5 Early Candidates for Most Improved Miami Heat Player

David WeissCorrespondent IIINovember 27, 2012

5 Early Candidates for Most Improved Miami Heat Player

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    As Miami Heat fans, it's easy for us to shortchange the team as a glorified version of LeBron James and the pips. 

    After all, LeBron James typically captures 95 percent of the positive headlines, while everyone else is left to shoulder the blame of why the Heat aren't doing as well as they could be.

    Nevertheless, there have been moments this season—albeit some more extended than others—which have given us a cause for hope at the sacrifices and strides made by the team's less visible players. 

    As a result, the Heat currently stand at the top of the Eastern Conference. 

    So, based on what we've seen thus far, here are five early candidates for most improved player on the Miami Heat. 

Norris Cole

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    Although Cole's minutes haven't drastically decreased since the arrival of Ray Allen, his role in the team's rotation has fluctuated from as few as six minutes in the team's season opener to a career-high 39 minutes against the Denver Nuggets

    And he has shown signs of improvement. 

    The area of weakness in Cole's game has always been his ball-handling skills, often proving too erratic for Coach Spoelstra to keep him on the floor. 

    Nevertheless, in the Heat's first 13 games, he has yet to surpass three turnovers a game. By comparison, he has already had three or more assists in four games. 

    Now, granted, this may seem like a small victory, but if Cole can continue to get his ball-handling skills to where his jump shot is, he could be an even more tremendous asset to the team than he was last year in the NBA Finals. 

    Also, don't underestimate the effect that his success can invariably have on Mario Chalmers, who seemed to take Cole's shining moments in last year's playoffs as a wake-up call of sorts. 

Mike Miller

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    Two years ago, when Miami Thrice first struck the league, the addition of Mike Miller was regarded as the chess piece that would push Miami over the top. 

    Instead, the Heat have managed to thrive in spite of his problematic health issues. 

    And perhaps, due to his virtuoso performance in the deciding game of the NBA Finals, we will always hold a fond place in our hearts for the beleaguered marksman.

    But, as of now, the prognosis of his availability for the remainder of the season looks brighter than ever before. 

    Likely asked to control the reckless nature of his game, Miller's minutes and rebounds are down this season, but his health and three-point shooting have never been better.

    Meanwhile, the hope is that—through a collective effort by him and the team—his health will finally be able to sustain itself, enabling him to become that invaluable bench player that he was once envisioned to be—and how new addition Ray Allen is currently regarded.  

Udonis Haslem

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    Once upon a time, Udonis Haslem's ability to hit the mid-range shot was as reliable as Dwyane Wade's disgusting crossover. 

    Then health became an issue, sidelining him for the majority of the 2010-2011 season. 

    When he came back last season, his jump shot took a noticeable dip, dropping to .423 in field-goal percentage. 

    Thankfully, though, his offense has been steadier this season than ever before and he is shooting a career-high .523 from the field.

    On top of that, he continues to provide toughness, size and rebounding on a team that places a premium on those qualities.

    A good reason, perhaps, to increase his minutes from the career-low 17.5 per game that he is at now.  

Mario Chalmers

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    Of all the names on this list, Chalmers' may be the hardest to justify. 

    His stat line is virtually identical to what his career averages are, with the exception of points per game—in which he is currently below average at 6.9. 

    But for a fourth-year player like Chalmers, whose career-high in assists has only reached 13 twice, it should tell you something that he already has two 11-assist games in the early part of the season.

    On a championship team heavy with shooters and scorers, but surprisingly low on players who can create for others, don't take this nugget of gold lightly. 

    Although it may seem like an aberration now, given his otherwise quiet season, something tells me there's real hope to build on there. 

    Especially since the team has an option to pick up the remaining year of his contract for next season. 

Chris Bosh

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    Chris Bosh's improvement has been the biggest story for the Miami Heat so far this season. 

    Shooting a career-high 56 percent from the field, Bosh seemingly continues to set new personal records as a member of the team on a daily basis.

    Let's review the list: 

    First came his 40-point night against the Denver Nuggets on November 3rd in American Airlines Arena. 

    Then came an 18-rebound night earlier this week in the team's victory against the Milwaukee Bucks.

    Finally, in the team's most recent game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, he went to the free-throw line a personal record 13 times

    All in all, it looks as though the guy once considered unworthy of being mentioned in the same breath as LeBron James and Dwyane Wade is quickly building a case to become the team's second option on offense. 

    And maybe even a starting berth on the All-Star team. 

    On second thought, he may just be the early front-runner for most improved player in the league.