When Tyler Herro outperformed expectations during his rookie year in the NBA Bubble in 2020, many analysts and fans assumed he was going to be a consistent integral force for the team moving forward.
Herro, who averaged 13.5 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game in his first season, had his fair share of breakout games, most notably in the 2020 Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics in Game 4 with 36 points.
Then in the 2020 Finals, Herro backed up his numbers by averaging 14.7 points, 3.0 assists, and 4.2 rebounds, solidifying his place in the Heat's rotation moving forward. But unfortunately, the Kentucky University product didn't have the same impact in his second season, where he was barely the same difference-maker he was in the Bubble.
Then came the "Bubble Boy" allegations
Due to Herro's hype and new high expectations set for him after his first season, the 22-year-old's disappointing sophomore year led to many naysayers calling him "Bubble Boy." The term originated from the idea that Herro only peaked in the Bubble because it took place in a different setting. His numbers didn't help rectify those allegations as well, as he only averaged 15.1 points, 3.4 assists, and 5.0 rebounds per game in his second year.
It also didn't help that the Miami Heat were hell-bent on not trading Herro two offseasons ago, who they reportedly deemed as "untouchable" in trade talks that involved James Harden and other more proven players.
At that time, many questioned the Heat's commitment to hold on to Herro, but they didn't understand the context behind why they gave the young player a chance.
In Herro's second year, the Heat didn't make life easy for him as he was expected to be the point guard and primary playmaker for the team — two skills he had yet to establish in his game. Herro was also coming off the shortest offseason in sports history, and while that may not be an excuse for someone with young fresh legs, the short layoff still burned out the whole Heat team, significantly affecting their performance last season.
The year Herro exacted revenge year
Then, in the 2021 offseason, the Heat acquired point guard Kyle Lowry, which meant Herro would be put on a new role as the sixth-man contributor off the bench. Unlike last season, Herro's duties focused on scoring and producing off the bench. This is where he took off as he not only averaged career-high 20.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 4.0 assists but also won the Sixth Man of the Year (6MOTY) Award.
Setting a single-season franchise record with 1,162 points off the bench in the regular season, Herro's scoring average of 20.9 points as a reserve was the highest in the NBA. He became the fifth player to average 20.0 points off the bench in NBA history (in a minimum of 50 games as a reserve) since the league started to track this data in the 1970-1971 season.
This season, the once alleged "Bubble Boy" ranked 20th best in the league in free throw percentage (86.8%), 21st in points per game, 26th in three-point field goal percentage (39.9%), and 32nd in three-pointers made (175).
Herro's resurgence and revenge season prove that it's essential for every player to be utilized in a role where he best succeeds. Gone are the days when he could be called "Bubble Boy" and be clowned for the belief his team had in him. Herro has solidified his place in the league and is only getting better as each game passes.
The Heat's investment in Herro paid off, and now he's the first player in their franchise to nab the 6MOTY award.