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Tyler Herro’s extension could benefit both sides

It’s more than possible Herro’s four-year extension benefits both him and the Heat, if all goes to plan.

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NBA: Playoffs-Philadelphia 76ers at Miami Heat Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

All offseason, one of the biggest discussion topics surrounding the Miami Heat — that didn’t include fake trade proposals, or rumors floated into space that they were “interested in player X”, the typical offseason scuttlebutt — was if (and when) Tyler Herro would receive an extension. Just days ago, he was asked about whether he hoped to sign one, but commented the process wasn’t something that needed to be rushed, as evidenced over the last couple of months leading up to now.

“It’s got to make sense for me and my family,” he said, via the Miami Herald. “I’m not just going to sign anything. I see the market. I see what guys got paid and I know my worth. So I’m looking for the right number.”

Well that question was resolved and all of that speculation was put to rest Sunday, as the Heat brain trust backed up the trucks to unload a four-year, $130 million deal for their 22-year-old guard, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Woj reported that the deal is at least $120 million guaranteed with a possibility of earning $10 million more in possible incentives — which has yet to be specified by any reputable source — equaling $130 million.

And this deal, contrary to the loud minority, could be beneficial for both sides. Let’s make the case.

Why it makes sense for Herro:

As the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, Herro’s coming off the best year of his career. He’s posted career bests in scoring (20.7 ppg), rebounding (5.0 rpg), assists (4.0), overall efficiency (56.1 TS%) and 3-point efficiency (39.9 3P%).

The 22-year-old Heat flamethrower may not be the most perfect defender, but he’s staunchly improved his offensive repertoire over time, in part because of his budding strength that allows him to flourish at his spots easier. He’s also made — and will continue making —considerable leaps as a playmaker and on-ball threat inside the arc.

As he becomes more accustomed to more aggressive coverages — traps, blitzes, hard-hedges — he will only continue to put the pieces of the puzzle together to solve it. At this point, Herro’s seen practically every coverage; even more reps will help him for the better. Now, he can continue doing it in a familiar system, in a familiar setting, with a familiar coaching/developmental staff surrounded by a multitude of veterans (Kyle Lowry, Jimmy Butler, etc.) and young players (Gabe Vincent, Max Strus, Bam Adebayo, etc.) to help him flourish.

He’s only going to get better.

And most importantly, an extension now instead of later ensures long-term security and dismisses the proverbial cloud of distraction that would’ve hung over the team throughout the season.

You can’t predict injuries in sports. To an extent, 99 percent of them are unpredictable. If Herro were to have suffered a major injury, then his value could very easily dip far below than market value the impending offseason.

Assuring long-term security is important. Betting on yourself in any sport could reap (some) benefits in the end — i.e. Aaron Judge in MLB with the New York Yankees, or even Victor Oladipo (on a far smaller scale) — or not (i.e. Dennis Schroder). Either way, Herro is apart of #HEATCulture for the foreseeable future, the team won’t be hounded by distraction throughout the season and we get to see the Butler-Herro-Adebayo triumvirate blossom together for the time being.

Why it makes sense for the Heat:

There’s overlap to how Herro’s comradery with Adebayo, Butler plus the rest of the coaching staff helps the Heat, too. That’s mutually beneficial.

But first off, the 2023 free agent class...didn’t seem super enticing?

Of course, the organization could’ve waited to throw money at Herro — who would’ve been a restricted free agent — in the open market this offseason arrived. But that also means competitors would’ve likely heaved available max slot money to tempt the Heat to match any competitive offer sheet. It would’ve been a mess.

At the top of the 2023 free agent leaderboard, Khris Middleton, James Harden and Kyrie Irving, who the Heat were heavily linked to this offseason, were atop the list. The former two would have to decline their player options, and haven’t shown any current interest of leaving their current squads. Irving, meanwhile, would bring his own flavor that may or may not fit with the organization.

Here’s a few other names for thought:

  • Russell Westbrook
  • Andrew Wiggins
  • Harrison Barnes
  • Jerami Grant
  • Caris LeVert
  • Gary Trent Jr. (player option)
  • Josh Hart (player option)
  • Dillon Brooks

There’s talent, sure, but I’m not sure Miami would’ve leaped themselves at any of these options. Maybe Brooks? Maybe LeVert? They’ve had interest in Grant and Barnes in the past? They could plug other holes, but it’s difficult envisioning some of them replacing to a budding 22-year-old guard who averaged nearly 21-5-4 on 56.1 percent true shooting. Maybe that’s naive, but I digress.

The most optimal way for the Heat to acquire talent would’ve been through the trade market — it still is, too — but that also means parting with assets. The Heat could’ve theoretically forged a sign-and-trade with Herro (Can you stop throwing him in trades, dude? Have some shame!) or acquired another player with few other assets. Though the complications of trading X and Y plus more for Z is a can of worms that we’ve belabored in these spaces before.

While what he received isn’t the five-year max deal north of $180 million that he was eligible for, the 22-year-old still got around current market value which could be more team-friendly than one might think.

Take R.J. Barrett, for example; While Barrett, who signed a four-year, $120 million extension with the New York Knicks this offseason, and Herro are different players in a few respects, both Herro and Barrett have posted similar numbers on a per-minute basis in their three-year careers.

Both signed deals similar to Jaylen Brown’s four-year, $115 million extension with the Boston Celtics that kicked in at the start of the 2020-21 season. Brown’s starting cap hit was $23.4 million — approximately 21.5 percent of the $109.1 million cap — factoring in likely incentives.

Both Herro (~21.6 percent) and Barrett (~17.8 percent) will also be making less than 22 percent of the league’s projected $134 million cap hit figure at the start of the 2023-24 season. It’s not as overbearing as the max (25 percent), but enough to satisfy Herro’s threshold as he looks to break into the starting lineup with a starting role.

Though the biggest reason why this could look good for the Heat is the impending cap spike the league will receive in 2025.

The current indications suggest it will be big — perhaps triple of what it currently is (~$24 billion)? — which could have massive ramifications leaguewide in terms of the salary cap (and expansion to Vegas/Seattle, but that’s a different discussion for another day).

If the NBA is swimming anywhere close to that much big bucks, that creates larger deals for everyone involved. We see this trend famously correspond with the NFL with quarterbacks — QBs like Dak Prescott, Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, Josh Allen, Deshaun Watson and Kyler Murray, among others, will try to reset the market for guaranteed money each time their contract is up. It’s followed across other leagues, too.

For the NBA, where most every contract is fully guaranteed, the best young studs entering the fourth year of their contract (Zion Williamson, Ja Morant, Darius Garland, etc.) or established veterans seeking a pay-raise (Bradley Beal, Damian Lillard, etc.) will re-up for the max. Before you know it, we’ll be seeing players make upwards of $60M, $70M and beyond.

According to Spotrac’s estimates, Herro will entering free agency in 2027 after a projected cap hit of nearly $36 million in 2026-27. If all goes as planned with Herro’s development — there’s nothing to suggest he won’t continue growing for the time being, especially since he’ll still be apart of a top-notch developmental organization — this could look like a bargain in 3-4 seasons.

To keep Miami competitive, Herro placed in South Beach would’ve given it the best chance, especially since Kevin Durant and Donovan Mitchell are currently off the table. Sure, the Heat can still trade Herro — though that becomes way more difficult until the new league year with salary-matching gymnastics due to the Poison Pill Provision. But the fact they elected to ink Herro two years after doing the same to Adebayo — who’s transformed into one of the most versatile players in the sport — over all other options speaks volumes.

“Tyler is an impact multi-faceted player and we are excited to have him signed for the next five years,” said team president Pat Riley, via press release. “His improvement every year since we drafted him has led to this day. We believe he will continue to get better.”