Goldberg: Whatever team gets Tyler Herro could be the real winner of a Damian Lillard trade

Mar 19, 2023; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Miami Heat guard Tyler Herro (14) passes the ball to a teammate in the first quarter against the Detroit Pistons at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Allison Farrand-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 19, 2023; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Miami Heat guard Tyler Herro (14) passes the ball to a teammate in the first quarter against the Detroit Pistons at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Allison Farrand-USA TODAY Sports /

A consequence of the often venomous discourse around Damian Lillard’s trade request is that Tyler Herro has become underrated as a player and trade asset. When the smoke eventually clears, whatever team emerges with Herro could end up being the real winner of a Lillard deal.

Herro’s stock has taken a hit because of market factors out of his control. The biggest being that he was absent for the Miami Heat’s NBA Finals run, leading many around the league to wonder if the Heat were actually better off without him. But that said more about the Heat’s roster construction and Jimmy Butler’s need to have the ball than it did Herro’s talent. Herro is 23, already has a Sixth Man of the Year award on his resumé and averaged more than 20 points over the last two seasons.

Now he’s the headliner of Miami’s best trade offer to Portland, a team that simply does not need another young guard. The Trail Blazers are building around No. 3 overall pick Scoot Henderson, promising second-year guard Shaedon Sharpe and perhaps Anfernee Simons. Adding Herro to that mix makes little sense, and they prefer to have a third team take Herro in exchange for better-fitting parts.

Herro’s perceived value isn’t helped by Golden State’s decision to trade Jordan Poole to the Wizards in what amounted to dumping the salary of a player often (and unfairly) compared to Herro.

Poole is coming off a down season in which he regressed as a playmaker, shooter and decision-maker. He’s a volume 3-point shooter who hovers around a 33% conversion rate. But Herro is a career 38% shooter from distance. Poole has a knack for untimely turnovers while Herro’s decision-making only got better in the fourth quarter (he also didn’t miss a fourth-quarter free throw all season, ranked 16th in clutch-scoring and shot 46% compared to Poole’s 38% in clutch time). Herro isn’t a plus defender by any stretch, but he also wasn’t as flimsy as Poole on that end. Herro knows where to be and tries hard.

Then there’s the hypothetical involvement of Tyrese Maxey who has been universally lauded as a game-changing asset if the Philadelphia 76ers decided to include him in a deal. Maxey is younger (22) and cheaper (still on his rookie contract, but eligible for a similar extension to what Herro signed last summer) but also plays the same, problematic position. The truth is that Herro is much closer to Maxey than he is to Poole on the spectrum of the league’s young guards.

(Here’s the list of 23-and-younger guards who averaged at least as many points as Herro last season: Ja Morant, Anthony Edwards, LaMelo Ball, Jalen Green, Darius Garland, Tyrese Haliburton and Maxey.)

It’s understandable that Portland doesn’t want another guard, and the Heat are scanning the league to find a third team to take Herro in exchange for draft picks and/or a player who meets more of a positional need. According to Yahoo Sports’ Jake Fischer, “There is optimism among league personnel that Portland will find at least a first-round pick from another franchise that’s more keen to welcome Tyler Herro.” Fischer mentions the Brooklyn Nets, Chicago Bulls and Utah Jazz as potential suitors.

The Nets have six first-round picks and multiple second-round picks coming in from deals with Phoenix, Philadelphia and Dallas. Using some of those picks to acquire Herro makes sense when looking at their roster. Brooklyn’s best players are Mikal Bridges, Nic Claxton and Cameron Johnson. They are 26, 24 and 27, respectively, and neither of them is a guard. Herro, at 23, fits Brooklyn’s post KD-and-Kyrie timeline and plays a position of need. Trading a first-round pick, a handful of seconds, Spencer Dinwiddie’s expiring salary and maybe throwing in Royce O’Neale would net Portland more draft assets and give Brooklyn four talented, young players who fit naturally and could grow together organically.

It would also take some ball-handling duties off Bridges’ plate. After getting traded to Brooklyn, Bridges at times looked like a future star in a No. 1 scoring role. But as the season went on, he appeared overwhelmed with being the lead ball-handler. Herro, a developing playmaker, could take on that role in Brooklyn and allow Bridges to pick his spots.

It’s harder to come up with deals that make sense that involve the Bulls (DeMar DeRozan and lifting protections on the 2024 pick Portland owes Chicago?) and Jazz (Colin Sexton, Kelly Olynyk and a first-round pick?), but Herro could be a cornerstone for either rebuild.

There could be some trepidation by front offices wary of helping Lillard get to his only preferred destination and the Heat form a new big three that would rival or surpass any trio in the league. But a shrewd front office will see an opportunity to acquire a good, young guard on the cusp of his prime at a bargain and swoop in.

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