Miami Heat: 10 Slickest Ball Handlers in Team History

John Friel@@JohnFtheheatgodAnalyst IOctober 14, 2011

Miami Heat: 10 Slickest Ball Handlers in Team History

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    Dealing with a franchise that hasn't had too many quality point guards over its history made compiling a list like this tougher than expected, but it only got more entertaining once you realized just how many sick ball handlers there have been in the history of the Miami Heat.

    Especially once you get to the top five, the Heat have possessed some of the greatest crossover kings and ball handlers in the history of the game, along with the player who actually revolutionized the art of using a crossover as a key part of his skill set.

    With that player bringing about the crossover as a staple of his game, the other nine players on this list have utilized it to their advantage as well and becoming great point guards, shooting guards and small forwards because of it. They have all contributed to the Heat in a positive light at least once in their career, thanks to their ball-handling skills, and they have all made names for themselves thanks to these skills.

    I've already ranked the top plays in Miami Heat history as well as Dwyane Wade's top plays, so why not continue this Heat trend by ranking the top 10 ball-handlers in franchise history?

10. Sherman Douglas

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    You don't just get nicknamed 'The Little General' for no reason. Sherman Douglas earned that moniker thanks to his strengths of leading an offense.

    Douglas played with the Miami Heat between 1989 and 1992 where he would have the best years of his career, averaging 18 points and nine assists per in his sophomore season after averaging 14 and eight the season prior. Following those two seasons, however, Douglas never saw the same amount of success he saw with the Heat as he would bounce around from team to team before ending his career in 2001.

    Sherman was still one of the top point guards in the teams history and is even known for revolutionizing the art of the floater, as well as being a solid ball-handler.

9. Mario Chalmers

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    Still attempting to find his identity with this Miami Heat team, Mario Chalmers might get his last chance to remain relevant when he's given the start at point guard next season after impressing for the majority of the 2011 post season.

    He's a solid point guard at times, but he can be erratic and his mistakes cost the team dearly sometimes. His most positive attributes include his ability to hit big shots and playing the passing lane, yet he's also held down by his on the ball defense and consistency, which has cost him the starting job over the past two years.

    When it comes to his ball-handling skills, he could still use some help. He's not one of the league's craftiest point guards, but he can still perform a mean crossover from time to time with none better than the team he broke Toronto Raptors point guard Jose Calderon with a simple juke.

    It was so ugly that Calderon actually had to walk off his ankle from hurting anymore.

8. Rod Strickland

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    Spending only one season with the Heat and when he was already 35 years old, underrated point guard Rod Strickland still managed to make an impact on the one team he was a part of.

    Strickland was the team's starting point guard for the majority of the 2001-'02 season and managed to average over 10 points and six assists per game for the final time in his career. It wasn't the Strickland of old, but the Heat did get a solid point guard on a team that was was on the decline.

    He had enough ball handling skills to get him a solid career that spanned nearly two decades and was actually one of the first point guards to incorporate a crossover as a large part of his game.

7. Gary Payton

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    Spending the final two seasons of his storied career with the Heat, Gary Payton played a huge part off the bench for the 2006 championship team when he hit a game-winner in Game 3 to give the Heat their first of four consecutive wins over the Dallas Mavericks.

    To be recognized as one of the greatest point guards to play the game, you obviously need to have solid ball-handling skills. Sure enough, Payton had the ball-handling skills to help the Seattle Sonics to a championship appearance in 1996 and create one of the most feared duos between himself and Shawn Kemp.

    Take a look as he takes on an entire Los Angeles Lakers team in the span of five seconds.

6. Eddie Jones

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    Playing with the Heat from 2000 to 2005, as well as a short stint in 2007, Eddie Jones still remains as a fan favorite amongst the Miami community for the time he spent with the team during its down years.

    Jones was one of the few bright spots during the slow periods of the Miami Heat when they were in between superstars. Jones averaged as much as 19 points per and would also convert on at least two three-pointers per for two consecutive seasons with the team.

    He was most revered though for his athleticism and the high-flying, long distance dunks that he completed with the Heat, Los Angeles Lakers and Charlotte Hornets.

    Jones was a solid ball-handler for his time as he played the role of Dwyane Wade for nearly three seasons when Brian Grant was his No. 2 man.

5. Jason Williams

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    He certainly wasn't completing the unbelievable passes that he was with Memphis and Sacramento, but maybe that was one of the reasons why Jason Williams won his first and only title as the Miami Heat's starting point guard in 2006.

    Those fancy passes that merited Williams so much media attention might have gotten him noticed on a national level, but averaging three turnovers per just isn't worth it. Once he joined Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O'Neal though, Williams toned it down and would average less than two turnovers per where he would share point guard duties with Gary Payton and Wade.

    Still, Williams was one of the sickest ball handlers of his time and was basically recognized as a modern day Pete Maravich for his ability to complete passes where no other player could.

4. LeBron James

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    It's not every day when you have a 6'8", 275 pound small forward on a list dealing with the best ball-handlers, but when you bring up LeBron James you have to make an exception.

    Since James has been recognized as a point guard since joining the league in 2003, he even started at the point in his rookie season, he has always had the assignment of leading the offense and has thus gained experience when it comes to learning how to handle the ball.

    James is easily one of the league's best small forwards when it comes to ball-handling, even though he doesn't have a post game, and utilizes that to free himself up for easy drives and easy shot opportunities for himself and teammates.

    There was no better example of his ball-handling skills than his nasty crossover on the Philadelphia 76ers Jrue Holiday, where he would put the point guard in a trance before passing it off to Dwyane Wade for the dunk.

3. Rafer Alston

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    How can you not expect a former And One street baller to not make a list involving the top ball-handlers?

    Rafer Alston, also known by his And One handle 'Skip to my Lou', was the first player in the league's history to actually make the transition from And One to the NBA thanks to his ability to lead an offense, consistently hit from deep and his sick ball-handling skills above all.

    Alston would play as any NBA player would, but he would also exhibit those skills that he picked up from playing in And One on display a few times.

    Those skills were so sick that he would even cause an altercation between himself and Sasha Vujacic due to the embarrassment that he gave to the former Los Angeles Laker.

2. Dwyane Wade

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    The funny thing about Dwyane Wade's crossover is that it's so simple, yet so difficult to control. He's not the type of player who will constantly toy with a player by putting the ball through his legs or behind his back, but will instead use his quickness and agility to either nail his defender to the floor or to send his assignment the opposite way that he is going.

    His go-to moves though are by far some of the most impossible to stop with his patented euro-step being one and his step back jumper being the other. Wade is just a crafty and smart enough player to realize opposing players weaknesses, and he exploits it time and time again with his ball-handling skills.

    Wade hasn't always been the player to lead an offense; he's openly said that he doesn't want to run the point. But he does possess the crossover and ball-handling skills to create space any time he wants to get the easiest shot he could find.

1. Tim Hardaway

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    As if you thought any differently, it would be blasphemy to not place the king of the crossover dribble and the creator of the 'UTEP two-step' as the top ball-handler in Miami Heat history.

    Since making a name for himself as a Miner at the NCAA level, Hardaway has revolutionized the art of the crossover and was one of the first NBA players to make it a key part of his game. Coupled with agility and strength, Hardaway was nearly impossible to stop on the run or off the dribble considering how fast and crafty he was with the ball.

    Hardaway's ball-handling skills were second-to-none as it seemed that no one could guard him without getting embarrassed at least once during a contest. Those skills weren't just used for showmanship either as they would help Hardaway lead the Golden State Warriors and Miami Heat to a number of deep runs thanks to his craftiness, court awareness and overall ability to lead an offense.

    Even Michael Jordan can say he was a victim of one of the deadliest go-to moves in NBA history.