3 reasons Tyler Herro will win the Sixth Man of the Year award this season

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Miami Heat guard Tyler Herro had a dominant performance in the first game of the season against the Milwaukee Bucks.

The third-year guard put up 27 points on 10-of-18 shooting from the field and 4-for-8 shooting from 3-point range. He also added six rebounds and five assists in just 24 minutes of action.

The performance has immediately put Herro on the radar as a Sixth Man of the Year candidate, and there is absolutely a path for the former University of Kentucky star to become the first player in franchise history to win the award.

1. Increased usage

It’s no secret that the Heat aren’t as deep as they were during the 2019-20 season or even the 2020-21 campaign.

The Heat lost Goran Dragic, Kendrick Nunn, Andre Iguodala and Trevor Ariza from last year’s rotation, and while other players have stepped up, Herro is in line for a bigger role this season.

After averaging 15.1 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game last season while shooting 36.0 percent from beyond the arc, Herro has an opportunity to build on those numbers as he did last year from his rookie season.

Herro’s usage rate as a rookie was 22.5 percent, and while it went up to 23.5 percent last season, the jump wasn’t enough to really warrant a huge leap in his numbers.

While it was just one game, Herro’s usage rate was an insane 36.1 percent in Miami’s opener against Milwaukee.

Higher usage is going to allow Herro to excel as a playmaker as well as a scorer. With Dragic and Nunn in new uniforms this season, Herro is going to have the ball in his hands a lot behind Kyle Lowry in Miami’s offense.

In his second season, Herro increased his assist percentage, which is an estimate of the percentage of teammate field goals a player assists while he’s on the floor, from 12.7 percent as a rookie to 18.0 percent last season.

The third-year guard still has plenty of room for growth, but more touches and opportunities to make plays are naturally going to help boost his numbers this season.

If Miami’s opener was any indication of the role Herro will play, he will almost certainly put up numbers to be in the conversation for Sixth Man of the Year.

2. Players on playoff teams almost exclusively win Sixth Man of the Year

Since the 1994-95 season, there has been only one instance where the Sixth Man of the Year award winner came from a non-playoff team.

Lou Williams won the award in the 2017-18 season when the Los Angeles Clippers finished 42-40, which was the 10th-best record in the Western Conference.

That means 26 of the last 27 Sixth Man of the Year winners helped their teams reach the playoffs.

Miami has been a playoff team in 10 of the 13 seasons since Erik Spoelstra took over as the team’s head coach, and it seems poised to make another playoff appearance this season.

No matter the award in the NBA, there is a priority placed on winning basketball. After Miami blew out the Bucks in its season opener, it certainly looks like the Heat will be in the playoff bracket again in the 2021-22 season.

What does this mean for Herro?

Essentially, it bolsters the third-year guard’s case for the award. If Herro is on a team that finishes with a better record than other candidates, there’s a chance that voters will give him the edge because of his impact on winning.

Herro recorded 1.6 win shares as a rookie and 1.7 wins shares in his second NBA season. If he increases that number and Miami thrives, it will help his chances of winning the award.

3. Guards have dominated the award since the 2004-05 season

It’s a given that Herro has to play well to be in the conversation to win Sixth Man of the Year.

However, there’s another trend that supports his case if he does put up the numbers this season.

Since the 2004-05 season, 15 of the 17 winners of the Sixth Man of the Year award have been guards.

Only Lamar Odom and Montrezl Harrell earned the award as big men.

Generally, the award has gone to elite bench scorers such as Lou Williams, Jamal Crawford and J.R. Smith.

Last year, Jordan Clarkson won the award averaging 18.4 points per game.

Herro will need to continue to show that his performance in the opener wasn’t an anomaly, but if he does, he’s going to have a real chance at winning this award in the 2021-22 season.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.