MIAMI: Tyler Herro was told before the start of the season that he would not be in the Miami Heat’s starting lineup. To his credit, he saw this as an opportunity.
“I said Herro’s overwhelming pick of the Heat as the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year, ‘Let’s go for the Sixth Man of the Year,'” Herro said.
And that’s what he got.
Herro was announced Tuesday as the NBA’s best sixth man this season, the first player to win the award as a member of the Heat. He averaged 20.7 points, nearly four more per game than any other reserve in the league, and played a huge role in Miami securing the No. 1 seed for the Premier League Conference playoffs. ‘East.
“It means a lot,” Herro said. “I took on the sixth man role for a reason. I wanted to be the best sixth man in the league.
With the overwhelming consent of the 100 sportswriters and broadcasters who cover the league and vote on end-of-season awards, that’s what Herro was. He received 96 first-place votes and 488 total points, well ahead of Cleveland Cavaliers runner-up Kevin Love. Cameron Johnson of the Phoenix Suns finished third.
Love got three first place votes and 214 points in the system where players received five points for nodding for first place, three for second place and one for third. Johnson earned a first-place vote and 128 points.
“Tyler was fired up for this team,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He’s been like that all season.”
Herro has played eight 30-point games off the bench this season, more than all three other players combined. The last time a reserve had more than eight 30-point games was in 2017-18, when Lou Williams had 11 for the Los Angeles Clippers. Before that was 1989-90, when Ricky Pierce was 17 for Milwaukee.
And in those years, Pierce and Williams — two of the best sixth men of all time — won the award Herro received on Tuesday. Herro received the official word in a ceremony during training on Tuesday morning, with teammate Udonis Haslem as the presenter.
“When you come in and you’re going to be the star player, that’s, to me, a better role than a starting role in a lot of ways,” said Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers, whose 76ers face Herro. and the Heat. in an Eastern Conference semifinal series that resumes Wednesday. Miami leads the series 1-0, with Herro scoring 25 points in Game 1 Monday night.
“You look at the old Celtics with Kevin McHale and (John) Havlicek and you look at history, there’s been a lot of key sixth men to lead teams to a championship,” Rivers said. “They end up playing starting minutes. They just don’t start the game.
McHale won the award twice, including in Boston’s 1984 title season. Havlicek was part of eight Celtics championships, including six as a reserve.
Herro hopes to do the same this spring with Miami.
He actually played more minutes this season than anyone on the Heat, posting career highs in most offensive categories, and was second on the team in points per game behind just Jimmy Butler’s 21.4 – just 0.7 ahead of Herro’s pace.
“I just realized what this team was built for,” Herro said. “It was built for a championship. When you look at our roster, if I was our coach I would probably retire from the bench too. Looking at what we have in the team, if it makes sense to get Jimmy or me off the bench, obviously it will be me. We need to get one of our top scorers off the bench. And I understand that.
Sixth Man was the fourth major award to be announced this offseason, joining Most Improved (Ja Morant of Memphis), Rookie of the Year (Scottie Barnes of Toronto) and Defensive Player of the Year (Marcus Smart of Boston) .
Still to come: Coach of the Year (Spoelstra, Monty Williams of Phoenix and Taylor Jenkins of Memphis are the finalists) and MVP (Joel Embiid of Philadelphia, Giannis Antetokounmpo of Milwaukee and Nikola Jokic, reigning MVP of Denver).
Herro, 22, grew up in Wisconsin and played for Kentucky for a year before being drafted by Miami. He’s finishing his third season, is eligible for an extension this summer and is certain Miami will try to sign him to a deal that kicks in at the start of the 2023-24 season. The extension could be up to five years and around $185 million – if Miami offers him a max deal.
He has proven himself.
Herro’s 1,162 points in games he didn’t start this season was a Heat record, as was his career 2,348 points off the bench. He’s played in 32 games this season, scoring at least 20 points off the bench and has as many as 51 such games in his career – more than all two other Heat players combined.
“Young guys coming into the league, it’s often themselves scoring and getting paid and the next contract,” Herro said. “But I feel like no one is in my situation. Obviously, if I was in a different organization, things would be different. I’m part of a team that wins, plays for championships, scores and does my thing. I think it’s a blessing to do everything – score, get minutes, improve at the end of the day and win.