Tyler Herro has never been short on confidence, even before he spent his lone college season in Lexington.
After one year of playing at the highest level of basketball in the world, the former Kentucky Wildcat is still riding the same confidence that helped him escape the wrath of the still-salty Wisconsinites. In an interview with ESPN’s Eric Woodyard, the Miami Heat rookie said that he would have finished “1 or 2” in the NBA’s Rookie of the Year race had a nagging ankle injury not sidelined him for 15 consecutive games.
“I definitely feel like if it wasn’t for that injury, I feel like I would be 1 or 2 in the Rookie of the Year race,” Herro told ESPN. “So I’m ready to get out there and prove myself again.”
Herro’s ankle finally came around right as the coronavirus postponed the season. He played in seven minutes in his first game back against the Charlotte Hornets on March 11, the same day Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert was diagnosed with COVID-19, effectively putting the rest of the 2019-20 season on hold.
Prior to his absence, Herro might have been able to back up his statement. He was averaging 12.9 points (8th amongst all rookies) and 4.0 rebounds while playing over 27 minutes per game. He converted on 39.1 percent of his 5.4 three-point attempts through 47 games. Herro dropped 29 points in just his fourth NBA game and tallied up nine outings with at least 20 points. He drilled seven triples in a January matchup against the Washington Wizards – tying the league record for a rookie.
Memphis Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant was – and still is – seen as the favorite to win the award, and the emergence of Zion Williamson (NOP) halfway through the season propelled him into the conversation as well. But when you take a step back and assess the entire rookie class, there are only a handful of first-year guys who could argue they were playing better than Herro before his injury.
Eric Paschall (GSW), Brandon Clarke (MEM), and Rui Hachimura (WAS) are the few I would group with Herro. You could even add P.J. Washington Jr. (CHA) into the mix. The 2019 class of rookies is stacked with quality talent. Had he been able to stay on the court, it’s hard to imagine Herro wouldn’t have continued his impressive scoring run right into the discussion for ROY.