After a spectacular showing in the playoffs as a rookie, Tyler Herro has become one of the most hated players in the NBA. It’s fair to say that not only is he hated by other fanbases, but by a good percentage of Heat-Nation. When rumors swirled around the Heat’s interest in James Harden early in the season, much of the fanbase was relieved when Herro didn’t end up in Houston. When Herro started to struggle, however, Miami’s decision not to include him in trade became a meme or at least the go-to argument for the casual NBA fan.
It’s almost as if a 21-year-old sophomore guard isn’t ready to play at an MVP level, imagine that? So yes, Herro is in a sophomore slump. But has he really been that bad? And is this something to actually worry about? There are a few reasons you shouldn’t be concerned.
The Battle of Attrition:
In college for the University of Kentucky, Herro played 37 games. The NCAA season ends in April if you end up making noise in the tournament. So for Herro, his college career ended on March 31st, 2019. He was drafted in June and didn't start training camp with the Heat until October. I’m no math genius, but that’s about six months off to rest, recover and train.
Last season Herro played 76 games including the playoffs - double the games he played in college. But here’s something everybody forgets. He had almost a full offseason between the pause. Herro was injured and missed about five weeks (he played 2 games in February, and 7 minutes in March) before the season went on pause. Once again that was almost a sixth-month offseason for Herro, and when he returned to action in July he was phenomenal.
Miami’s Finals Run ended on October 11th, and the 2020-2021 season started in December. So after a grueling Finals run, Herro had less than two months to prepare for a new season in a new role. So for a guy who was used to sixth-month layoffs every 50 games or so, it makes sense that his numbers would dip. The NBA is a battle of attrition, and it takes rookies and younger players time to get used to that - hence the popularized phrase, “the rookie wall”. It’s unclear if Herro would have been able to have a spectacular playoff run had the NBA season continued normally because his numbers prior to the stoppage weren’t great by any means. But with the lengthy stoppage, Herro returned and was much improved, most notably in the midrange where he jumped from 56th percentile to the 85th percentile, as per Cleaning the Glass.
Players improve in the offseason, just ask Jimmy Butler.
To really understand how Herro is playing we need to look at the statistics. In his first regular season Herro averaged 13.5 points, 4.1 rebounds while shooting 42% from the field. He improved that in the postseason elevating his points per game to 16, grabbing 5.1 rebounds while shooting 43% from the field.
This season Herro is averaging 15 points per game, 4.9 rebounds while shooting 42.6% from the field. So a look at the traditional box score would tell you he’s actually better than he was last season. But he’s not, is he?
If we dive deeper into the advanced stats a few things are obvious. According to Cleaning the Glass, Herro’s usage rate is up this season, but his points per shot attempt have plummeted from the 63rd percentile to the 36th percentile. So really, he’s using more offense this year and doing less with it in terms of scoring.
Where Herro has really dropped off though is in shooting. Herro shot 38.8% from three last season, but only shoots 33% from beyond the arc this season (from the 80th percentile to the 30th). Another alarming stat is how far his free throw shooting has regressed, Herro shot 87% from the line last season now he only shoots 80%. These are bad signs for a shooter. Part of that comes with how he’s switched his game up though, Herro is shooting his majority of shots from midrange this season with 38% of his shot attempts coming from there. With that, he’s barely shooting threes, with only 39% of his shot attempts coming from beyond the arc vs 46% last season.
So obviously when it comes to the shooting it isn’t necessarily ideal, but it hardly causes for concern. It really just looks like a shooting slump that can be corrected in the offseason.
Herro has shown flashes of his potential (he showed how good he could even be as recently as Wednesday night) and the Heat obviously believes in him.
Herro wasn’t the only person whose name was in trade rumors, but he’s the most recognizable, and that will continue to make him a target.
While many try to create a case that his slump is related to his celebrity status that just isn’t the case. Herro may never be a star, but it’s too early to make that decision now. For a 21-year-old who’s coming off the bench, with less than two months of offseason, he’s putting up solid numbers. It was unfair to compare him to James Harden in his 2nd NBA season. Still, I doubt it eroded his confidence at all, I mean this guy snarled on national television.
Herro is in a position to succeed with the Miami Heat, it’s way too early to give up on him especially when he’s only played in 117 NBA games. Hopefully, Herro will be able to add more consistency to his game moving forward and deliver some impressive playoff performances.