Norris Cole: Rookie Wall?

PhotoNorris Cole came bursting out the gate to start his career with the Miami Heat, but as of late things haven’t been so easy for the rookie. After exploding on the scene with double digit scoring efforts in five of his first seven games, Cole has only managed such an effort once since. Have teams figured out how to guard him? Has he hit the dreaded "rookie wall"? Both are possibilities, and it’s likely a combination of the two is the result in his dip in production. The fast start made Norris Cole a fan favorite, so many Heat fans seem to wonder when they can see more of that Cole on a constistent basis.

Cole is averaging 8.5 points a game on 40.2 percent shooting while hoisting up on average 8.4 shots a game. On a team with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, the eight plus shots a game seems a bit surprisingly high for a rookie point guard. These numbers could lead some to believe Cole is playing too fast for his own good, but that would be a mistake because playing playing fast is exactly what the Miami Heat have asked of him from day one. Cole is asked to come in with the second team, and his explosion to the hoop is a big reason the Heat had such high interest in him in the Draft. What should be expected from Cole, is to bring down his 2.1 turnovers per game. While playing fast is part of Cole’s game, playing "smart" is a part of the Miami Heat’s game, and a blend of the two is needed to be successful. Cold streaks are to be expected, but bad decisions are not.

Teams have obviously tried to inhibit Cole, slowing him down at times. After watching the rookie get into the lane with ease the first few games, teams have made conscious efforts to make sure he is quickly checked when handling the ball past mid court. Making Cole give up the ball, and play without it, has lead to him to more catch and shoot shots – something that has lead to his dip in field goal percentage. Adjustments are to be expected at this level, and Cole would be wise to make those changes - possibly making decisions with the ball sooner when bringing it up court. This would help to get the ball out of his hands faster - so he can receive it back deeper in the offensive set. It’s a given the Heat are beginning to see how teams are reacting to Cole, and will run more plays to offset what teams are doing to slow his game down – because they covet his speed with the second team.

It was easy to get spoiled with Cole at first, but all in all, what you have received from the rookie is outstanding. He has stepped right in and added depth to the roster. Possibly his best contribution has been that he has pushed Mario Chalmers so hard to the point that Chalmers is having a career campaign so far. Cole has brought speed at the point guard spot off the bench, something the Miami Heat haven’t had in years. His unpredictable play, and handle of the ball, makes others around him better – and the kinks will eventually work themselves out with dedication and film study. Growing pains were to be expected, now the rookie point guard must adjust to his opponents adjustments – and show he is ready to be a true professional.

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