I caught the Phoenix-Miami game last night for the sole reason of seeing Shaq play against his former team, the Heat, for the first time. By the end of the game, the most surprising aspect was not Wade exploding for 43 points, or the Nash-less Suns committing 19 turnovers, but instead what caught my eyes was the spectacular play of Mario Chalmers.
While his stats may not blow anyone away, he proved to me last night that he has all the makings of an elite player.
As a fantasy basketball player, I was aware of his nine-steal game earlier this year, but I figured it was just a fluke and let some other poor sap in my league waste a roster spot on him. But that was before I had seen him play. That was before I understood just exactly what kind of player Chalmers is.
After watching last night’s game, Chalmers could get 20 steals and it wouldn’t surprise me at all— he is everywhere on the court. He harasses point guards as they bring the ball up the court and has the most uncanny ability to jump passing lanes that I have ever seen before.
Normally, I strongly oppose using steals and blocks as a barometer of a player's defense (just look at Allen Iverson, who has never played a solid game of defense in his life but always ends the year near the top in steals), but in watching Chalmers, it is evident that his steals don’t come from the risky gambles that can often lead to an easy basket for the other team.
His steals come from the fact the he is blessed with freakishly long arms and never stops working on the defensive end of the court. That’s what makes him so special. He has the motor of a hustle player, the skills to be an All Star, and the clutch shooting to be a champion (don’t tell me that three to end the half was not reminiscent of his buzzer beater against Memphis).
While his defense is the most notable aspect of his game right now, and rightfully so (he currently sits at seventh in the NBA with 2.12 per game), he has all the tools to be a stud on both ends of the court.
His assists are at 4.4 per game right now, but as the season goes on, expect that number to rise as the Heat become more confident in him and allow more of the offense to run through him.
The future certainly looks bright not only for Chalmers but for the Heat as well, who currently sit at 8-8 despite being in a rebuilding year. Aside from the blistering play of Wade, much of their success can be attributed to the youngsters on the team, who are stepping up and playing well—and no one is stepping up more than Mario Chalmers.
He may not be in the conversation for rookie of the year, but as the 34th pick, no one will argue that he was the steal of the draft.