Miami Heat rookie Tyler Herro dominated 2020’s NBA Eastern Conference finals with a near triple-double in Game 1 and a career-high 37 points in Game 4 against the Celtics. The shooting guard led the whole series and impressed the coaching staff with his undervalued talent.
The 20-year-old almost ended up playing for the Boston Celtics. And he’s exceeded the expectations scouts gave him entering the 2019 NBA draft. In fact, the fate of the No. 13-ranked rookie came down to a coin flip.
The fateful coin toss
Watching Herro play with the confidence of a seasoned player made the Celtics wonder what they missed out on in the versatile guard. After averaging eight rebounds a game in the series and taking a commanding lead in Game 4, the competitive rookie made sure everyone knew he was ready, willing, and able.
That wasn’t the case in 2019 when the Heat and Celtics flipped a coin for the 13th-best odds. The Hornets, Heat, and Kings closed out the season with identical records. This left them in a random tie-breaker before the lottery. The Charlotte Hornets took the 12th-best odds. With the 13th draft choice up for grabs, Miami won the coin toss. The Heat selected Herro. The Kings pick fell to No. 14, and the Celtics chose Romeo Langford.
At the time, no one knew what the young point guard from Kentucky was capable of. Weighing only 160 pounds and averaging 14 points per game in college, he was by no means a blue-chip recruit.
CBS Sports talked to several college scouts who agreed that if they knew what they know now, Herro would have placed much higher in the draft. Some argued that he could have made it up to the No. 3 overall position behind Zion Williamson and Ja Morant.
A Western Conference scout told CBS Sports, “here’s a guy who was taken at the end of the lottery, and almost immediately it was apparent that was too low.”
Tyler Herro’s rookie season with the Miami Heat
The six-foot-five guard played in 55 regular-season games for the Heat during his rookie season, averaging 13.5 points per game. His playoff performance was phenomenal, helping the Heat dominate the series. The Wildcats alum made history by hitting four clutch three-pointers in eight postseason games, more than any other rookie since the turn of the century.
In Kentucky, Herro was relegated to being a shooter that ran off screens and didn’t dribble much. CBS Sports refers to his college level of play as “the Kentucky Factor,” where talented players are often assigned specific roles, and their true talents don’t get showcased. Coaches and scouts alike underestimated his abilities, not knowing what a valuable player Herro would become.
Herro’s solid performance in the playoffs, combined with his admirable rookie season, is making a lot of teams question their draft choices. CBS Sports says they missed out on “what was hiding in plain sight.”
Romeo Langford’s rookie season with the Boston Celtics
Langford seemed to be a promising pick for the Celtics until his rookie season was riddled with injuries, details The Telegram. The No. 14 draft pick missed the summer league because of thumb surgery. His most recent injury happened a little more than a minute into Game 2 of the finals. A groin injury made him sit out the rest of the game — ironically against the Miami Heat.
During the regular season, Langford sat out 10 games between November and January and was placed on the inactive list 26 times. He also had 14 DNPs, managing to appear in 32 games with only two starts.
Celtics Coach Brad Stevens has sympathy for Langford, saying, “I feel for him. He’s a hard-working guy. He’s a tough guy, and I think he’s got a bright, bright future.” Meanwhile, the Heat are reaping the benefits of their draft choice. On the short returns, Miami won out, especially with Langford facing so many injuries.