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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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Heat’s Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn Entering an Awaited Environment

This has been far from an ordinary two year NBA career for the rookies of last season, and more specifically, Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn. The only normality that they found over this past stretch of time was a Summer League in Las Vegas, where they first entered the scene for Miami.

After being thrown into the fire in their rookie season, it led to them trying to blend into a post-season environment like no other, the bubble. Herro stepping up and Nunn stepping down didn’t tell the full story of the futures of each prospect.

Playing in front of fans on a zoom call was far from being the real thing, and it’s something that Herro specifically has thrived off of his whole entire life. No matter if it was overrated chants in high school or doubters telling him he wouldn’t play when he got to Kentucky, the one place he always proved himself was in front of his home crowd on the big stage.

And well, he has that tonight.

Kendrick Nunn may not have the apparent bounce that Herro has in that environment, but it very well impacts him too, just in a quiet manner. When asked about the fans tonight, he responded, “I know it’s gonna be exciting, and we’re gonna feed off their energy.”

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Aside from the story-lines and boosts that these two will get, they’re in a unique spot at the moment. Both of Miami’s second year guys were the focal point in attacking the Bucks’ drop coverage in this match-up, since they’re the ones who can truly get to the dead spots on the floor in the mid-range area. But that hasn’t been the case up to this point.

After the struggles in games one and two, this game holds high importance for their post-season hopes. As Herro described it, “Our backs are against the wall and tonight is obviously a make or break game for us.” If they don’t take advantage of this opportunity tonight to get back into the series, the organization’s focus may have a major shift.

So, that seems like a lot on the shoulders of two inexperienced guys who are still adjusting to this fast-paced league. When I asked Goran Dragic about his advice to Herro and Nunn heading into this unique setting, his message was much simpler than expected: “Enjoy.”

That response may seem a little cliche, but that’s honestly the most useful advice that he could give. Both of them are at their bet when they’re confident and in rhythm, which is why enjoying the moment without getting caught up in the stakes is more important than anything else.

As Dragic said, if they do that, “I believe they’re gonna be ready.”

It’s not only on them to be ready, since the Heat’s stars, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, will have to bring it after their struggles in Milwaukee. And if they do, that opens up the shooting of Herro and Nunn, which one shot dropping through the net is the only thing they’ll need to see to be fully effective in this environment.

There was pressure in the bubble, but this is much different. And yet, much more beneficial.

 

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Summer League Trio to Playoff Trio

When looking at the stories of Kendrick Nunn, Tyler Herro, and Duncan Robinson with the Miami Heat, they’re all clearly different. But they still ended up at the same starting point to end up where they are today.

It all started in Summer League, as the three of them were just trying to showcase their youthful skills to try and move up to the next level. Now, Miami’s heading into the playoffs with two of them as starters and the other as a sixth man scorer.

This has been a season of ups and downs, but now that every team has officially made it to the 72 game mark, it’s necessary to evaluate this trio of young guys and depict the biggest improvements that they’e made this season. So, here’s what stood out…

Kendrick Nunn:

Catch and shoot

When I say that I’m evaluating the biggest improvements this season, it doesn’t mean that I’m looking at the numbers to find an increase. But if there was any point that would be backed up by the stats dramatically, it would be this one.

Kendrick Nunn has pretty much been an on-ball guy since joining the team last season, but the reason for his latest surge has a lot to do with giving him time off the ball. Lineups with both Goran Dragic and Tyler Herro are much more possible due to that ability, and that ability is spot up shooting.

He shot 35% on catch and shoot threes last season, which has jumped up to 42% this season. Spoiler alert: that’s a big deal.

One thing I’ve mentioned for quite some time is that he’s utilized in an interesting way when Duncan Robinson exits the floor. He basically becomes the Robinson lite in most of their offensive sets, which is something I would not have expected from him before the season started.

When I asked Nunn about the reasoning for his improvement in that area, he said, “I just put in the work to become better at catch and shoot, and obviously the results are showing.”

Yes, the results are showing, and it’s perfect for Coach Spo due to the fact he can utilize his starting guard in a much freer way on a position-less team.

Decision making in PnR

If you asked me what Nunn’s biggest struggle was last season, it would be the indecisiveness in the pick and roll. He never really knew when to pull that mid-range jumper with confidence or make the lob pass, which is an important trait with his current role.

But not only has he gotten better in that area, it’s actually become one of his biggest strengths. Coach Spo labeled him as a “three level scorer” the other day, and being a quick decision maker allows him to succeed at all three levels.

A quick decision maker doesn’t mean just as a passer, since as shown in the video clip above, the mid-range pull-up with confidence has a lot to do with his improving defensive reads.

The funny thing about these being two of his biggest improvements is that they’re total opposites. One highlights his off-ball abilities, while the other showcases his skill-set with the ball in his hands, and that’s the very reason he’s been rolling ever since being stuck in the starting lineup. This exact combo is a hard player to guard, and he will finally get his shot in the post-season to show that he can contribute on the big stage.

Tyler Herro:

Off-ball navigation

Tyler Herro has had an odd season individually, including injuries, slumps, and changing roles, but the improvements are still fluid. When I mention changing roles, I’m talking about being the starting point guard to begin the season, then shifting down to the bench when that didn’t seem to work out.

That’s not an easy thing to do, going from bench player to playoff breakout to starting lineup then back to bench. Nunn may have done it and thrived but he’s proved to be a different breed in mental readiness.

Through this roller coaster of a season for Herro, he’s finally found his role, and completely thrived. No matter if he’s had a dip in some of his numbers or not, he still gets the defensive respect from opposing teams. Everybody knows Tyler Herro, so everybody wants to shut down Tyler Herro.

The thing about that is it’s forced him to adjust his offensive game. Instead of the free flowing offense he played last season, it’s become working for a slimmer of space off the ball. As seen above, the use of off-ball screens on this team have allowed it, but he’s been figuring out some individual fakes on the run to get free by running his defender into the screen.

I asked Herro about the different defensive coverages recently, and he responded, “Obviously it’s a new year and things change. Different defenses are going to throw different things at you night in and night out, and you just have to adjust.”

Well, he’s done that pretty well to end the season, but the playoffs will be a whole other beast. Teams will be ready for his off the bench production, especially in a familiar town of Milwaukee.

Downhill passing

This improvement isn’t just recency bias from his career high assist night on the last game of the season, so it must be noted.

For one, some of the downs of Herro this season have forced people to forget the production to begin the year. His shooting numbers weren’t great, but he was getting to the rim pretty regularly and was highly efficient. He shot 51% less than 10 feet from the basket last season, which shot up to 57% this season.

The thing about that ability is it can easily be taken away when he doesn’t have a screen to navigate around. So, the next piece to add to the puzzle was going to be a reliable passing ability on the move, and he’s added that.

When I asked Herro about that ability, he said, “I came here and the coaching staff really helped me with my decision making and being able to make the right read.”

It’s pretty clear that his play-making abilities are at its best when he’s on the move downhill, since the key to his passing success is instinctive decisions. It’s something we’ve especially seen in the 3 games this season where the Heat had eight available players, while Herro was one of them.

Why is it that his downhill passing and lob is so effective in those settings? Well, it’s one word: freedom. When he’s playing tense, those passes become turnovers, which will be one of the most interesting things for him heading into the post-season, to see if he can sustain that ability in games being played in the half-court.

Duncan Robinson:

Individual defense

I am not going to lie, I did not expect to be discussing Duncan Robinson’s defense as the primary improvement this season, but here we are. Early in the season he had flashes of team defense expertise, due to his knowledge of when to double, splitting the difference between two guys on the weak-side, and his best possessions occurring in the zone.

But well, his one-on-one defense has made major leaps this season as well, even seeing the Jayson Tatum match-up for two straight games to end the season.

He’s always been a guy that offenses looked to force a switch and attack, or better yet search for him in the zone as shown above. But his length has prevented that overall bullying on a night to night basis, which is something else that changes things for the playoffs.

The utilization of Robinson last year was interesting, since his offensive gravity in the Finals was obviously needed, but LeBron James depicting the defense to put Robinson on whoever he wanted made it difficult.

Now, that can’t be used as frequently. Of course, he’s not this world class defender that is going to lock up his match-up every night, but he does have the necessary attributes to stay on the floor and not be a total liability.

I asked Robinson about the defensive leaps this season, which he responded, “It’s definitely been a process. There’s been highs and lows throughout the year…but I’m just trying to continue to build and improve. When I’m put in those situations like that, I’m just continuing to build that trust that the coaching staff and the team has in me to be solid.”

DHO to high PnR

It’s not everyday that you see a team base an offense around an undrafted shooter, but that’s exactly what the Miami Heat did last year. And well, it worked.

It actually worked so well that teams have schemed against it so much that Miami was forced to go away from it this season. So, eliminating dribble hand-offs from the offense would eliminate Duncan Robinson, right?

Wrong.

A straight catch and shoot player wasn’t expected to make improvements on the fly to impact games off the dribble, but that’s exactly what he did. He shifted into more of the high pick and roll sets, giving him more room to navigate and leaving the defense with a very difficult decision.

Do I lag behind and give him a good look on a pull up three? Do we double out on him and allow Bam Adebayo to run a 4 on 3? It’s a tough decision, but most times they’re choosing the latter, which just reflects his offensive abilities.

Out of all the improvements named in this article, I don’t think there’s one more significant than this one. Yes, others made some jumps in certain areas of their game, but nobody was forced to change their entire offensive game and absolutely thrive.

Nunn, Herro, and Robinson went from trying to prove themselves in a Summer League setting to being three of the primary elements to their offense heading into a very intriguing first round match-up. And the one thing all of them have in common: they aren’t one bit scared of the big stage.

 

 

Everything Tradeshows is a one-stop-shop for trade show exhibit rentals and custom exhibit display purchase solutions to companies of all sizes.

Visit them at http://everythingtradeshows.com or call 954-791-8882

5 Takeaways from Heat’s Final Regular Season Game Vs Pistons

The Miami Heat finished off the regular season with a win over the Detroit Pistons. They were without most of their primary players, including Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Goran Dragic, Kendrick Nunn, and others. Anyway, here were some of the takeaways from this final game before the post-season…

#1: Tyler Herro displaying his play-making in a similar setting.

When the Heat faced off against the Philadelphia 76ers early in the season with 8 available players, Tyler Herro’s number one takeaway was very simple to the one tonight: Downhill play-making. Now, the reasoning for that isn’t as clear. He looks to be playing much more freely in these games when working pick and rolls, but the fact that he looks smoother with Precious Achiuwa as a roller is definitely odd. But, the 2 on 1’s were on point tonight in the half-court, which led to him tying his season high with assists in the first half alone, then achieving a career high 11 assists. The decision making for Herro is going to be the biggest step in his game that isn’t physical, since Kendrick Nunn has made that mental fix recently and has absolutely thrived. If this level of play-making can carry over to a full rotation, then he may need the ball in his hands more often in the lineups with Goran Dragic and Nunn.

#2: Nemanja Bjelica gets it going from deep.

Nemanja Bjelica was the leading scorer at the half for Miami with 17 points, going 4 for 4 from beyond the arc. I think many are aware that his strength is shooting the basketball, and nights like this can occur when shots drop to start. One thing I’d like to point out from his game that was a bit surprising was his play-making. The Kelly Olynyk comparisons are no longer necessary with where the Heat stand at the moment, but when many believed he was the replacement, I said the passing abilities would be the tell. The thing about this game was that he is a much better play-maker than originally expected, especially around the rim. It’s odd that we’re getting our first true evaluation of Bjelica in the final two games of the season, but it’s clear this will also be the last.

#3: Precious Achiuwa with a mini Summer League type game.

In some ways, this was a mini Summer League for Precious Achiuwa in a lot of ways. Once again, this refers back to that two game set with Philly early in the season, when Achiuwa was allowed to play as free as can be to just showcase his youthful abilities. One thing that is clear with his game is that he is super explosive, but the issue is that leads him to the free throw line a little too often. The free throw shooting is far from being his best attribute, but the other stuff in the post and as a roller will be so crucial for his long term success. Not to harp on Summer League too much, but that element is so necessary for him to make an impact in this league. This notion that he could be a reliable back-up big with absolutely zero experience seemed to have some recency bias after the rise of Herro and Nunn the previous season. The thing is: they both played in Summer League.

#4: Duncan Robinson plays his 72nd game of the season, which is quite the accolade.

Duncan Robinson’s list of accolades has been a long one this season, but the one he achieved today is much different, but it’s still so impressive. Playing all 72 games in this type of year is something that seems pretty close to impossible. Obviously it’s been done throughout the league, but the usage of Robinson makes it so much more interesting. When discussing a guy that never stops running on offense just to find a slimmer of space, it just doesn’t seem like durability would be the outcome. But it has been, and Erik Spoelstra says it begins with his body of work behind the scenes. Before the game, he said, “He’ll continue to grow because of that work ethic. But that conditioning….is underrated. He’s put in a lot of work behind the scenes. He’s not the same physical player from when he showed up in our building.” So, the clear takeaway is that even though injuries can’t be prevented, it’s possible to put in the work to control what you can control.

#5: Heat vs Bucks: The rematch.

Well well well, it’s official. The Miami Heat will face off against the Milwaukee Bucks yet again in the post-season, while last year’s result must be totally erased from memory. Both teams with different rosters from a year ago, while each have a chip on their shoulder in this circumstance. Milwaukee clearly remembers what Miami did to them last season, while the Heat remember how they went out in the Finals. When evaluating the match-up between the two teams, it’s hard to truly know on film. Jimmy Butler has yet to play the Bucks this season, meaning it’s not easy to really know how the defensive match-ups would look. Even if he did play in the regular season, it wouldn’t mirror the level of play Butler brings in the post-season. Many are aware of the statement floating around that no one wants to play Butler in a 7 game series, and that still stands.

Heat’s Hidden Gem: Star-less Success

There’s been a lot of discussion about the Miami Heat lately, beginning with their star Jimmy Butler. He’s having a career year in field goal %, rebounds, assists, double-doubles, and triple doubles, while the Heat are 30-19 when he plays.

After an absolute dominant performance against Boston to say the least, he’s the clear headliner when discussing this Miami team. A close second would be Butler’s sidekick, Bam Adebayo, who was close to perfect on Sunday afternoon against the Celtics as well.

These two guys are at the top of the list when discussing the reasons for the team’s success, but the true reason for the latest spark has to do with when they are off the floor.

Some of Miami’s worst minutes this season came when Adebayo exited the floor, since there was a clear drop-off at the center position. But well, they cleared up that issue with the recent acquisition of Dewayne Dedmon.

The Heat originally approached the back-up big spot as a player that can try to mirror some of the things Adebayo does, but that didn’t really work out in the short term with Precious Achiuwa. The Dedmon pick-up showed that they were willing to go in the complete opposite direction instead.

He’s an interior force on both ends of the floor, who has a veteran play style, which tends to their playoff hopes. The other set of minutes that have had trouble is the non-Butler minutes, due to the fact his offensive abilities weren’t being reiterated by an aging Goran Dragic and inconsistent Tyler Herro.

The last set of minutes that were absolutely atrocious were the non-Butler and Adebayo minutes, which weren’t seen much throughout the season. One of the two making an early exit in the first, followed by one subbing back in as the other got a breather, became the new normal on this team, which didn’t seem like a winning equation.

But they’ve turned that around recently, and it’s the one hidden gem when discussing the Miami Heat’s success.

A recent Dragic surge and Herro comeback have been the main reasons for this, since that back-court tandem has been on a roll lately. They combined for an efficient 50 points against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night, which was an introduction to Miami’s new play-style.

Now, the Heat are able to leave Butler and Adebayo off the floor for longer periods than ever imagined, and not only have those lineups been stable, but they’ve boosted production. In the last two games, the bench lineup with Dragic-Herro-Iguodala-Dedmon, with Kendrick Nunn plugged in, has an offensive rating of 122 and a defensive rating of 97.

Although those numbers are exceptional, it’s a small sample size, but this shouldn’t be taken lightly. I don’t think anybody expected a lineup of Dragic, Nunn, and Herro to have a defensive rating of 97 over a two game span, but they’ve found a way through an effective scheme consisting of lots of blitzing and doubles. That defense also plays into their favor offensively while it allows them to get out in the open court and run.

The question now becomes, is it sustainable? It’s something that can’t be answered at the moment, but I will say that this Dragic run doesn’t seem to be temporary. The comfort levels with the three guard lineups have been a huge reason for the recent surge as well.

When I asked Erik Spoelstra about the lineups with Goran Dragic and Kendrick Nunn being so effective, he responded, “It wasn’t like jumping off the screen or in our reports and reviews until about two weeks ago. We started to notice that combination was actually being pretty effective. So it’s something that we will continue to explore.”

Well they’ve continued to explore it, and even thrown Herro into the mix with them, which has posted an offensive rating of 120 since his return.

This team has needed one more guy to step up for quite some time, and they currently have every role player doing that at the same time. If this team can at least stay afloat when Adebayo and Butler head to the bench over these last four games, there’s no doubt in my mind that they’ll have a week off while other teams battle it out in the play-in.

It’s a hidden gem that’s becoming not so hidden. And once that ability is noticed in a playoff setting, it leads them right back into Butler or Adebayo takeover mode, which is exactly what they want. As Adebayo said, “When we’re clicking on all cylinders, we’re a hard team to beat.” And their cylinders are currently clicking, due to this very reason: star-less success.

5 Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Timberwolves

The Miami Heat got a much needed win against the Minnesota Timberwolves, headlined by their back-up back-court. Both Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro returned to the lineup tonight, leaving only Victor Oladipo on the injury report. Anyway, here are five takeaways from this important win…

#1: Tyler Herro is….back.

Tyler Herro returned on Friday night against Minnesota with limited expectations. And that’s the best thing for Herro. He scored 14 points in the first half, including 4 for 4 from the three-point line. The one takeaway from that second quarter spurt from him is that he is such a rhythm shooter. When that first one falls, expect a few more to fall as well, since that type of lift and confidence translates to very good things. Herro’s role on this team must be that offensive boost that can be relied on nightly, since although spark scoring is obvious, consistency is next. Another thing to mention about his performance is that he did it in lineups without Jimmy Butler, which is usually some of his best minutes. If he can control lineups with Goran Dragic, who I will discuss next, this team can take that next step.

#2: Goran Dragic looks like a rejuvenated 35 year old.

After Goran Dragic turned 35 years old a day ago, he looked like a different player. He has caught some momentum over his past few games, but this was the icing on the cake. Although that impressive scoring stretch from Herro will be harped on, Dragic was the consistent offensive force that was looked to. Getting to the rim and making mid-range jumpers aside, one specific thing stood out in tonight’s game: he plays off of the defense. He was being guarded by a smaller Jordan McLaughlin, which means he adjusts his ways of scoring. An unexpected way tonight was in the high post, since the slight size advantage allowed him to not only find ways to score by backing him down, but also play-make with skip passes in the post. Dragic’s ability to adjust to a defense is one of his most underrated offensive abilities, and this corner he’s currently turning will further prove that.

#3: Miami’s bench outscores starters in first half, which is….different.

The starting lineup had 25 points at the half, while the bench ended up with 34, which is a very different scene on this Heat team. Miami went from trying to survive non-Bam and non-Butler minutes previously, to leaving them on the bench together for the longest period of the season. That just reiterates the first two takeaways of Herro and Dragic’s play, but don’t let Andre Iguodala and Dewayne Dedmon’s five combined points at the half confuse you. Iguodala was as active as ever on the defensive end, while Dedmon just mucked things up for Minnesota after Adebayo exited the game with some early foul trouble. The thing about these two guys is that they play their role perfectly, and it becomes even more apparent when their guard pairing among reserves really get going.

#4: A third quarter energy shift, sparked by Butler, Adebayo, and, oh, technicals.

When looking at the third quarter throughout the season, that’s usually Butler’s queue to begin to increase his aggression. Well, he did just that again tonight, mostly through Miami’s most effective bridge of offense, which begins on the defensive end. His defensive staple is the unexpected double on the perimeter to rip the ball away and play in transition. Adebayo also initiated offense a bit more after a tough first half for him, which seemed to be generated by some calls going in the opposite direction. And speaking of certain calls from the referees, some technical fouls were issued to a couple complaining Timberwolves, giving Miami some easy points, as well as D’Angelo Russell being ejected. One thing about this Heat team is that they thrive off of energy, and night’s like this further prove that point, no matter if they were facing a weaker match-up.

#5: Time to watch the standings.

As the Miami Heat are in play-in range, it’s important to keep your eyes on the teams that are fighting for those 4th, 5th, and 6th seeds. The Boston Celtics are the team to watch the closest if you’re Miami for a bunch of reasons. For one, they lost to the Chicago Bulls tonight, which means Miami’s currently in the 6th seed in the East. But once again, the next two games seem to be the deciding factor. The Heat’s next two games are the Celtics, meaning they must take care of business in those games and they can safely say that they get a week off while Boston’s fighting in the play-in. If anybody needs that extra time off, it’s this Heat team. Giving Butler and Dragic some rest, Herro some time to recover, and the entire team a mental reset will be huge if they want to make a push in the post-season once again.

The On-Court Production of Tyler Herro Needs Some Perspective

Expectations are a pretty interesting thing in the NBA. One day you’re being drafted number 13, which many labeled the wrong choice, and the next instant you’re being looked at to step up in an NBA Finals game with all of the eyes on you.

And then, the title begins to shift from Boy Wonder to “one year wonder,” which once again just further proves this odd thing called expectations. But there are many reasons that point to this sharp turn being highly unreasonable.

Let’s start with this. Kendrick Nunn has been on an absolute tear this season since being plugged into the starting lineup, and it’s pretty clear he has his spot locked up as much as anybody in that starting lineup this season. But somehow, he averages less points per game than Tyler Herro over the course of the year.

The difference is that Nunn has been much more efficient and reliant, but for there to be two completely opposite perceptions about two players, who are pretty similar in the scoring column which is their roles, creates for an interesting debate.

There is no doubt that Herro has had his fair share of down games and rough stretches, but isn’t that expected for a second year guy selected in the late lottery? His three-point shooting numbers have taken a major dip from 39% to 34%, but still sustained a mutual field goal percentage overall due to the increase in two-point attempts.

When the public perception really began to spiral out of control was a recent three game stretch that consisted of a 5 point night on 2 for 10 shooting, a 4 point night on 1 for 7 shooting, and a 9 point night on 4 for 13 shooting. But the interesting part about that stretch is that he had a pretty decent bounce back in the two games before going out with injury, including a 22 point night against the Spurs with a fourth quarter explosion, and a 12 point night on 50% shooting against the Hawks.

Speaking of that fourth quarter, this is what it looked like, and it continues the discussion of his game relying so heavily on rhythm….

Even though numbers have declined slightly and there’s an abundance of guards on the roster at the moment, it just doesn’t seem likely that this team will bail on Herro as much as many observers have. The rotations and minutes are an Erik Spoelstra problem, and I can guarantee that his worries don’t include if Herro should get a majority of minutes.

He will still be in the game for many fourth quarters, he will still be running many bench units with Goran Dragic, and he will still be a guy that the guys on this team trust. Of course this is barring a healthy return from this foot injury that hasn’t been updated much, but it just seems that we’ve seen this situation play out way too often.

Also, I think this time off can play a big role in his overall production. Sometimes the fix for a player is just playing time, which was the case for Kendrick Nunn, but I believe a mental reset may be the solution for Herro’s struggles.

It’s just going to be up to him to see how he responds, since he will be thrown immediately back into the fire against some of the Eastern Conference’s most elite teams down the stretch, then an immediate transition into playoff time. And if there’s any stretch of games that can spark something in Herro, it’s that type of competitive stretch where the odds are against them, which is just how both he and the rest of the team likes it.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Depleted Hawks Team

The Miami Heat were looking to expand their winning streak to four games against a Hawks team without Trae Young and Clint Capela, but Atlanta just seemed to want it much more in simplistic terms. These type of losses just further magnify the issues of this current Heat team, which leads us right into the five takeaways from this game…

#1: Miami’s first half defense was not their strong suit.

On a night that Atlanta was without two starters, in Trae Young and Clint Capela, it seemed like defense wouldn’t be as much of an issue. John Collins would have to see Bam Adebayo for valued minutes, instead of him being glued onto Capela, but he got his way anyway. The Hawks were forcing switches leading to mismatches time and time again, and did a great job of taking advantage of Miami’s blitzing, swinging the ball to the open shooter. And the thing about that open shooter is that this Atlanta team didn’t miss much in that first half. Lucky for Miami though, they were knocking down shots as well, but it’s not ideal that you’re identity is the point of inconsistency against a depleted Hawks team.

#2: Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn take turns generating offense.

There have been some discussions lately about the long term options of Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro, which has caused these two to be compared constantly. But something that must be noted, is that they can actually be impactful together. Nunn kept them going early by knocking down some shots from the outside, but an interesting element is him becoming the Trevor Ariza of the three-guard lineups, when he should actually be the Kendrick Nunn. Goran Dragic and Tyler Herro struggled on blow-by’s, while it shined light on the fact that Nunn should be the on-ball option. Herro got into a flow in the second quarter, once again, as an off-ball option. Some of his movement led to open space on the perimeter, which is what he will have to do until he becomes comfortable again on drives to the basket.

#3: Duncan Robinson doing the same thing he does every night. Oh, except shoot the deep ball well.

It may become a bit repetitive when reading about Duncan Robinson on everyone of these pieces, but truly, that just showcases his level of consistency since the trade deadline. He obviously didn’t shoot the ball well from deep tonight, but it’s so intriguing when watching the differences in his offensive sets. He’s running much more stuff out of the high pick and roll, which gives him much more room to navigate, and ultimately, forces him to drive more. And a driving Robinson isn’t the worst thing in the world, since he seems to be getting more and more comfortable in that area every night. When I asked Bam Adebayo about his decision making in those spots, he highlighted Robinson’s level of work everyday to improve, and that seems to be exactly it with this level of improvement.

#4: Mistimed third quarter decisions led to Miami’s drought.

It’s hard to pick out some of the small things when a team is just absolutely shooting the lights out, but there definitely were some signs in that third quarter that played a part. Bam Adebayo was having trouble on the boards, which led to an early insertion of Dewayne Dedmon, who always seems to give them good minutes offensively around the basket. The only issue with that was it was clear Miami was heading toward that surprising 2-2-1 press into a 2-3 zone, but they may have gone into that a bit too late in the quarter. When going zone, Dedmon probably isn’t the best big man option due to limited mobility, which forces the lower tier defensive assets to have more of a load. And that right there is the point of the zone, meaning that exact timing of subbing and defensive adjustment was a bit off in that stretch.

#5: This game was……well, predictable.

If there’s anything that is widely known about this Heat team, it’s that they truly rise up when facing the best teams in the NBA, while fall short against depleted rosters or lower tiered teams. Well, that’s what happened tonight, since they played like the team without two starters. The main theme of this game tonight was to instill a certain level of consistency after finally getting into a rhythm over the last few games. And even though shots were falling at a good rate throughout, everything else basically fell apart. A bad defensive performance, tough time on the boards, and an odd passing display with a team that usually looks so crisp with their ball movement. Jimmy Butler said a few weeks ago that you don’t know what team you’re going to get whenever they play, and that once again shows to be the case.

5 Takeaways from Heat’s Impressive Win Over Portland

The Miami Heat took down the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday night to kick off their West Coast trip. After it appeared it may be a long night for Miami following the first quarter, they turned it around completely to get a solid all-around win. So, let’s take a look at five takeaways from this game…

#1: Bam Adebayo showing peak Adebayo levels early on.

Bam Adebayo’s impact against Portland began on the first play, as a deflection led to the first turnover of many for the Trail Blazers tonight. Although defense is always the hot topic with Adebayo, his offense in the first half specifically must be harped on. This isn’t just because of his 15 point box score in the first half, but actually the importance of those 15 points. Miami had a rough first quarter, with extra emphasis on rough. The offense wasn’t clicking for anybody, except Adebayo. Attacking the drop bigs, getting to the free throw line, knocking down turn-around late shot-clock jumpers. He did it all, and it’s just further assurance that he’s more than capable of doing it on a consistent basis, but it’s up to him.

#2: Tyler Herro playing his role, thriving against one specific defensive scheme.

Tyler Herro gave Miami an efficient 10 first half points tonight, but it’s important to discuss the specifics of this scoring run off the bench. He’s mentioned many times that he is more than comfortable against drop coverage, and that statement is not an overstatement. High pick and rolls with Adebayo as the screener should make anybody comfortable, but giving Herro that many options that fit his strengths are the clear indicators. He showed the ability to hit the open pull-up mid-range, make the lob pass, and most importantly, make the pocket pass after some shots begin to drop for him. It may not be as much about comfort against the scheme as it is about overall confidence when he sees it, since a lot of the time it’s more mental than physical, especially when talking about Herro.

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#3: Duncan Robinson’s defensive flashes may be minor, but they’re happening.

Duncan Robinson’s improvements on the defensive end may not be incredibly loud, but that doesn’t mean it’s not progressing. Something that is constantly talked about is his high IQ from a team defense perspective, and that was on display tonight, especially in the first half. Nunn-Herro-Robinson lineups don’t sound like the most effective defensive lineup, but Robinson basically saved them from completely falling apart. When Nunn defensive breakdowns would occur for example, Robinson predicted the rotation to get into position, either leading to kick-outs or drawing a charge. This not only increases the comfort level and willingness to keep him on the floor late in games, but it also makes the off-season contract discussion even more interesting, since a functional defender changes a lot of things.

#4: Trevor Ariza’s fit with this Heat team becoming clearer and clearer.

When talking about Miami Heat player acquisitions that just completely embody everything that they’re about, Trevor Ariza would probably be pretty high on that list. Aside from his growing comfort level in the offense as a catch and shoot guy, while sprinkling in an obvious ability to put the ball on the floor to get to the rim, his defensive impact is the true headliner. When talking about high impact guys like Andre Iguodala whose stat lines don’t tell a thing, Ariza is in the same category, since he just constantly wrecks havoc, even without discussing steals and deflections. His rotations are crisp, his length is an offensive player’s nightmare, and most importantly, he can handle his own against the best point guards in the league. He’s more comfortable on smaller guys that lengthier wings, which means this team’s confidence rises against perimeter oriented teams in the East.

#5: Kendrick Nunn back as a starter, Kendrick Nunn back producing.

Kendrick Nunn is like a revolving door on this Heat team, since he goes from starter to out of the rotation to an opportunity rising, as the cycle begins again and again. A key piece to that as well is that he always finds himself back into his role playing at a high level, since he’s surprisingly become a pretty consistent player on the offensive side of the floor. He quickly showed some of the things that he can improve for Miami, beginning with a guy that can attack bigs in drop coverage. The half-court ability is a known element, but he has proved to be pretty great in transition, which Miami has missed with their current personnel. And with the amount of turnovers they’re forcing in this swarming defense, transition offense is necessary, which Nunn brought to this team upon arrival.

5 Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Lakers

The Miami Heat beat the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night, sweeping the season series with them. Although I’ll address five takeaways from this game, all eyes will turn toward the Victor Oladipo injury situation that occurred in the fourth quarter. But, let’s take a look at some takeaways from this game specifically….

#1: The Jimmy Butler experience, a common theme but an interesting element.

Although Jimmy Butler’s first half consisted of only one missed shot, the continued theme showed up once again. He was the leading scorer at the half with 11 points, but the team still thrives off his aggression. As he got some much needed buckets early on, it sparked some scoring runs from Tyler Herro and Goran Dragic, which will always be the case with this team. This isn’t to discuss the drop-off when he exits the floor, but instead the moments in which he slightly fades away into the corner to be an off-ball player. It’s not the ideal situation for Miami to need an ultra-aggressive Butler against a highly depleted Lakers team, but that was the case tonight, especially since they weren’t getting the Bam Adebayo aggression early either.

#2: Tyler Herro making leaps off the ball, which is needed in his role.

Tyler Herro had his moments in the first half, but the real takeaway is what has transpired over the last few games for him. He’s been highly productive on the ball since moving to that sixth man role, but his off the ball fit is the actual essential part due to the guys he is surrounded by. One example is his reads off the ball, since he seems to watch his sole defender’s eyes a bit more, leading to instinctive cuts to the basket for easy points. But getting back to the areas he showcased tonight, it was mostly from beyond the arc as a catch and shoot threat, which is key in those lineups next to Victor Oladipo as the ball-handler. The next part to the development of these two on the floor will be Herro playing as the ball-handler more, while Oladipo can become the threat off the ball who can attack in motion.

#3: Plain and simple, the ups and downs are a normal part of this team. 

It doesn’t matter if it’s no offense, like it’s been for many games this season, or an ineffective defensive game, as portrayed against the Memphis Grizzlies, this Miami Heat roller coaster is just pretty normal at the current stage. When evaluating the overall issue tonight, it’s just the overall sloppiness and lack of consistent play on each end, while throwing in the lack of energy that was much needed in a game that they were supposed to handle easily. Now, Miami has always had trouble competing at that level in these majorly winnable games, but these type of games are very important in a season where the Eastern Conference is as closely packed as it is. If Miami wants to take that next step as a team, aside from the development or fit from individual players, team consistency is the one and only thing that fits that category.

#4: Victor Oladipo finding his offensive fit game by game.

It’s pretty obvious that Victor Oladipo’s offensive fit would progress the more games he played, but the leaps he made tonight were very crucial for the upcoming steps. Other than the simple scheme understanding, the next part of it becomes lineup fits, certain players he bounces off, among other things, which is why Coach Spo was able to experiment with that a bit after some life was shown by him in the third quarter. He was tied as the leading scorer for Miami at the end of the first quarter, and he didn’t attempt a field goal. They need him as an aggressive figure on this team, especially since the aggression levels are up and down with the Heat’s two stars, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. The attacking was important for Oladipo early on, but the falling jumpers off the ball will be the area that he’ll find himself in more and more. And the injury that occurred in the fourth quarter will be another thing to monitor, which could change this entire topic of rhythm, as an added obstacle could be given to Oladipo.

#5: Nemanja Bjelica back-up big in first half, Precious Achiuwa back-up big in the second.

Bam Adebayo’s foul trouble forced Miami to look at different options in the big man department, which is pretty limited as Dewayne Dedmon isn’t available to play yet. Nemanja Bjelica obviously had his name called early on, and he gives them a surprising drive and kick ability, with the emphasis on kick since he is more than willing to give the ball up. The issue is that his offense, particularly the shooting, isn’t what many may have expected at this current moment, since the catch and shoot ability should be the easiest part for him to slide into. Precious Achiuwa ended up getting the nod in the second half, since Miami needed more of an interior presence who will at least battle with athleticism. He got into some foul trouble of his own, but he had some flashes that gave Miami what they needed in those minutes, but these exact flashes reiterate the fact that his development in a Summer League or G-League would be so helpful for him right now.