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A Rookie Closer? How Tyler Herro became a part of the Heat’s closing unit

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There’s a lot of guys who want to be out there, how did the 20 year old make his way into the closing unit for the Miami Heat?

Miami Heat v Indiana Pacers - Game Two Photo by Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images

It was his fourth game in the NBA regular season. The 19 year-old rookie has already be given a chance to make an impact for the Miami Heat.

But this game was Jimmy Butler’s first game for the Heat. After sitting out the first three games of the season, Butler would make his debut. This was the talk.

But not too long into the game, it shifted from Jimmy Butler to the rookie guard who scored 19 points in the second quarter. Herro’s 19-point second quarter was the first time a Heat rookie scored that many in a quarter since Caron Butler had a 19-point third quarter on March 10, 2003.

So...it felt like something was happening. Herro finished that game with 29 points (which was his season high until about two weeks ago when he scored 30 vs OKC). He got to the free throw line 16 times and showed the potential that the Heat staff saw...but 12 other teams passed on.

From there, Herro was going to get his shot.

Fast forward to the NBA Playoffs, which started one week ago. Herro has found himself as a rookie off the bench, only starting 8 games this season when injuries came up. But in his first playoff series, he is the one closing for the Miami Heat.

Herro played 46 of the 48 fourth-quarter minutes for the Heat in their four game sweep of the Pacers. In that span he was a +13.

Sure, Herro was rarely the focal point of what the Heat were doing, although at times he took it into his own hands. But to be alongside Goran Dragic, Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and whoever else is in there...Herro was the constant.

Duncan Robinson rarely saw the floor in the 4th because of his defense. Kendrick Nunn only played in Game 4. Tyler Herro has somehow risen above the rest to be the constant in the Heat’s closing unit.

So...how did this happen?

First, this happened because Herro has been able to be trusted with the ball in his hands. From making passes (even in the complicated drive and kick scheme the Heat have implored), to taking good shots, he can make plays. He had 3+ assists in 3 of the 4 games against Indiana. Since in the bubble, Herro’s biggest improvement has been his ability to get to the rim. Each time he dribbles, he does so with a purpose now.

Herro has been used as a back-up point guard to some degree with Kendrick Nunn moved out of the rotation. There is trust when he has the ball.

Second, he’s spacing the floor. And he is great at that in two ways—obviously because he can shoot. In three of the fours games against Indiana, Herro shot above 50% from the field. He’s a shooter, everyone knows that. But second is that he is moving without the ball. Herro knows how to cut and maximize the driving talents of Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic instead of a stand still shooter only. Jae Crowder does this well also.

Herro hasn’t been forcing anything. He takes what is available to him and plays well alongside the talent next to him.

Herro’s biggest step to moving into the closing unit has been his ability to survive on defense. Sure, Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala offer more in that area — but you can’t play them both with Herro and the Heat’s other three key players. The way Herro has navigated into this closing group ahead of one of those two guys is by surviving on defense.

Duncan Robinson was hunted by the Pacers each time he was on the floor. Herro to some extent as well, but Herro has been adjusting and surviving. He’s not a lock down defender, but he can hold his own for the most part. So when he does survive, what he provides offensively is of a much greater value than Crowder and Iguodala.

The 20 year-old rookie has made great strides in his first playoff series, and it’s only the beginning.

The closing unit may change based on the opponent, but Tyler Herro has shown he should and can be trusted in the big moments.