Tonight, Tyler Herro and the Miami Heat will face off against the Boston Celtics in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. With four wins, the Heat rookie would have an opportunity to compete in the Finals and potentially hold up the Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy as one of the team’s top contributors.
In year one, Herro has averaged 13.5 points (42.8% shooting, 38.9% from three, 87% FT), 4.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 0.6 blocks per contest in 55 total games. After entering the NBA’s Orlando bubble this summer, though, the former Wildcat has averaged 15.9 points (45.8% shooting, 39% from three, 91.8% FT), 4.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 30.5 minutes per game in 17 outings.
Beyond pure stat lines, Herro has also knocked down several clutch shots in key moments, helping push his five-seed Heat squad past the Pacers in a sweep and the one-seed Bucks in five games.
“He’s just so comfortable, so confident,” Heat star Jimmy Butler said of the former Wildcat. “He plays with a swag that you’d think he was going on 31 like me. And we love him for that. We won’t change him. We want him to stay that exact same way.”
“Tyler is a bucket getter. He has a tremendous offensive game,” Miami guard Goran Dragic added. “We trust him with the ball to make plays for us.”
“They think he can be better than Devin Booker,” ESPN’s Dan LeBatard said of Miami’s confidence in Herro.
But before his rookie success and playoff run in Miami was his time at Kentucky, where he finished his freshman campaign averaging 14.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game en route to a lottery selection in the 2019 NBA Draft. At the time, his success surprised the average college basketball fan and most national media analysts, especially going into the season. After all, Herro was considered the No. 37 overall prospect in the 247Sports Composite and a consensus four-star prospect out of Milwaukee, WI. At minimum, the expectation was that the 6-foot-5 sharpshooter would be a two-and-done in Lexington, if not longer.
While whispers grew behind the scenes in Lexington that Herro could be a special player as a freshman, one individual called the four-star guard’s success from day one, and he goes by the name of Zion Williamson.
At the Jordan Brand Classic back in 2018, the former Wildcat dominated the competition at practice and in scrimmages leading up to the event. And then with all eyes on him in the game – NBA scouts, league executives, and celebrities filled the stands – Herro finished with an impressive 13 points on 5-9 shooting, five rebounds, and five assists off the bench.
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) April 8, 2018
During the post-game media session, Williamson had high praise for the then-future Wildcat, calling Herro the “most underrated player” in the class of 2018.
“Tyler is the most underrated player in our class,” Williamson told KSR. “He’s a very smooth and skilled scorer, and I feel like it goes unnoticed at times.”
Five-star forward and UK signee Keldon Johnson agreed, even foreshadowing Herro’s future nickname by the time he got to Lexington.
“Buckets,” Johnson said when asked about what Herro brings to the table. “A lot of people overlook him. He didn’t make the McDonald’s game. He’s a great player, but he’s an even better teammate.”
At the time, Herro said he appreciated the high praise, but noted that he was going to do whatever it takes to continue to prove his doubters wrong.
“Right now, Zion is one of the best players in the country. For him to say that, I really appreciate that,” Herro said. “But I’m going to continue to work every day and get better each and every day.”
Fast forward two years and five months from the 2018 Jordan Brand Classic, and Herro is now one of the best players on the Miami Heat, who are fighting for a spot in the Finals and just eight wins away from being crowned NBA champions.
Life comes at you fast.