Their recent slippage notwithstanding, the Miami Heat continue to be one of the NBA‘s best defensive clubs (truly). As of this writing, the team is in a virtual tie with the Phoenix Suns for the sixth-best defensive rating in the Association at 112.1 (just 0.3 points allowed per 100 possessions behind the No. 5 Chicago Bulls).
For the most part, Miami’s aces remain in their places, but when the club’s defensive front has been at its best this season, it has also gotten a better effort out of one of its old Achilles heels in Tyler Herro. At least, that’s what the numbers say.
Through March 13, the baller’s defensive real plus/minus score checks in at 2.77, a mark that ranks among the top 10 of point guard and shooting guards league-wide. And the Heat’s team D-rating drops a full point when Herro is on the bench (from 110.5 to 111.5).
All of this begs the question — has Herro actually gotten better on the defensive end or have the Heat simply gotten better at hiding him? As an Eastern Conference executive sees it, there’s truth to be found in both statements.
Exec: Despite His Limitations, Heat’s Tyler Herro Has Learned the Art of Playing NBA Defense
In discussing Herro’s evolution with Heavy Sports’ Sean Deveney, the rival exec noted that the 23-year-old has figured some things out defensively with time and experience.
“You definitely can’t target him anymore,” the exec opined. “That does not make him Gary Payton or anything but he is not a guy you can go at and expect to get an easy bucket or expect to get a mix-up in coverage or anything. That is different. You can’t learn great defensive instincts but you can learn to be where you are supposed to be and how to take away advantages other guys have, all of that.
“To his credit, he has done that.”
That said, there has definitely been some addition by subtraction happening, too. Specifically with the Heat’s actual Achilles heel no longer being a regular part of the rotation.
“Part of that is just, they do not have anyone on the floor they need to hide defensively, so they have been able to give him easier assignments. When they had him and Duncan Robinson on the floor together, man, there was no way to hide both of them.”
Alas, Pat Riley’s recent roster tinkering may have the left the door open for some old problems to re-emerge.
“Now, I would worry because you have Kevin Love so if you are trying to hide him defensively, you might leave Herro exposed a little more.”
Can the Heat Live With Herro’s Defense in the Long-Term?
Much has been said and written about whether Herro was worthy of his four-year, $130 million contract extension given his limitations defensively. As the exec sees it, we’ll learn soon enough whether the Heat are satisfied with his progress on that end of the court.
“The real barometer there, though, is that he can be traded in the offseason when his contract kicks in, but you just don’t hear about that kind of chatter right now,” the exec said.
“That is not to say they would never trade him or that if they could get an Anthony Davis or someone like that, they’d change their minds there. But they are not really looking into dealing away Herro.”