$dbc = mysqli_connect ('localhost', '', '', '') OR die (mysqli_connect_error()); How Norris Cole improves the Miami Heat transition game | Hardwood Canvas

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How Norris Cole improves the Miami Heat transition game

Hello World!

Wisely laying back in the weeds this dramatically charged and shortened NBA training camp sit the once-doggedly braggadocious Miami Heat armed sufficiently with their returning trio of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

After suffering through a full summer of countless re-enactments and questions regarding their supposed shortcomings as a championship contending unit, the Heat are back at work with a fresh outlook on team basketball and have added a few new pieces to help in that end.

Although Miami shrewdly brought in veteran swingman Shane Battier via free agency and added enigmatic big man Eddy Curry to their roster this early 2011-12 NBA season, in terms of pieces we are speaking specifically about rookie point guard Norris Cole.

Why you ask?

Norris Cole

Norris Cole has a unique opportunity to get major playing time with a Championship contender in need of speed at the point guard position this season.

Simply put the Heat were surprisingly just so-so in transition last season and Cole may be the answer to this interesting problem moving forward.

Selected with the 28th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, Cole happens to supply the Heat with what they truly need and have been missing at point; speed. 

He is what most would consider a push guard.  An eager lead guard who thrives off grabbing defensive rebounds and pushing it up the court…fast ala Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo, or Russell Westbrook

Considering the Heat run with James and Wade, arguably, two of the most prolific open court athletes in the history, yes, history of the Game one would think the team would be in no need for speed and lead the league in transition, at least rank in the top 5.

However that is quite the opposite; Miami ranked just 12th in that all-important category as a unit last season scoring a total of just 16.4 points per game on the break.

They were virtually middle of the pack coming in ranked 14th out of 30 during the 2010-11 regular season in the frequency with which they scored those points getting 13.1% of their team’s scores via transition opportunities.

Yes, LeBron and D-Wade were nice as we all can vividly recall on the break last season, but that’s just it; Miami’s transition threat came from just those two.  No other Heat backcourt or frontcourt member, for that matter, contributed significantly enough in the fastbreak category to make a difference in utilizing their two premier athletic assets.

To provide even further evidence of the Heat struggles in transition take a look at the effectiveness of Wade and James in comparison to last season’s backcourt running mates; point guards Mario Chalmers, Mike Bibby and Eddie House.

Name Poss./g Points/g PPP
 LeBron James  4.9  6.1*  1.254
 Dwyane Wade  4.7  6.2*  1.329
 Mario Chalmers  1.0  1.0  1.06
 Eddie House  1.0  1.0  1.019
 Mike Bibby  0.8  1.0  1.278
 Norris Cole – Clev. St.  4.6  5.6  1.203

*Dwyane Wade and LeBron James ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in fastbreak points per game in 2010-11, respectively.

The table above gives you a general idea of the immense drop-off that existed between the athletically-superior Wade and James and the rest of their backcourt counterparts from a season ago.  The table also shows Cole’s uncanny ability to produce in transition and how his numbers rival even James and Wade, albeit and obviously, at the collegiate level.  However, the statistics above indicate a style of play from the young point guard more in line with the personnel Miami runs out on the court nightly.

It’s not that Chalmers, House and Bibby were inefficient in transition as it is more that they were not able to create fastbreak opportunities at a higher clip to maximize the talent they were fortunate enough to run with night in and night out.

Bibby was quite impressive on the break producing 1.278 points-per-possession for the Heat a season ago, but most of that came on threes created by James or Wade.  Furthermore, Bibby got out on the break less than once a game (0.8 possessions/game) which is not nearly enough opportunity to make any real or significant impact to the team.

To that point, Miami’s average, if you want to call it that, point men combined for a total of just 2.8 fastbreak possessions per game last year.  

Which means less than three times per game, Chalmers, Bibby and House ended an offensive possession for the Heat in transition.  Ultimately resulting in a mere 3.0 points per game.


Now granted these numbers are indicative of their own offense, meaning we aren’t talking at this point about the offense they happened to create on the break via the pass.  However, taking a closer look at the two benefactors of the majority of Heat transition points last season, James and Wade, the numbers point to a team that gets fastbreak points generally starting or ending with one of the two.

If James is not leading the break then he’s finishing it and vice-versa if Wade is not leading the break then he is finishing it. 

You get the picture. 

Dwyane Wade, LeBron James | Miami Heat

Two of the best in the business in transition, literally. Wade and James were 1 and 2 in points scored per night on the break putting in 6.2 and 6.1 points per game during the 2010-11 NBA season, respectively. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

It’s pretty much a two-man show in transition down in South Beach and the team needed a speedy guard in the mix to allow Wade and James to just run with no responsibility other than to simply finish off plays.

Ironically as subpar as the Heat transition game looked from a production standpoint last year, when it came to efficiency they were ranked at or near the top of the league in most efficiency-based numbers. 

They came in first in the League at 1.224 points-per-possession, fourth in transition field goal percentage at just less than 61% (60.9) and were ranked just behind OKC and Memphis in percentage of time they actually scored on the break; scoring on 58.3% or almost 60% of their transition possessions.

This is where that all important speed and decision making at the point of attack comes into play. 

The Thunder and Grizzlies both boast point guards who love to push the ball up the court in transition when the opportunity arises.  Both teams also boast above average athletes on the wings capable of finishing plays at a high rate.

Similar to Grizzlies point man Mike Conley and Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook, Norris Cole has the speed, court savvy and necessary skill set to create these same easy opportunities for his new Heat teammates and really ramp up Miami’s transition game.

And with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade on the outside he equally has the above-average athletes on the wings capable of finishing plays off.

Taking a closer look at Cole, according to Synergy Sports Technology 21.6% of the determined guard’s offense came via transition in his final season at Cleveland State.

In those possessions the 6-foot 2-inch, 174-pound playmaker shot an efficient 59%, tallying 1.203 ppp while getting to the free throw line an impressive 21.9% of the time (Indicated by Ft% in the table below) when he had the ball in his hands on the break.

If you take nothing away from this, at least look at that final statistic as an indicator of Cole’s aggressive style of play.  He is not running to three-point line like the three Heat point guards mentioned earlier in this piece. 

Although he can and will be asked to spot up, first and foremost, he is going to the front of the rim .

Name Fg% Ft% %Offense
LeBron James 66.7% 25.3% 18.8%
Dwyane Wade 68.5% 19.7% 18.8%
Mario Chalmers 53.7% 3.0% 13.3%
Eddie House 42.6% 3.8% 14.4%
Mike Bibby 57.1% 0.0% 10.9%
Norris Cole – Clev. St. 59% 21.9% 21.6%

Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and the rest of the Miami Heat organization may want to thank their scouting department after this season is all said and done.

There are a plethora of reasons the Heat got taken out by the Mavericks in six games at the end of last season’s historic run, but one could argue that lack of speed in the backcourt offensively and defensively was one of the most glaring.

Cole has a unique opportunity to change all that this year.  With just slow-footed, quick-handed Mario Chalmers standing in front of him don’t be surprised if by seasons’ end the Dayton, Ohio-native is sharing point guard duties.  Heck with his speed he may even overtake Chalmers in the end.

It’s not just the way he gets the ball up quick in transition.  It’s the fact that he’s big enough to grab the defensive board and create on his own.  Cole doesn’t necessarily need a set to get easy buckets for his teammates. 

Defensively, the first-year pro is up in his man’s jersey from the jumpball. 

In his last season at Cleveland State Cole averaged an impressive 2.2 steals per game to go along with 21.7 points, 5.8 rebounds and 5.3 assists.

The fact that this kid has unrivaled talent is an understatement. 

When was the last time you heard of a 6-2, 174-pound guard putting in a 41-point, 20-rebound, 9-assist game, which the fiery playmaker tallied against rival Youngstown State back in February of last year.

It won’t be long before the fans of Miami see that talent at work on the break in Miami for themselves.

As if they didn’t have enough special talent to watch already.

Now you watch.  Here’s a nice little Norris Cole mix.  Enjoy!

This is my introductory post for the 2011-12 NBA Rookie Series. 

I will be chronicling the rookies this 2011-12 NBA season in an attempt to bring unique takes on potential impacts that they may have on their respective teams.  It should be fun. 

If you have an idea for me or if there is a particular rookie you would like featured please hit me up.  I live for this stuff. 

As always we here at Hardwood Canvas appreciate your readership.  It’s going to be a historic year.

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3 Responses to "How Norris Cole improves the Miami Heat transition game"

  1. knickfan says:

    Iman Shumpert please. great job on this.

    1. Jarrod C. Gillis says:

      We got you covered on Iman. Was intrigued by him pre-draft. So here is the link to his player profile. There is a NBA Draft section in which I do my best to add a player profile frequently.


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