Mario Chalmers is a key cog in the Miami Heat machine. Chalmers has the highest net rating of any guard in the NBA that has played at least 30 games and 24 minutes per game (data from here). Net rating is the team’s point differential per 100 possessions, when the player is on the floor. So, when Mario Chalmers plays, the Miami Heat score 15.1 more points than they give up. While net rating is not the best statistic for measuring a player’s efficiency, I think it is relatively effective at combining a player’s offensive and defensive contributions.
Two things that Chalmers does that are particularly important for the Heat: keep his assist-to-turnover ratio down, and hit corner threes.
Of the five guards that have the highest net rating (which is, by the way, some seriously elite company), Chalmers has the second-best assist-to-turnover ratio, only trailing Tony Parker (not a bad guy to be trailing). Yes, Chalmers does not have a ton of assists (he’s only averaging 3.4 assists per game) but being an assist machine is not his role — the team already has three bona fide play playmakers in LBJ, Wade, and Bosh. I actually think the fact that he is an almost-ran on offense makes his assist-to-turnover ratio even more impressive because he’s able to identify the right passes, and more importantly, avoid bad passes, without being used in the offense on a consistent basis.
The other part of his game that’s really important is his three point shooting ability, and in particular, his ability to hit the corner three. The corner three is one of the most efficient shots in basketball, and all the best teams try to take their three pointers at the corners. While Chalmers’ left corner three point field goal percentage is not great, his right corner three point field goal percentage is exceptional (52.50%!!). He’s also a good threat from left and right side of the three point line (40%+).
Why is his three point shooting ability so important? It either prevents or delays Chalmers’ defender from helping if Lebron or Wade drive to the hoop, and it automatically helps the spacing around the court during sets, allowing the room for Lebron/Wade to drive in the first place.
While the following did not occur during a set, but on a fast break, I think it shows how important Mario Chalmers’ three point shooting ability is to the Heat’s spacing on the court.
This game occurred on January 12th of this year. Chalmers hit 10 three pointers, tying a Heat record.
Chalmers immediately recognizes that it is essentially a 4 on 3 fast break (there’s one Kings defender that is trailing behind) and that there’s an opportunity for an open shot.
I love this. Even before Bosh has corralled the ball, Chalmers has pretty much set up shop at his favorite site: the right corner.
Here’s the reverse camera angle. You can see just how much space there is between Bosh, Chalmers, and the closest Kings defender (poor Jason Thompson)
As Jason Thompson “closes out” (I think I’ve seen my grandmother close out faster than Jason Thompson), Bosh immediately recognizes that Chalmers is in the corner for an open three.
Everything about this is awesome. I mean, look how much space there is between Jason Thompson and Mario Chalmers. I don’t have to tell you that it ended with a “Mario Chalmers for three. Kaboom.”, but I guess I just did.