Draft preview: Tyler Herro’s potential to be elite 3-point shooter makes him a Pistons draft candidate

Kentucky freshman Tyler Herro, who led the Wildcats in minutes played ahead of two other potential lottery picks, could be the best shooter in this year’s NBA draft.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

AUBURN HILLS – Toronto is taking the Lawrence O’Brien Trophy to Canada for one overriding reason: the 15th pick. If it hadn’t been the Raptors, it might have been Milwaukee to end Golden State’s reign and for the same reason: the 15th pick. Toronto’s Kawhi Leonard and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo were both 15th picks two years apart, Leonard in 2011 and Antetokounmpo in ’13. Two-time MVP Steve Nash was the 15th pick in 1996.

Nobody else comes close to their class, though, among the 65 players drafted 15th overall since the NBA began seeding rosters via an amateur draft. Perhaps Al Jefferson
is the next most accomplished player, though he never made an All-Star team.

The Pistons have had the No. 15 pick four times in their history. Rodney Stuckey (2007) made the most immediate impact and probably wound up having the best career, though Phil Hubbard (1979), a great college player at Michigan before a catastrophic knee injury after his sophomore season, has a case.

The others taken with the 15th pick by the Pistons are Al Eberhard, back in 1974, and Austin Daye in 2009.

Last year’s 15th pick was Troy Brown, who played sparingly for the Washington Wizards. Brown profiles as the type of player most likely to be the pick of the Pistons this year: a teen with one year of college experience and little expectation of offering significant immediate help.

The four No. 15 picks prior to Brown were Justin Jackson, traded from Sacramento to Dallas in February, who shows promise as a rotation player heading into his third season after a three-year career at North Carolina; Juan Hernangomez, who’s shown flashes of promise but has yet to establish himself as part of Denver’s rotation in three NBA seasons; Kelly Oubre, who’ll be a restricted free agent after being traded from Washington to Phoenix at the trade deadline; and Adreian Payne, out of the NBA after being drafted by Minnesota out of Michigan State.

Our draft preview series continues today with a profile of Kentucky freshman guard Tyler Herro.

FIRST-ROUND CANDIDATE: Tyler Herro

ID CARD: 6-foot-6 guard, Kentucky, 19 years old

DRAFT RANGE: Ranked 18th by ESPN.com, 20th by The Athletic, 15th by SI.com

SCOUTS LOVE: Herro’s a bucket getter. That’s his calling card. It’s not all there is to his game, but that’s what will get him drafted in the first round – perhaps in the lottery. Herro, a freshman out of Wisconsin, wasn’t necessarily considered a one-and-done recruit when he pledged to Kentucky – breaking a prior commitment to Wisconsin – as a four-star who wasn’t a McDonald’s All-American. If you squint, you can see shades of J.J. Redick in Herro with his cutting and his quick trigger on catch-and-shoot opportunities. It says something that on a team with three likely first-round picks – P.J. Washington and Keldon Johnson, like Herro, are both considered potential lottery picks – it was Herro who led Kentucky in minutes played per game at 32.6. Herro plays with a high motor and a chip on his shoulder, traits that will endear him to NBA personnel evaluators. Herro has been reported to be one of the players with an invitation to the NBA green room on draft night, a strong indication that he’ll be a top-20 pick, further evidence that feedback on him since the NBA draft combine from front offices has been positive.

SCOUTS WONDER: Herro didn’t go through athletic testing at the NBA draft combine, but he did subject himself to measurements. One raised something of a red flag: his wingspan of 6-foot-3¼. That raises concerns that he’ll be challenged to defend at an adequate level, though Herro’s competitiveness and apparent average athleticism might lessen the impact. Herro showed some potential as a secondary playmaker, averaging 2.5 assists per game, but his ability to finish off the dribble over outstretched arms is put in question by the wingspan numbers. Shot selection also requires some fine tuning. As pure as Herro’s stroke appears, his .355 3-point percentage last season doesn’t scream “elite.” Like a lot of players who identify as shooters, Herro might be prone to hunt shots to get himself going and let other areas of his game lag until his shot starts to fall.

NUMBER TO NOTE: 93.5 percent – That was Herro’s free-throw percentage at Kentucky, supporting the school of thought that Herro will become an elite NBA 3-point shooter once he acclimates to the speed of the game and his body matures.

MONEY QUOTE: “I think I can step in right now and shoot with the best of ’em. I can space the floor. I think teams, they haven’t seen me really play with the ball in my hands. I think I can score at all three levels and I’m going to compete. I’m tough and I’m going to be a good teammate.” – Tyler Herro, on how he can help an NBA team as a rookie, while at the NBA draft combine

PISTONS FIT: If there’s a position where the Pistons are a little crowded, it’s at shooting guard. Even if Luke Kennard winds up swinging mostly to small forward, the Pistons still have second-year players Bruce Brown, Khyri Thomas and Svi Mykhailiuk. Mykhailiuk’s size (6-foot-8) makes him a more viable candidate to guard small forwards, but there’s still something of a logjam at the position. Given Herro’s short wingspan, his defensive versatility might be limited. On the other hand, given the premium on 3-point shooting – and Herro shows the ability to shoot it off of movement as well as in more common catch-and-shoot situations – there would be plenty of appeal in taking potentially the best shooter in the draft with the 15th pick.

BOTTOM LINE: Herro’s competitiveness and potentially elite shooting range make him a candidate to be drafted ahead of projections. The outsized importance of the 3-point shot in today’s game, at a time when 36 percent of total field-goal attempts come from the arc, easily could influence a team’s draft model to push Herro ahead of a handful or more of prospects conventionally thought to be ranked ahead of him. A report after a workout for the Celtics – who have three No. 1 picks, including one at 14, a spot ahead of the Pistons – that included other potential lottery picks in Kevin Porter Jr. and Nickeil Alexander-Walker had Herro dazzling Boston, including making 80 percent of his 3-point shots in a drill. The fact Herro showed himself to be a good rebounder for his position and flashed secondary playmaking skills broadens his appeal.

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