The Miami Heat Are Crossing Their Fingers and Hoping One of Their Core Players Improves

Not long ago, Tyler Herro was a bubble sensation for the Miami Heat. The rookie was one of Miami’s leading scorers during its NBA Finals run, headlined by a 37-point masterpiece in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals. However, Herro was unable to replicate his offensive brilliance in year two, which ended in a first-round sweep at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Heat added Kyle Lowry and P.J. Tucker this offseason, while also inking contract extensions with Jimmy Butler and Duncan Robinson. As for Herro, his future with the organization might be in doubt if there’s another disappointing effort. But if the third-year guard from Kentucky can rediscover his potential, it could be the difference-maker for the Heat’s title hopes.

Tyler Herro failed to meet expectations in his second NBA season

On the surface, Herro’s second season looks about the same as his first. The 21-year-old actually improved his points per game average from 13.5 to 15.1, while increasing his overall field goal percentage from 42.8 to 43.9. But there were declines in several important areas, particularly for a shooter like Herro. His three-point percentage fell from 38.9 to 36, with his free-throw percentage falling from 87.0 to 80.3 as well.

The biggest difference came in the postseason. Inside the bubble, Herro averaged 16.0 points on 43.3 percent shooting, including a 37.5 percent clip from three. In the four-game loss to the Bucks, Herro was only putting up 9.3 points on 31.6 percent shooting from the field as well as from beyond the arc.

With the production falling a bit short of expectations, it didn’t help that Herro’s celebrity was growing off the court at the same time (h/t Inside the Paint).

“Tyler Herro chose to become a celebrity. He chose to become something outside the game, as is his right. With his breakfast cereal, and his Tyler Tuesdays, and his Chipotle Bowl and that’s all well and good. But you know what? Other players when they see a player doing that before they’ve truly reached it. I don’t know if I want to say there’s a jealousy … They sort of take a scant view of the guy and say, ’Wait a minute buddy. You haven’t done anything yet.’”

Ira Winderman, Heat beat reporter

Herro’s best basketball came when he was inside the bubble with no outside distractions. Perhaps that’s an indication the youngster needs to focus on basketball more than he’s been doing.

Herro is putting in work this offseason

In order to regain some playing time and potentially re-earn a spot in the starting lineup, Herro will have to show his dedication. Fortunately, the 21-year-old is heading in the right direction.

The Heat asked Herro to put on 10 pounds of muscle to his 6-foot-5, 195-pound frame. Based on recent social media posts, the guard looks visibly stronger than he did in his first two NBA seasons. On a Butler-led team that prides itself in toughness and conditioning, a stronger Herro is imperative to their plans.

“Getting stronger, getting to my spots easier, and just being able to defend bigger guys than me,” Herro told the Sun Sentinal. “I want to be able to be as big as the rest of the vets are in the league.”

Herro could be the x-factor for a contending Miami Heat team

No one expected the Heat to make a run to the NBA Finals less than a year ago. Just like no one expected a rookie guard to put up several masterful playoff performances at such a young age. The two things go hand-in-hand, where a resurgent Herro makes Miami a true title contender.

In 2020-21, Miami’s three-point percentage was 35.8, 19th in the NBA. The Bucks and Phoenix Suns, for context, were ranked fifth and seventh respectively. With neither Butler nor Bam Adebayo a threat to shoot from deep, Herro will be one of the key players in improving the Heat’s mediocre ranking.

Of course, his presence on the team could also improve them in the form of a trade. Rumors swirled last season about Herro’s inclusion in a potential deal for James Harden. While that ship has sailed, Herro could still be a young piece Miami deals for a star to join their veteran core.

At this point, however, it’s likely Herro stays in South Beach. But he’ll need to show his team that the heroics in the bubble were no fluke.

All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.

RELATED: Chris Bosh’s First Encounter With LeBron James Was Getting Crushed by Him in High School: ‘He Already Had Such a Complete Game’