Heat’s Pat Riley challenges Tyler Herro to earn starting job: ‘Come to training camp and win it’

Jimmy Butler was the most important player to the Miami Heat’s success this season, but Tyler Herro was not too far behind. The third-year guard elevated his game this season, averaging 20.7 points, five rebounds and four assists off the bench en route to winning Sixth Man of the Year in landslide fashion. After the Heat lost in the Eastern Conference finals to the Boston Celtics, Herro stated in his exit interview that earning a starting spot is a priority. “I would like to start. I think it’s my fourth year, so I think I’ve earned it, and we’ll see what happens,” he said.

Herro has the makings of a starter in this league, and he certainly showed it this season as one of Miami’s best playmakers. But Heat president Pat Riley has a challenge for Herro if he wants to make that jump from bench to starter.

“The next step for him — and I think we’re seeing this in the league — if you want to win a championship and you wanna be a starter, you really have to become a two-way player today,” Riley said Monday. “You have to improve in certain areas of your game. I saw improvement in his defense this year, he’s got great, quick feet …

“But as far as being a starter, come to training camp and win it. Sometimes it’s that easy, and sometimes the fit was better for us coming in, balancing the energy of scoring and having somebody who can really control the ball. If he wants to be a starter we’ll see in October. That’s something that you earn. There’s no doubt he has the qualities to be that.”

Some may take that as Riley slighting Herro, but it was really presented as more of a challenge for the young guard. Herro has shown that he can get whatever he wants on offense, but he’s been a liability in the playoffs the last few seasons. Teams target him defensively when he’s on the floor. He has to work on becoming at least an average defender so that those one-on-one opportunities aren’t a given for the other team when he’s lining up against them.

Riley’s comments are also interesting because Herro is in line for a rookie max extension this summer. Herro is eligible for a five-year contract worth as much as $181 million, but given his struggles in the postseason it will be intriguing to see how much the Heat actually gives him. If he and the Heat don’t come to an agreement on an extension by mid-October, Herro will become a restricted free agent next summer with the opportunity to look elsewhere.

Miami will have the ability to match any offer sheet Herro receives if he makes it to restricted free agency next summer, but that would be entering dangerous waters. An opposing team could offer Herro more than what Miami wants to pay him, which could lead to the possibility of losing him for nothing. But my guess is Riley and the rest of Miami’s front office won’t let it get that far. Herro has been integral in the Heat’s success the past three seasons, and they’ll surely want to keep him in Miami for the time being.

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