Tyler Herro plays point guard, hits five threes in summer league debut

Tyler Herro didn’t get much of a chance to play as the primary ball-handler at Kentucky, but he’s going to get an opportunity to play in that role with the Heat’s summer league team.

Drafted by Miami with the 13th overall pick in this year’s draft, Herro has been labeled as a shooter by many after playing mostly in an off-ball role in his one season at Kentucky. Except the 19-year-old doesn’t consider himself as just a shooter, and he showed off other areas of his game in his summer league debut Monday night — a 106-79 Heat victory over the Lakers as part of the California Classic at Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center.

With Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra watching from a few rows behind Miami’s bench, the 6-6 guard was used as a primary ball-handler, in pick-and-rolls, as a facilitator in half-court sets and a target in transition.

“He’s got a pretty unique skill set. He’s not just a shooter,” Heat summer league coach Eric Glass said, with Miami taking on Sacramento on Tuesday night in its second of three California Classic games. “I feel very comfortable with him with the ball. He’s very comfortable. He’s got a good handle and he’s learning how to make plays. Every game he’ll learn something new, but we like him in that spot.”

Herro finished his summer league debut with a team-high 18 points on 6-for-15 shooting, three rebounds and four assists. There were a few missed floaters near the rim, but he showed off his outside shot with a 5-for-10 performance from three-point range.

“It felt good,” Herro said of playing as a primary ball-handler. “I feel real comfortable handling the ball, so coaches gave me the opportunity to dribble and handle the ball. So I was definitely excited.”

Herro flashed the potential to be effective in the pick-and-roll during limited opportunities as a freshman Kentucky this past season. He created 1.24 points per possession on 25 possessions as a pick-and-roll ball-handler (98th percentile).

Because Herro hasn’t logged extended minutes in an on-ball role since high school, growing comfortable with his new summer league duties has required an adjustment period.

“I think just handling the ball. It was my first time in a while just handling the ball coming from college,” Herro said of the challenges that come with facilitating the offense. “I don’t think I really played the point since high school. Coming from that, and I think just getting comfortable handling the ball and just running sets and getting guys in the right spots and things like that.”

Defense is another area that will require an adjustment period. Herro said he’s been able to pick up certain aspects of the Heat’s defensive system during the team’s three summer league practice days leading up to Monday’s victory.

“He’s very sharp,” Glass said. “You know, little mistakes here and there. But for the most part, we love his competitiveness. He does a good job on the ball and we were pretty happy with that.”

Herro added: “My IQ is pretty high. So I just try to watch as much film and soak in as much as I can, and learn from the older guys like Duncan [Robinson] and Yante [Maten].”

But the one thing Miami knows Herro will be able to do immediately: make threes. He made five three-pointers in Monday’s summer league opener, and was especially dangerous as a pull-up shooter in transition.

“I think that’s a talent you have,” Glass said of Herro’s ability to find threes in the open court. “He can find those open spaces, he knows where to get the ball. We’re not teaching him that. That’s something he came in with.”

Herro feels most comfortable when his shots come off the dribble. He’s still working to improve his catch-and-shoot game, which is a skill he really began developing at Kentucky when he was used mostly in an off-ball role.

“That’s when I shoot my best,” Herro said when asked about taking shots off the dribble. “Right now, I’m just working on shooting off the catch.

“I just like getting out in transition, playing fast and getting out in space. I think that’s when I play my best.”

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Anthony Chiang covers the Miami Heat for the Miami Herald. He attended the University of Florida and was born and raised in Miami.