By Diego Quezada
Could the Miami Heat give incoming rookie guard Norris Cole a chance at a rotation role this season? Pat Riley said at his press conference Tuesday that teams don’t win championships with players void of NBA experience. Moreover, he has always preferred to collect veterans as opposed to developing prospects. But this guy could get a shot.
For one, the free agent market does not have many quality point guards. Looking down the list, many of the names are former Heat players or players Miami previously passed on: Carlos Arroyo, Chris Quinn, Marcus Banks, Mike Bibby and T.J. Ford, who could have joined the Heat at the buyout deadline. And Riley is not going to convince J.J. Barea or Aaron Brooks to come here.
In lieu of such a dearth of talent at the point guard position, Riley will likely try to re-sign Mario Chalmers. The former Kansas standout could receive nice offers as a result of his strong play during the NBA Finals, but Chalmers is close with LeBron James. Riley’s statement that Chalmers is Miami’s starting point guard didn’t hurt his chances of returning here, either.
As of now, the Heat do not have any point guards under contract, though. It made sense for Riley to pick a one in a Draft laden with point guards. After downplaying the notion that the Heat would trade up in the 2011 NBA Draft, Riley did just that, sending the draft rights to the 31st pick, Bojan Bogdanovic, to the Minnesota Timberwolves and a future second-round pick for the rights to the 28th pick, Cole. Riley picked the senior out of Cleveland State a year after selecting Dexter Pittman, who also spent four years in college. Miami originally had the 28th pick before trading it to the Toronto Raptors in the Chris Bosh sign-and-trade deal.
Boston College guard Reggie Jackson, rumored to have a promise from Riley to draft him, went to the Oklahoma City Thunder at No. 24. Although the Heat may have missed out on Jackson, the trade for Cole makes a lot of sense for Miami. This organization prides itself on having a defense-first philosophy, and Cole is known as a competitive defender. He also possesses lateral quickness to defend opposing point guards, which is a weakness of Mario Chalmers. Cole is measured at just 6 feet and one-fourth of an inch without shoes and 174 pounds, so he needs to gain some muscle to defend top-flight point guards, though.
It should be fun to see Cole with two of the premier defenders in the NBA, James and Dwyane Wade, hawking the ball on the perimeter. All of those guys can also collect steals, and that leads to Miami’s effective transition game. Cole can also impress on the offense end, however. He has tremendous athletic and leaping ability (see this video) and ran the pick-and-roll well in college, which the Heat use frequently with Bosh and Udonis Haslem. His 3-point shooting isn’t great – Cole shot 34 percent from long distance during his junior and senior years at Cleveland State University, and the 3-point line is farther in the NBA – but he has improved it over his college career.
NBA analysts David Aldridge and John Hollinger praised Miami’s trade, and this kid even had a 41-point, 20-rebound, nine-assist game in college. Considering how weak the free agent market stands on point guards, this guy should have a shot to back up Chalmers this year. Miami won’t rely on him because Chalmers can play more than 30 minutes a night, and the Heat can go to the three-wing lineup of Wade, Mike Miller and LeBron James. The Heat need get younger on the bench as opposed to having a lot of dead weight in reserve, and Cole is a nice step in that direction.