Perhaps nobody better summarized the contrasting 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons for the Miami Heat than Tyler Herro. As a rookie, he shot 38.9 percent from deep and dazzled with various scoring flurries en route to an NBA Finals appearance. Last season, he shot 36 percent from deep, didn’t take the step forward so many expected after the Bubble, and the Heat were swept by the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round.

So, here stands the former Kentucky guard, ahead of his third year, on a Heat team trying to rekindle the magic of Orlando as he looks to regain the luster surrounding his rookie campaign. September and October spring eternal optimism across the NBA and Herro is a leading beneficiary within Miami’s circles. He’s reportedly “transformed” his body, “dedicated himself to the weight room” and added 10 pounds of strength (#MuscleWatch).

Helping fuel the Herro Hype Train have been his opening games of the preseason in which he’s averaged 25 points on 82.6 percent true shooting. He’s even notched a free-throw rate of .480, well above his career mark of .163, but this is preseason, so it could be irrelevant. Even with the arrival of Kyle Lowry, who figures to greatly bolster a sinking offense, Herro must actualize the talk surrounding him and emerge as an improved secondary handler for the Heat to have any crack at another Finals trip.

Despite the seemingly underwhelming year two, Herro grew as an interior scorer. He shot 49.8 percent on twos after shooting 46.2 percent as a rookie. According to Cleaning the Glass, his rim frequency jumped from 18 percent to 22 percent and his finishing spiked from 57 percent (42nd percentile) to 65 percent (75th percentile). He was worse beyond the arc, so the objective is to marry his first-year shooting with sustained blossoming inside the arc.

If Herro maintains that growth and is a more viable two-point scorer, it’ll really present problems for defenses who have to account for his jumper when the ball swings his way as a weak-side release valve. Lowry, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo will control the offense, but Herro will have on-ball reps, whether it’s side ball-screens or handoffs with Adebayo. He’ll also have to be an efficient play finisher, drilling spot-up threes, relocating to openings and attacking off the catch when the opposition fixates on Miami’s Big 3.

A leap from Herro would lessen the degree to which P.J. Tucker is relied upon. While still a useful and versatile defender, he’s a very poor offensive player and any closing or starting lineup involving him will be precarious in a postseason setting. Herro’s defense is a justifiable concern, but if he’s an excellent complementary player offensively, the Heat have more options and pathways to augment their likely stingy defense with a palatable offense.

Progress is not always linear or obvious, and Herro exemplifies that. It was a tumultuous year for him and the Heat in 2020-21. Among injuries, COVID absences (a disheartening phrase), and a shortened offseason, it was not an environment conducive to a breakout. Now, with a better, retooled roster, and four and a half months away from NBA action (instead of two), the stage is set for Herro to deliver on the intrigue he earned as a rookie.


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