Mario Chalmers Quietly Putting Together Impressive Season

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Mario Chalmers Quietly Putting Together Impressive Season
Todd Kirkland/Associated Press

Mario Chalmers isn't the headline-grabber like many of his Miami Heat teammates. 

He's obviously not as talented as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. He's not legendary like Ray Allen. His story isn't wildly interesting like those of Chris "Birdman" Andersen, Michael Beasley and Greg Oden. He's not the improving youngster Norris Cole is, nor is he the wise veteran Shane Battier is.

What he is, though, without much fanfare, is a very valuable piece of the Heat puzzle.

Chalmers wasn't always that. Go back to the first year of the Big Three experiment and he was a backup point guard who averaged 2.5 assists per game and shot 40 percent from the field.

But Rio has taken steps forward in each of the three years since, with this season being his best work.

The Heat are full of shooters. Spacing the floor with three-point snipers and creating open outside shots is a key reason Miami has the most efficient offense in the NBA (112.5 points per 100 possessions).

Having a reliable jumper is essentially a must on this team.

Issac Baldizon/Getty Images
Chalmers has been lights-out from three this year.

Well, among all Heat shooters, Chalmers has been the most reliable (minimum of 50 three-point attempts), converting 38.4 percent from three this season. He's a stellar 40-of-97 on spot-up three-pointers, according to mySynergySports.com

But it's not just from beyond the arc where Chalmers has seen his efficiency jump this season. He's on pace for career bests in overall shooting percentage (46.2 percent) and two-point shooting percentage (51.6 percentage).

Chalmers is doing a better job of getting to the rack and finishing this season. Among guards who have attempted 125 or more field goals within five feet of the basket, Rio's 58.6 percentage ranks 20th and is equal to the Indiana Pacers' Paul George, according to NBA.com.

Chalmers has also developed from a distributing standpoint. The Heat's offense is predicated on keeping the ball moving, passing up good, even great looks, for the best look. Mario's play continues to further align with that system. He's averaging a career-best 5.0 assists per game, a sizable jump from his 3.5 per-game average last season. 

Chalmers cited the importance of comfortability to Shandel Richardson of the Sun-Sentinel: "Just being around these guys three or four years, it's really helped me a lot. I just know where to put the ball where they need it."

While the Heat's defense has taken a dip this year, Chalmers' game on that end has elevated in 2013-14. 

No one in the NBA has statistically been better guarding the pick-and-roll ball-handler than Chalmers. He's allowing opponents to shoot 30 percent in those situations. Overall, Chalmers' man has shot just 36.2 percent this season, which ranks 65th in the NBA.

Chalmers' goal of breaking the record for steals in a season is going to ultimately fall way short; however, he is posting an impressive 1.8 steals per game.

Lynne Sladky/Associated Press
Chalmers has racked up plenty of steals in 2013-14.

All of this isn't to say he is the perfect player. Chalmers still turns the ball over too many times (2.2 per game), and for all the improvements he's made, Rio (14.68) still falls a tad short of league average (15.00) in player efficiency rating.

But Chalmers is now a huge asset on both sides of the floor for Miami. More than ever, Rio understands what the Heat need from him to be successful. 

Coach Erik Spoelstra spoke about Chalmers' maturation to Richardson:

He's stepped up every time guys have been out. He's a capable playmaker. He's become a lot headier on which plays to make, whether he's facilitating, whether he's being aggressive or he's setting other people up. That takes experience … He's grown tremendously.

Still, Chalmers will likely never get the attention his teammates receive. His most newsworthy moment this season came when LeBron yelled at him in a December game against the Indiana Pacers.  

But if Rio keeps playing like he is now for the next few months, there's a great chance that whenever people do talk about Chalmers, they'll be talking about a three-time NBA champion.  

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