Heat summer league coach Eric Glass on Tyler Herro
Heat officials knew they were snagging a talented scorer when Miami drafted Kentucky guard Tyler Herro.
It’s now abundantly clear that there’s far more to his game, enough to suggest that he’s NBA-rotation ready.
By displaying a diverse all-around skill set — particularly his distance shooting, passing and ball-handling — Herro has exceeded expectations of Heat officials, according to a league source.
And he’s putting up big offensive numbers (19.5 points per game entering Saturday) in spite of the fact that he has been a streaky shooter in summer league, now standing at 39.5 percent from the field and 33 percent on three-pointers.
Throw in 4.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game, nine steals and 24 for 25 on free throws, and Herro is routinely filling the boxscore.
“He can do more than shoot,” NBA TV analyst and former NBA center Brendan Haywood said after observing him at the Las Vegas Summer League. “There are other layers to his game. He looks like he will be a steal.”
No wonder the Heat refused to give him up in a proposed trade for Oklahoma City All-Star guard Russell Westbrook.
Herro “can give us whatever we need,” Heat summer league coach Eric Glass said. “If we need a guy that can handle, get us into offense, if we need him to be pick-and-roll, if we need him to come off catch-and-shoots, he’s shown he can do it all, and we feel comfortable in any of those spots.”
Herro isn’t surprised by his early success.
“I think I kind of expected to play good,” he said. “That’s why they got me here, to play good and compete every game. It’s known now that I’m more than just a shooter. I love getting everyone involved and making plays.”
That’s why Herro says he sees himself as a combo guard, not just a pure shooting guard.
“I think I’m real good with the ball in my hands, so I think I can be a secondary handler,” Herro said. “If not, I think I can play at the one [point guard].”
Glass noted that “from the day he came in, he proved that he could be a really good passer, so I put him in those roles. The thing that surprised me, I guess, is his feel. It looks like he’s a second- or third-year guy out here. That’s the thing that probably jumps out more than even the touch.”
Some of the lobs for dunks have been especially impressive, though one Heat person indicated a need to curb occasional recklessness with the ball.
“He’s really good at throwing lobs at the rim. It’s probably because of where he played in college,” forward Yante Maten said. “So that’s a credit to him.”
What’s more, his deft passing skills have made it enjoyable for teammates to play alongside.
“It’s definitely fun to play with Tyler,” guard Kendrick Nunn said. “He gives me a lot of space and just relief a little bit. Elite combo guards, I love playing with guys like that. I’m excited for his future. He’s going to be a good one.”
Haywood said he expects Herro to play mostly shooting guard initially but believes he will eventually warrant regular minutes at point guard, or at least in a significant ball-handling role.
“He has the ability to facilitate, so he will play both,” NBA guard and NBA TV analyst Vince Carter predicts.
Herro’s diligence also has impressed the Heat. He said he has studied tape of another former Kentucky guard (Phoenix’s Devin Booker) as well as Portland’s CJ McCollom to learn “how they get to their spots off the dribble, how they can catch and shoot, how they impact the game.”
One thing Haywood has noticed is Herro “gets right to his point, understands what he has to do without using a lot of the shot clock.” In other words, not much wasted motion.
The Heat believes Herro’s stroke is fine and that he will become a more consistent three-point shooter with experience. There have been flashes of three-point brilliance, including five of them in the summer league opener in Sacramento and a couple from beyond 28 feet.
“He’s got incredible confidence,” Glass said. “We’re always going to encourage guys, but that’s more on him as a player, be able to stay with it, not get too high or too low. That’s a skill nowadays, too. Some guys miss shots or have foul trouble and they just get in the tank and they can’t build themselves out of that. For him to have that at 19 is very impressive.”
As for his defense, the early returns have been been solid. Herro said the Heat hasn’t been critical of his play on that side of the court.
On the night of the draft, Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said Herro “has a real good midrange game, can shoot the ball from three. The big question when you put him in isolation ball is can he keep smaller, quicker guards in front of him.”
That must still play out against better competition.
But so far, there’s every reason for encouragement.
“I love his competitiveness, and I love his confidence,” Glass said. “I think those two things, no matter what’s happening in the game, he’s going to raise to the competitive level and he’s not going to back down from anything and he’s going to be ready for that moment late in the games, no matter how poorly or well his offense is going.”
And people around the league have noticed.
One NBA scout cited his feel for the game and said he’s a bit better than he expected.
“He’s one of my favorite players in the draft,” ex-Atlanta Hawks general manager and NBA TV analyst Wes Wilcox said. “I would have had him in the top 10. He plays with confidence.”
Said Haywood: “He’s going to be a very impressive rookie in the league. He’s going to have a chance to be first-team All Rookie.”
Here’s what Caron Butler had to say about Herro.