Remember all of those trade rumors you heard about Norris Cole around draft night and the first few days of free agency? Yeah, forget all that.
The Heat never considered trading him. Or at least that's the story a league source told to Chris B. Haynes of CSN Northwest:
Cole, 25, has been floated in rumors throughout the offseason. When the Heat were targeting Shabazz Napier prior to June's draft, Cole was rumored to be the trade chip Pat Riley was using to move into the late-teens and land the Connecticut star, per ESPN's Chad Ford. As it turned out, the Heat needed to move up only a couple spots to snag Napier at No. 24 and gave up two second-round picks in exchange.
Cole's name also came up when Miami was trying to open up as much cap space to retain LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, yet the impetus for trading him evaporated when James returned to Cleveland.
The Heat can afford to re-sign Bosh and Wade while adding other non-max pieces to the puzzle. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reported Miami agreed to terms on a two-year, $20 million deal with veteran forward Luol Deng. He'll join Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger as Miami attempts to stay in contention in the Eastern Conference by adding new pieces.
Incumbent point guard Mario Chalmers is an unrestricted free agent. He hasn't been ruled out yet for a return by the Heat, but it will have to come at the right price. The former first-round pick struggled so mightily in last season's Finals that coach Erik Spoelstra was forced to go without a point guard in Miami's series-clinching loss in Game 5. That was seen as indictment of both Cole and Chalmers, who have their pluses but also marked minuses.
Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel speculated that the Heat might still be using Cole as bait if Chalmers returns:
As it stands, Cole is likely to compete with Napier to take Chalmers' starting gig. He's expected to work with NBA Hall of Famer Gary Payton over the summer, who may help Cole refine some of the raw edges of his game.
“I like him a lot," Payton told Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. "I like his game. He needs to develop a floater in the middle.”
Cole's issues mainly revolve around his offensive game, which is only intermittently effective. He is a career 33.3 percent shooter from beyond the three-point line and has only slightly improved as his shot volume has gone up. The Spurs totally ignored him on the perimeter each of the last two Finals to take extra steps in the paint for help defense against James and Wade.
An NBA starting point guard doesn't have to be an elite three-point shooter, but having Cole's unreliability can hurt spacing. The Heat scored four points fewer per 100 possessions with him on the floor last season, per NBA.com. Synergy Sports (subscription required) put Cole in just the 20th percentile on points per possessions used during the regular season.
It will be interesting to see whether Cole can flourish with more opportunities to create off the bounce. James' departure will create a necessity for a more traditional offensive structure. And for what Cole lacks in offensive polish, he makes up for in defensive proficiency. Cole was at times Miami's most effective defender last season, using his lateral quickness and motor to pester opposing point guards.
When Cole's shot was falling in the Eastern Conference Finals, he became a significant upgrade over Chalmers. The Heat are hoping that giving him the full-time reins will result in an uptick over the long haul.
Or maybe they're just artificially inflating his value to ship him out next week. The great thing about Riley is that you never quite know for sure.
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