Mario Chalmers is one of the worst starting point guards in the league
The big story considering the Miami Heat this offseason is that they didn't make any major moves. True, they didn't amnesty anyone, and they re-upped with both Chris Andersen and Ray Allen (the former of which was a good move, the latter of which was a mistake).
Miami didn't need to make an earth-shattering move, and probably couldn't, considering its salary cap plight. But there was one need that the Heat needed to make, and that was get an upgrade from Mario Chalmers at the point.
The fact is that Chalmers is the worst starting point guard in the league, by almost any metric. For example, ESPN.com puts his player-efficiency rating at 13.2, which is 49th among people who played the point last season.
My favorite metric to compare point guards is what I call a “quality performance,” or how many times in the season a starting point guard gets 10 points, five assists and leads his team to victory. Despite the Heat having the best record in the NBA, Chalmers only had five quality performances in the regular season.
By contrast, LeBron and Russell Westbrook both had more than 50 quality performances, and even Jameer Nelson of the abominable Orlando Magic had 11. (For more on the quality performance stat, see this article.)
Chalmers’ poor performance also rates him among the worst starters on NBA championship teams ever, even worse than the likes of Steve Kerr and Derek Fisher, who played in a Phil Jackson system that didn’t really use a point guard. It seems apparent that having a starting point guard who can’t be counted on for a 10-and-five night and/or floor acumen on a semi-regular basis is a great hindrance to an NBA championship team.
Oh, and don’t even get me started on Norris Cole, Chalmers’ backup. The problems with Cole can be summed up in five words: He is worse than Chalmers.
But, you ask, didn't the Heat just get it done with Chalmers?
Remember, the Heat came dangerously close to losing to both the Indiana Pacers and the San Antonio Spurs. Remember that the rest of the Eastern Conference will be stronger next season. And Dwyane Wade isn't getting any younger; he's pretty clearly now on the downward trajectory of his career.
Can the Miami Heat win again in 2014 with Chalmers at the point?
Sure, they have LeBron, who can do anything. But he can't do it all at once: He can't go for 40 points, 15 rebounds and 15 assists while playing out of position, running the offense and guarding the best player on the opposing team. That was what was expected of him in Cleveland, and that's almost what he had to do in the Indiana series when Wade was MIA.
If the Heat hadn't held on to Ray Allen, they'd have enough money to sign one of the many points guards on the market, from Beno Udrih to Nate Robinson. With his injury, they probably could have signed the castaway Devin Harris for a song.
Some would point out that Allen is a future Hall of Famer who nails threes when called upon. He can't run an offense, is a defensive liability and is quite advanced in age; the Heat won in 2012 without him.
Bottom line: The Miami Heat made a mistake in not saving some money to upgrade from Chalmers to a better model.
Quality performance calculated from game logs courtesy of Basketball-reference.com.