The Miami Heat haven’t had a controversy at point guard since current starter Mario Chalmers entered the league during the 2008-2009 season. Chalmers has been a very good player for the Heat, playing a key role in each of their championship runs the last two years, but third-year point guard Norris Cole is ready to give Chalmers a run for his money at the starting spot.
This could come off as an overreaction from the first game of the season, but Cole has been slowly improving into a potential starter for some time. He could be on the verge of having a breakout season for the Heat.
Tuesday night, Cole played very well while being matched up with Derrick Rose. In 21 minutes, Cole added 11 points, three assists and seven rebounds while shooting 71 percent from the field. He also had the play of the game when he crossed over on Derrick Rose and pulled up for a mid-range jumper.
Cole, who played his college ball at Ohio, has been a key reserve for the Heat since being selected with 28th pick in the 2011 NBA draft.
As a rookie, Cole averaged 6.8 points per game while shooting 39 percent from the field on around 19 minutes per game. Cole also added two assists per game after appearing in 65 games.
After appearing in 80 regular-season games in his second year, Cole’s scoring dropped to 5.6 points per game, but his overall game seemed to improve. His assists average slightly went up to 2.1, and his shooting percentage increased to 42 percent.
If you take a look at Cole’s shot charts from his first two years, it shows that not only did Cole improve his shooting, but he also started shooting from other positions on the court.
The part of Cole’s game that seems to be most improved is his three-point shooting. From a statistical standpoint, Cole’s three-point shooting percentage increased by nine percent, going from 28 percent as a rookie to 37 percent in his second year.
Cole’s skill that makes him most valuable is his athleticism. Cole gets from one end of the court to the other very quickly, which could benefit him well while LeBron and Dwyane Wade are running the court in transition. Chalmers is widely known for his lack of athleticism, although he lost 10 pounds during the offseason, which seems to have increased his athleticism.
Chalmers comes off at times as an undersized shooting guard, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing in a Miami offense that doesn’t necessarily need a point guard thanks to the positionless LeBron James. A lineup featuring Cole at point guard would allow LeBron to move freely without the ball, which would set up more opportunities for LeBron to get good positioning in the post.
Chalmers is a solid player; there is no question about that. Whether a starter or not, Chalmers is going to make an impact for Miami. He also is one of the their best perimeter defenders. Saying Cole should receive a chance to start isn’t a knock on Chalmers as much as it is a praise of the improvement Cole has made. Cole seems to be a better fit for the Heat’s fast-paced offense. If he can get his turnover issues under control, Cole has the ability to be a very good NBA point guard.