goran Dragic said. “That’s such a misconception. He’s a shooter, but he can do so many more things. He can put the ball on the floor, create for others, create his own shot.”
Herro knows it’s going to take more than just offense to earn a big role for the Heat as a rookie. That’s why he’s working to prove he can serve as a reliable defender, watching defensive film with coach Erik Spoelstra.
“We’ve been watching a little bit of film, just defensively,” Herro said. “So just knowing my spots on defense, getting to the right angles and things like that. Coach is helping me out with that.”
How much the Heat trusts Herro on defense could be the difference between a starting role with big minutes and a more limited reserve role this season.
“We’re just trying to prepare him as much as we can to be ready to help us win,” Spoelstra said. “Whatever role that may be. He still has a long way to go defensively. He knows that, and he’s working at it. So as many hours as he’s putting in on his shooting, which is notable, we’re making him put equal that, double that defensively in film study, everything to try to fast-track him for this league. He’s eating it all up. You can’t give him enough.”
But Herro’s teammates want to make one thing clear. The player who has been on display in the preseason isn’t an aberration.
This is the same player the Heat has seen behind the scenes.
“We’ve seen Tyler do this day in and day out,” Jones said. “We’ve been in training camp together, we’ve been in the gym all summer together just playing pickup with each other and just going at it all the time. We know what he’s capable of, and him doing this now is nothing new to us.
“That’s Tyler. That’s the Tyler that everybody is going to see.”
The Heat resumes its preseason Thursday against the Magic in Orlando.