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Tyler Herro looks like a home-run draft pick for the Miami Heat

The former Kentucky shooting guard is already impressing in the NBA.

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Tyler Herro celebrates on the court for the Heat.
The Heat nailed their draft pick with Tyler Herro.

Tyler Herro has never lacked self-assurance. As a recruit, he lived the dream of so many Wisconsin kids by committing to the hometown Badgers at the start of his junior year. Herro could have had a long and productive career there, following the path of Sam Dekker, another local boy made good who spent three years at Wisconsin and helped lead them to the Final Four.

But that was never Herro’s dream. As his stock continued to rise over the next year, Herro bet on himself. He reopened his recruitment and waited for a blue blood to come calling. One day, as he was shooting in his school’s open gym, John Calipari walked through the door and offered him a scholarship.

Would Herro be on the Miami Heat today if he stuck with Wisconsin? It’s impossible to know, but Herro’s belief that he could play on the biggest of stages is continuing to translate all the way to the NBA. The No. 13 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft had a strong summer league and an encouraging preseason before putting together his breakout performance on Tuesday night: scoring 29 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the field, including 19 points in the second quarter.

Miami welcomed Jimmy Butler for his first official game following the birth of his daughter, but Herro stole the show. The Heat, now 3-1, seem to have found a young player who can grow as a foundational piece for the future while also contributing right away.

It already looks like Miami found a gem at the end of the lottery.

Herro is a pure shooter, but his game is more than that

Herro knocked down 60 three-pointers at a 35.5 percent clip during his one-and-done season at Kentucky — good numbers, but slightly underwhelming for someone who had a reputation as a knockdown shooter entering college. Dig deeper, and there was plenty of evidence that he had elite touch: Herro made 93.5 percent of his free throws, finished in the 90th percentile on runners/floaters, and was better off the dribble than on catch-and-shoots.

Herro knocked down 3-of-4 threes against the Hawks on Tuesday. What’s even more impressive is how he can make teams pay when they run him off the line:

Herro had multiple drives that led to acrobatic finishes at the rim vs. Atlanta. Teams are closing out hard against him at the start of his pro career, and he’s showing he’s comfortable putting the ball on the floor and making something happen. That’s going to make Miami’s halfcourt offense so much tougher to defend as he continues to develop.

Herro is impressive in transition too, another area where he shined in college. He threw some nice passes as well, despite averaging under two assists per game at the start of his young career. And while the clip of fellow rookie Cam Reddish dunking on him immediately went viral, it also showed that Herro is willing to compete on the defensive end and try to challenge shots even when he gets beat.

Herro is a perfect long-term fit next to Jimmy Butler

The Heat didn’t know they’d be able to sign Butler when they drafted Herro, but it already looks like a great match. If you were going to create the perfect off-guard next to Butler, Herro would have many of the qualities you’re looking for.

The threat of Herro’s shooting is going to open things up for Butler’s drives. Herro’s ability to attack closeouts and move the ball will benefits Butler’s off-ball abilities. It’s clear the star already has admiration for his rookie:

Butler has been heaping praise on him since he arrived in Miami. Here’s what he had to say about Herro during the preseason:

“He don’t give a damn about what I think (of him),” Butler said recently. “I have that quality, too. A lot of people don’t, but he has it. He’s comfortable in his own skin. He’s not worried about what anybody says. He’s confident because he works on his game. He listens. He asks all the right questions. At 19, (if) you’ve already got that mindset, you can only get better, especially in this organization. He’s going to be special for a very long time.”

Butler once bet on himself to get a better deal from the Chicago Bulls as he was starting to ascend in the league. It’s clear he sees Herro as some type of kindred spirit. This is going to be a successful pairing for a long-time.

The Heat are going to be feisty

Butler is a stud who can serve as an offensive hub unto himself. He should again be a top-15 player in the league this year. Miami’s other former Kentucky Wildcat, Bam Adebayo, feels poised for a breakout in his third season as a strong-and-athletic center who finishes everything in the paint. Goran Dragic still has some juice left. Kendrick Nunn has been a revelation. With Justise Winslow, Herro, and some shooters in the front court, the Heat have enough versatility to shuffle between offensive and defensive lineups depending on the matchup.

Miami has only made the playoffs twice in the last five years, but it now looks like they have the foundation to remain competitive well into the future. After landing a star in free agency with Butler and surrounding him with quality talent like Herro in the draft, the Heat are on their way to being a factor in the Eastern Conference.