Miami Heat Point Guard Preview: Norris Cole Fulfills His NBA Destiny


Analyzing Last Year’s Performance

If you were expecting a breakout year from Norris Cole last season, you didn’t get it. Going into his third NBA season, Cole looked like he was in a position to challenge Mario Chalmers for the starting point guard spot.

However, it seemed as if Cole regressed as a shooter despite shooting career highs in true shooting percentage (49.7 percent) and effective field goal percentage (47.4 percent). Maybe it seemed that way because he was shooting more than an entire three-point attempt more per game last season–from 3.3 to 4.5 shots a game–and was making them at a less efficient rate, from 35.7 percent to 34.5 percent.

It was a silent regular season for Cole but he may have finally found his role in the playoffs as a lock-down, on-ball defender. Against the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Heat put Cole on a hot Lance Stephenson, and he famously cooled him down, helping the Heat take the series and advance to the NBA Finals.

How LeBron’s Departure Impacts His Role

The Heat relied on LeBron James too much last season, and Cole’s usage rate fell to a career low, nearly five percent less than his rookie year (21.8 percent to 15.6 percent). With James handling the ball so much–and Dwyane Wade and Chalmers being ahead on the totem pole–Cole would go without the ball in his hands for long stretches. It took him until the playoffs to figure out how to impact the game without the rock.

Now without James and after a dismal Finals series for Chalmers, Cole will indeed have an opportunity to compete for more minutes at point guard by having the ball in hands. The Heat learned something by using Cole as a tough on-ball defender and that could become valuable toward the end of games.

Projections for this Season

The Heat openly regret not keeping Patrick Beverley, but that may be Cole’s NBA destiny. They are both very good on-ball defenders and there Per 36 stats are weirdly similar.

Because Chalmers might see more time at the 2, Cole figures to be used at the 1 in some two point guard lineups. Expect Cole to continue his development as an overall shooter but, more over, he should be more comfortable off the ball as well.

As for stat projections, we are probably looking at something close to 8 points and 4 assists per game.

“Why I’m Excited” – Allana Tauchauer

Look, I have a bit of a history with Norris Cole; I worked for another team in the Horizon League when he was finishing out his career with Cleveland State. Truthfully, I only saw him play twice, but from those two games alone I knew the guy was special. He was quick on his feet, could drill in even the most impossible looking shots, and had an ability to predict his opponent’s offensive strategy. Honestly (and thankfully), nothing seems to have changed. And I hope he keeps aging like a fine wine. For Cole’s fourth season with the Heat, here’s to more minutes on the court (maybe even more so than Mario Chalmers?) to showcase his talents, and holding onto that remarkable flattop.

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