Tyler Herro’s Full Sophomore Season Wrap-Up

Expectations are a funny thing. It’s one element that I’d attribute to Tyler Herro, since the expectations have been high for quite some time.

Having to prove to others that making the move to Kentucky instead of staying home to play for Wisconsin was the correct choice pretty much prepared him for these moments. Expectations lowered a bit when he entered the league, since many didn’t think much of the draft choice, but things changed rather quickly.

Three-point pull-ups down the stretch against Philly to playing out of his mind in the NBA bubble to being looked toward to takeover in an NBA finals was quite the ride for Herro. With that being said, stagnant play into his second season was far from expected.

This led to differing opinions across the board on this young prospect, but saying he had a bad season is highly unfair to say. Maybe a down season in terms of an individual’s expectations heading in, but overall, he made some necessary leaps that will make the difference long term. Of course there are plenty of things that need to improve this off-season, which I will highlight in this piece, but let’s dive into the primary facets of his game this season.

Progressing Upward:

Screen Utilization

Herro’s utilization of the screen is something I’ve kept my eye on since the beginning of the season. It’s a major part of his game due to his scoring relying so heavily on finding open spots off the screen, but it looked to need some polishing with decision making.

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This game against Philly early in the season is a perfect referral point when comparing early season Herro to now, since they had eight available players, which meant he was running every set and had the ball in his hands a lot.

Looking at the play above, the initial takeaway is that he made a great read with an open lane for an easy dunk. It’s also clear this occurred because of Philly’s lackluster rotations on this possession. But when looking back at it now, it basically opened up a can of worms for how defenses would guard him moving forward.

It got to a point where more than half of his screens were being refused, which is a great tactic in moderation, but not when it becomes predictable. Danny Green also angled Herro right on this play, which is something he hasn’t seen much of down the stretch of the season.

This led to the discussion of when will the jump be made to begin to flow into screens and be both comfortable and effective with it. After a few more games went by, there was an increase in that area, but it shifted into another predictable move: a snake dribble.

He got so comfortable with it that defenses were staying at the hip of the screener at times, basically daring him to drive it into the teeth of the defense. But well, we’ve begun to see some evolving traits within this topic…

I’ve used the word predictable a couple times when discussing this on-ball ability, since that is what makes some of the best scorers in the league so great. When a defender doesn’t know your next move with so much in your bag, that’s the first step in becoming a high level offensive threat.

So, Herro flowing into pick and rolls became more apparent down the stretch of the season as an area of focus, but that predictability term comes right back into play. Usually when he did come off high PnR’s, it was a pull-up three when he was facing drop coverage. Some may not love the idea of that shot all the time, but it’s clear when he’s confident and in rhythm, those shots can propel his game immediately.

There’s still plenty of improvements to be made here, but there’s still a ton of time for that to be perfected. The key is that he showed signs of change over the course of a couple months, which is essential from a long term perspective.

Progressing Downward:

Consistent Downhill Attacking

When evaluating Herro’s attacking, he showed some very positive signs to begin the year. Right back to this Philly game, the defense knew he was their primary offensive factor and he was still able to get to the basket a good amount of times. On this play, some scrambling in transition leads to Herro going for the drive-by and the finger-roll.

Not only was he getting there a lot early on, but the efficiency didn’t look too bad either when he got to the rim. But much like the last discussion, teams seemed to figure it out a bit.

He’s not a strong attacker who’s going to take it into your chest and try to draw the foul. If he is moving downhill, he’s going to try and avoid the contact, leading to some ugly looking layups or highlight reel quality flip shots. The latter occurred frequently to begin the season, but the first option became more and more apparent down the stretch.

He gets caught in the air on the PnR and tries to go up and under, which ends poorly. This is one of the few things that I saw progress on a down-slope, which once again means that defenses were adjusting faster than his individual progression. It happens, but it has to be cleaned up.

When addressing how it can be changed a bit, it probably reverts back to an overarching point that many have discussed which is getting stronger. It’s not just about his size, but he’s not a very physical player which is not something that is teachable. Goran Dragic, for example, has always been a pretty physical player as an attacker, which is something Herro can definitely carry over to game once he hits the weight room.

The reason these two topics I’ve begun with are so important is because they go hand in hand. I don’t feel that there will be true growth until both of these things progress together, and that will come with a true off-season, and more importantly, a true role which I’ll discuss down the line.

How Has His Shooting Actually Been?

In the big picture, yes, the shooting could’ve been a lot better. 36% on the season after shooting 39% last season definitely shouldn’t occur, but it has trended in the right direction for some time now. Talking about the playoff series against the Bucks is useless due to everyone playing poorly, so there’s no reason to harp on those four horrific games.

But toward the end of the season, the shooting began to pick up a bit after returning from injury. Over his last 15 games of the regular season, he shot 65% on catch and shoot threes, while shooting 41% on pull-up threes. While the theme seems to be he under-performed for most of the season, those numbers are pretty impressive after a rough start.

Speaking of that rough start, is there a specific reason that his area of strength took a toll over that period of time?

Yes, it’s the uneven role that he had for a portion of the season. Of course this interesting year didn’t allow for set roles a lot of the time with interchanging lineups early on, but Herro’s journey was much different. Being upgraded to starting point guard forced him to become an action runner instead of an action thriver.

That task might have thrown him off a bit for some time, possibly blending into my earlier point about him attacking better early in the season. But there was a consistent theme over his last 15 games, which was that he knew his role was to be a spark scorer off the bench. If he can work on his exact role all off-season without all of the other confusing elements, that alone can propel some of those shooting numbers that we’re talking about.

Increased Creativity

This play showcases more of that snake dribble stuff, since frankly, he seems very comfortable when he’s surveying the mid-range area, even going back to his rookie season. The reason the word creativity comes into play is the way he gets his shots up.

He likes the elbow pull-up against drop or floaters on the run, but he has some really odd push shots in his bag that…..work?

Separation is key with Herro since finding the space to get a good shot off cannot be overstated with him. But this type of stuff gets him the space and separation that he needs, even if it does look awkward at times. He does a good job of keeping the defender on his back, then eventually his hip, which eliminates any type of block opportunity on his one-hand rise up.

This is another thing that may not be perceived as overly important, but it is in the grand scheme of things. These flashes of creativity are great to see, but they just need a base on-ball ability. Once he gets that, all of these other things I’m touching on will come together.

Passing Inconsistency Translates to Uneven Role

As I touched on with the shooting, the uneven role for Herro this season has led to some ups and downs with his play-making. Looking back at this game against Philly one last time, the lob passes were flying all night. He was confident with the pass, and he was getting to the spots where it’s usually the most effective.

He was given the on-ball duty in these type of actions, leading to plenty of lob passes. The issue was that as time went on, even when he was running sets, the number of crisp lob passes decreased lower and lower.

Maybe it’s a good thing that the frequency has lowered after the realization that scoring must be his primary focus when he is on the floor. In some ways, the coaching staff can utilize this season as a trial year for Herro. They came to a conclusion of what he is as a player at this current stage, and where he works best in the offense. Of course there will be some progression that can change some things moving forward, but that will only make things easier for the team.


What’s Next?

As I stated in the beginning of this piece, there have been mixed emotions about Herro this season, but in my mind, this off-season for him is pretty clear from the perspective of the front office.

They are happy to continue to develop him to see what he can become, but if the right deal comes along to add a third star to this Miami Heat roster next to Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler, they will pull the trigger. Due to the Heat lacking a ton of trade assets, Herro is at the top of that list to entice an opposing team.

Other than that, they are not giving up on the future of Herro. He’s shown a ton of flashes up to this point, and the weakness areas that I’ve touched on can easily be improved upon.

Herro is one of the few players in this roster evaluation series that doesn’t have contract implications in the “What’s next” section, but yet, he’s the biggest wild card of them all. Time will only tell what will come next for his individual improvement this off-season, but he clearly has the tools to do so.

Some may immediately label this season negatively for Herro, but I actually believe it was crucial for his development, combining that with necessary improvements in some of the major areas of his game.

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