Victor Oladipo’s return day is finally upon us, as he’s expected to play on Monday night against the Houston Rockets, leaving many other story-lines flying under the radar.
The Heat just went 3-1, which could’ve been 4-0 if it wasn’t for poor late game execution and a rough go for Jimmy Butler vs the Bucks, against the premier teams in the Eastern Conference over a week span. The team was obviously without Kyle Lowry, Bam Adebayo continued to hit offensive strides, the team’s defense could be at its best, and the depth of this group looks to be their biggest strength.
But among all of that, Tyler Herro is quietly making the biggest offensive shift of his career, just at the right time.
In a fake world, if you were to build the perfect counterpart to Herro off the bench, it would probably look identical to a healthy Victor Oladipo. We don’t know about the “healthy” part clearly, but we do know about the “Victor Oladipo” part.
Either way, Herro is currently doing things on the offensive end that transcends any numbers he put up early in the season, which he’s currently averaging 21 a night off the bench and is top 15 in 4th quarter scoring per game.
We know he has that coveted mid-range pull-up that has been a staple of his for quite some time against drop coverage.
We know he has a three ball unlocked in both catch and shoot and pull-up situations.
But all eyes have been on that first level, and he’s now exceeding at that too.
So, how is he evolving currently in that element of his game?
I could stretch some game film out to three games ago against Milwaukee where he dropped 30 points in a total pull-up shooting display, but let’s just simplify it down to the past two games of floater dominance.
Looking at the play above, what is the initial thing that is noticed?
Seems to be just a normal pick and roll where Herro keeps his defender on his back for the 2 on 1, flowing right into that floater that he just can’t get enough of lately. But let’s rewind back a bit more to the beginning.
As he immediately comes off the screen, he doesn’t burst into that open floor right in front of him. He gives a subtle hesitation before the attack, but why is that?
Well, staying at the speed of your roller is pretty essential when talking about enhancing every option on the floor in a PnR. And when that guy is a slower footed LaMarcus Aldridge, look what that one move does to his feet. His waist turns toward Dewayne Dedmon, leaving Herro with the clear lane to go up for the bucket.
That’s the new part of this.
Another instance, we see a much better fitted match-up for Herro to stick on him following the screen, in Bruce Brown. Herro still ends up finding space in front of him again, but he doesn’t just burst forward into the open floor.
That would lead to an easy recovery, so he pauses, bumps, and sprints. That gives him the and-1 finish on the back-pedaling Andre Drummond, but the outcome isn’t as important as the process.
We continue to see him mix in these minor elements to broaden his bag, which is simply making him harder to guard with a higher on-ball usage.
Not only is he gaining confidence in top of the key PnR sets, but he’s also not afraid to take that extra step in on that baseline. Here, we see Miami set some staggers for Herro to catch it on the inbound–which by the way, a baseline inbound for Miami almost always means a baseline shot attempt–and now it’s decision making time.
He isn’t looking at the basket, or the defender in front of him. He’s looking back at how Mills recovers on that stagger. And as he edges around, Herro loops in one more step which eliminates any back-side contest.
Once again, easy floater.
Same shot, different process.
Something I asked Herro about recently was not only the use of the floater, but the disguise of linking it with the lob pass. That is something guys like James Harden and Trae Young have mastered, since it just puts that dropping big in a very awkward position.
The reason is that there can never be total commitment on one or the other, since they look the same on the wind-up.
Looking at the play above, here’s an example of that. Herro once again gives that hesitation following the Dedmon screen to stay at his pace, and the 2 on 1 is in their favor. He skies his floater up in the air, as Dedmon is still trying to figure out if that was on the way up for him to throw down, or a shot attempt.
I asked Tyler Herro last night about disguising his floater and lob pass in a way that makes it unpredictable to defend
It’s a major improvement to make
— Brady Hawk (@BradyHawk305) February 27, 2022
“I try to switch it up, and take that 1 or 2 extra dribbles in the pocket to be able to make the right read,” Herro said.
“Whether it’s a lob when the big’s coming up, or if the big’s back it’s a lay-up or a floater. So just being able to make the right read, being patient, and keeping my dribble alive.”
Fast forwarding to this past game against the Philadelphia 76ers, we got to see more of that PnR manipulation on that dropping big man.
When watching this play above slowly, there are two elements to it.
Herro comes off the screen and fakes the long range runner to freeze Paul Millsap just enough. As he keeps his dribble alive, he gets up in the air which appears to be a lob to Bam Adebayo, before he quickly adjusts in mid-air to go right back to the floater.
It’s one thing to have a go-to shot against drop coverage like he did last year with the elbow pull-up. But this evolving factor of freezing these bigs within the action is next level.
When listening to players talk post-game most nights, you probably hear the word “reads” used a ton. Upon hearing that term, the things that immediately strike your mind is a skip pass, beating a coverage, or taking a shot that is being given to you.
But the main part of making “reads” is knowing exactly what that second defender in an action, or a potential help defender, is doing at all times. That’s what makes the league’s top players elite.
And with the extended bodies Herro’s been seeing lately, it’s interesting to watch this slowly develop.
Looking at the possession above, Matisse Thybulle begins to hedge the PnR as Tobias Harris simultaneously begins to fight over. Herro seeing that, he rejects the screen immediately and bursts down the left side of the floor for the easy lay-in, since the Joel Embiid help isn’t all the way there.
In a playoff series, there will be plenty of stints where things won’t just come down to Herro as a scorer, but Herro as a primary on-ball offensive piece. And with these type of decisions, I have a feeling they could go quite well.
I know the focus is the on-ball stuff with him, but the truth is that once the playoffs come, rotations shrink. Herro will be sharing the floor with the three of Butler, Adebayo, and Lowry much more often, meaning he will have to work into his spots off the ball as well.
Right here, Butler sits in the post split with the movement beginning to set in, and Herro improvises early in the action. While Herro is the first player to shoot off into space, he cuts back-door on Maxey as the expectation is that an end-around DHO is coming.
But even when off the ball, he gets to that coveted floater in the middle of the floor yet again.
The reason this all ties into the Oladipo return is that Herro is making these strides at just the right time. There won’t be a need for a major adjustment period for the young guard, since he’s been put in so many different spots already this season and succeeded.
It’s been noticeable that Oladipo’s catch and shoot attempts always rise following a return from injury, making this combo even more seamless on paper. They should be able to bounce off each other well, but what is the number one focus when talking about an Oladipo offensive insertion?
And right now, Tyler Herro is providing that at an all time high.
The story-line surrounding the Miami Heat right now is obviously Oladipo for good reasons, but what makes this whole thing so interesting is the meshing point with the current level of Herro.
With that floater, that pick and roll dissection, and that confidence, it’s hard not to fit alongside him on that end of the floor.
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