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Over the course of the Miami Heat's training camp, Hot Hot Hoops will give player profiles for all Heat players. Now up is the man with the High-Top fade, Norris Cole.
Who is he?
Cole is a sophomore point guard who surprised after being a late first round pick last season. After averaging over 20 minutes per game in his first few months in a Heat uniform and playing capably, Cole lost minutes and was, frankly, very inefficient down the stretch. Save for a few moments, Cole was also a non-factor in the Heat's postseason run. The former Cleveland State star is now looking to regain a spot in the rotation.
What will his role be?
The only bad part about Cole's fast start last season was that we had to deal with overreactions from observers about how he should be a starter, even though Mario Chalmers was always the best fit with the first group because of his floor-stretching shooting ability.
The good things about Cole being on the floor? His nicknames and his hair.
But the sleek guard probably wants to be known for more than his high-top fade and nicknames like "Cole-Train" and "Cole World."
If that is to happen this season, it will be because Cole gives the Heat energy and lift off the bench. Although Cole is a demonstrably below average shooter, he has a quick first step, a solid handle and looks to push the pace at times. He is the definition, at this stage of his career, of a 'sparkplug' off the bench. It's rather cute to see Cole get to the hole and think he can consistently finish against NBA big men, but the confidence is something to build on.
But that's the only place for him right now, unless he improves his shooting and takes a leap in his overall production. His shooting mechanics don't seem off, but he shot 27 percent on 67 attempts from long distance last season and under 40 percent from the field. Cole shot 27 percent from 16-to-23 feet, and was slightly worse from 10-to-15 feet, according to Hoop Data.
This comes after shooting 32 percent from 3-point range in his four-year college career.
The construction of the Heat's roster is one which is built on flanking the Heat's elite perimeter scorers, Lebron James and Dwyane Wade, with shooters who can space the floor off of their post-ups or dribble drives, and Cole does not fit in with that.
His playing time faces immediate danger, because with the addition of Ray Allen to the rotation, the Heat can use lineups with Wade and James at point guard when Chalmers is not in the game to keep Allen's shooting on the floor, which leaves Cole on the outside looking in. If the Heat don't insist on always having a prototypical point guard in the game at all times, as they have in the past, Cole's going to be glued to the pine, a lot.
Cole may have improved, but the Heat's veteran depth probably won't give him much time to prove it this season. It's a long year, however, and Cole may see stretches of play when he has it going and energizes the second team, but this is not the team for him to play a significant role.
What are his strengths and weaknesses?
We covered his weaknesses as a shooter already, so no need to harp on that. And although Cole is considered is considered a 'pure' point guard, he isn't particularly a good playmaker. He has shown he can create decent looks for himself, but if the game can slow down for him some, he can capitalize on that and become a better passer for his teammates.
The strengths with Cole correlate with his motor and good athletic ability. He leverages those traits into being a good defensive player, particularly as someone who can press other guards in the full court. He's a pesky defender because he also has a knack for swiping steals and being active (1.3 steals per 36 minutes in 2011-12).
According to My Synergy Data, Cole held opponents to 37 percent shooting from the floor, and flashed excellent ability stopping isolation plays (27 percent). Within the Heat's culture, this fits in very well.
He'll keep the fade for the entire season.