It’s early in the season, but the Miami Heat are as hot as the sands of South Beach. With MVP candidate Jimmy Butler leading the way, the Heat have started 5-1 and look the part of a title contender. A big reason why is the scorching start from third-year guard Tyler Herro, who just received a huge stamp of approval from Hall of Famer and Heat alum Shaquille O’Neal.
Tyler Herro has had a tremendous start to the season
The 21-year-old Herro crashed onto the scene during Miami’s run to the NBA Finals in 2020. As a rookie, the 6-foot-5 shooter averaged 16.0 points in the playoffs, including an epic 37-point clinic in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Even though the Heat ultimately fell to the Los Angeles Lakers, Herro’s historic postseason gave the team endless hope for his future.
Unfortunately, Herro wasn’t able to build off of his stellar postseason in year two. While the youngster saw his points per game go up from 13.5 to 15.1, his 3-point percentage fell from 38.9% to 36.0%. He also failed to come close to his previous postseason numbers, scoring just 9.3 points per game in Miami’s four-game loss at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks.
However, 2021-22 is a new season, and so far, the former Kentucky Wildcat is making the most of it.
Following a summer focused on getting stronger, Herro is averaging a career-high 22.0 points through Miami’s first six contests. He’s hitting 39.5% of his 7.2 3-point attempts per game while also averaging career bests with 6.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists. Herro’s best game came in the Heat’s lone loss, ironically, when he dropped 30 points and pulled down 10 boards against the Indiana Pacers.
Shaquille O’Neal says Tyler Herro is on par with other young stars
Before Herro took the court this season, he submitted his claim for hot take of the year.
In a preseason interview with Bally Sports Sun, the third-year guard said he belongs in the same conversation as young stars like Luka Doncic, Trae Young, and Ja Morant. Herro’s comments took the NBA world by surprise. However, the guard found an unlikely ally in O’Neal.
The Hall of Fame center has seemingly endorsed every product under the sun. But on Tuesday, he shockingly endorsed the 21-year-old during TNT’s Inside the NBA, minutes before Herro’s Heat took on Doncic’s Dallas Mavericks.
“I want to talk about my guy Tyler Herro. He says, ‘I’m just as good as Luka and Trae.’ Well, one, we’re going to see tonight. And two, I believe it.”Shaquille O’Neal
It’s not the first time Shaq has stuck up for the Heat’s 2019 first-round pick. On another TNT broadcast this season, Charles Barkley stated how Herro wasn’t “on the level” of players like Luka and Trae. However, O’Neal shot back, telling Barkley, “I think he is, Chuck. I’m with you, Tyler. Don’t worry about Chuck. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”
Shaq loves the Miami Heat this season
O’Neal’s career is mostly defined by his time with the Los Angeles Lakers. But the four-time champion earned one of those rings with Dwyane Wade and the Heat in 2006. All bias aside, though, Shaq loves what Herro and the Heat did to improve their team last offseason.
“You bring in two players that have championship mentalities and championships in [Kyle] Lowry and P.J. Tucker. And you bring in Markieff Morris and Victor Oladipo,” O’Neal said on TNT. “We all love the culture of Miami and how they play and how they win. … I think they will have home-court advantage in the first round.”
So far, it’s hard to disagree with the big man. Aside from the double-digit loss to Indiana, Miami has won its five other games by an average margin of 22.6 points. Two of those wins came against the defending champion Bucks and title favorite Brooklyn Nets.
Herro joins Butler and Bam Adebayo atop Miami’s scoring list as all three entered Tuesday averaging over 20 points per game. But it has been a collective effort as new additions like Lowry and Tucker have helped the Heat sit fourth in offensive rating and first in defensive rating.
The Eastern Conference is there for the taking. And chances are, if the Heat find a way to grab it, Herro will be a big reason why.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.