Casual NBA fans think of Jimmy Butler when they think of the Miami Heat. He can be great, but is more often than not, just really good, and that’s earned him such national TV ads as the Michelob Ultra commercial where he sings Hootie & the Blowfish on an airplane. As much as adolescent me wants to insult Darius Rucker, I think “Michelob Ultra” and “dated ’90s band” sends the desired unsexy vibe I’m trying to convey.
OK, OK. Butler can be mostly great.
This Miami team is the anti-Heatles. They’re the No. 1 seed in the East, a couple years removed from making the Bubble finals, and their closeout game against Atlanta was on NBA TV. The most notable regular season award any member earned was Tyler Herro, who just won Sixth Man of the Year.
Jack Harlow wrote a song about him, but he’s messing with camera knobs at playoff games and starring in the unneeded remakes of classic movies, so clearly he’s grasping at the vestiges of his 15 minutes of rap fame and holding out hope that Sportscenter uses another one of his songs for their Top 10 segment. Herro deserves a celebrity friend worthy of his ascending stardom in the league. I don’t know who that is because I’m not up to date on current hip-hop, and Vince Staples is a Clippers fan.
I got to see Herro in person last month, and the thing that struck me was how effortlessly he makes high degree of difficulty shots. He’s not Kyle Korver or J.J. Redick running off screens and into spot-up 3s, it’s off-the-dribble 3s, floaters, and midrange fall-aways in addition to running a little pick and roll.
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He scored 25 in Miami’s Game 1 win over Philly, and showed off his range in every context of the word.
At 32 minutes a game off the bench, he gets starters’ minutes. However, like Gregg Popovich did with Manu Ginobli, Erik Spoelstra brings in Herro after a few minutes of crisp sets and good looks, and ups the pressure. At their peak, those late Tim Duncan Spurs teams that hung with and eventually beat the Heatles were an unrelenting force of offense that overwhelmed teams over the course of 48 minutes.
This Miami team is light years behind those San Antonio teams offensively, but the deployment of Herro and Ginobli is similar. And when the Kentucky product has everything working, like Manu on a heater with the Spurs, it’s really fucking hard to beat them.
During Herro’s three years with the Heat, his team is 39-16 when he goes for 20-plus points. When he doesn’t, they’re 65-48, according to StatMuse. That’s a .700-plus win percentage compared to a .575 win percentage. He averages 26 points a night in those 20-plus point games and only 12 in the non-20-point performances.
That 14-point variance is almost as alarming as the 3-point percentage going from 48 percent when he’s feeling it to 32 percent when he’s not. That could have something to do with the aforementioned difficult shots, but again, this isn’t the 2014 Spurs, they’re more likely to need a bail-out 3 than get a wide-open look from the corner.
During the game I attended, a late-season drubbing of the struggling Bulls, Herro played the part of victory cigar. Remember when Derrick Henry was a backup on those loaded Alabama teams, and he’d sub in late in the game to run over tired opponents and run up the score? That’s what Herro reminded me of that night: An obscene luxury that turns a tight contest into a blowout.
I don’t think Jack Harlow’s BFF is the NBA version of King Henry, but I do think opponents feel just as helpless when it’s happening in real time.
“Like, really? We’re getting dry humped by Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry on the other side of the floor, and now Boy Wonder is going to do a White Mamba impression? Fuck my life.”
Give Herro a little more time to improve his consistency and become a proper celebrity endorser, and maybe the next time you see a member of the Heat in a national TV ad, it’ll be for a product with more brand recognition than the official beer of middle-aged mountain bikers.