By LARRY VAUGHT
Tyler Herro is a little different from other NBA draft prospects ESPN analyst Jay Bilas has evaluated the last 17 years … but probably not for a reason you would ever guess.
“Herro is a little bit confounding because I just don’t remember a guy whose arms were shorter than his height in the years I’ve been doing this that I’ve had ranked in the top 20,” said Bilas.
The veteran ESPN analyst will be part of the NBA draft coverage Thursday night. He has the 6-5 Herro as the 18th best prospect in the draft.
‘Some people have him higher, some people lower. But I was really impressed with the way he came in and performed this last year,” Bilas said. “He has a strong body, can shoot it. His free-throw shooting is incredible. He made 94 percent this last year.”
Herro broke Kentucky’s single-season record for foul shooting by hitting 77 of 82, a 93.9 percent mark as a freshman. The previous best marks were by Kyle Macy (1980) and Travis Ford (1994) at 91.2 percent. Herro also averaged 14 points, 4.5 rebounds and 32.6 minutes per game while hitting 35 percent overall form 3-point range. He scored a career-high 29 points in a win over Arkansas when he hit five 3-pointers.
“Herro is one of the best shooters in the draft, really improved his defense. But his perimeter shooting, along with his range, he showed I thought a good frame, really good athleticism,” Bilas said. “Knocks his free throws down at a really high rate.”
Something else also jumped out at Bilas just like it did UK coach John Calipari the second half of the season.
“I thought his improvement as a defender and his toughness was really, really impressive. The best game I saw him play in person was at Louisville. His defense was probably the difference in the game. He scored well, too,” Bilas said.
“Because he can really shoot it, I really like him in the league as a guy who can space the floor, knock down shots. He showed his ability to take a bump, too. He doesn’t back off at all.”
Bilas has another UK freshman, Keldon Johnson, slated to go after Washington and Herro in the draft but also thinks he can have a productive professional career.
“He’s a hard-nosed, physical player that can guard people. I think as a defender, that’s where he shows the most promise, but he can get downhill on offense, hit a pull-up jump shot,” Bilas said. “I think he’ll continue to improve his range as a shooter.
“But from the college line, shot a very solid, what, 39 percent, if I remember right (actually 38.1 percent). made almost 50 3’s (actually 45). I think he can improve his shooting and free-throw shooting. That’s the next step. But he has a lot of ability. It just needs to be refined.”
Bilas says Johnson’s versatility on both ends of the floor gives him a complete game that NBA personnel like.
“With his versatility defensively, the fact that he plays hard, can play in transition, they can plug him in just about anywhere, on anybody,” Bilas said. “I think he just has to improve his perimeter shooting.”
None of the Kentucky players are projected to go in the top 10. All could go in the top 20, though.
“Those are three good prospects in this draft. Not as spectacular as some of the Kentucky players that have come out in recent years, but all very, very solid,” he said.