This is very ironic. Downright hilarious, maybe.
I've been pretty open in the past about pointing out Norris Cole's negative presence for his team. This postseason, the player I've been most open about criticizing for Miami has been absolutely terrific. Before we look at what he's been doing, let's take a step back from the recency of his great play and gain perspective.
To be fair, Cole's explosion this postseason cannot be rationally explained.
Cole has a 7.9 player efficiency rating in 145 career regular season games. He has shot 40.7 percent from the field during this stretch, with a 46.7 true shooting percentage. Those numbers are all well below NBA average. And those numbers correlate with his on/off data. The Heat were 11.6 points worse when Cole was on the court this season. Part of that is about playing with the team's second unit. Part of that was him playing very poorly on offense.
But in seven postseason games? I don't even know what I'm looking at.
Cole has made 25-of-39 shots, including 10-of-13 from distance. His TS% is 79.6. Over a stretch of one and a half playoff series, Cole is effectively making 80 percent of his shots. There are outliers all the time in small stretches, but this particular outlier is so surprising and outlandish that it warrants attention.
Chris Andersen has been terrific on a per minute basis this postseason, but this is not totally surprising given his strong regular season. Plus, the Birdman is only playing a shade under 14 minutes in the playoffs, while Norris is notching 22 minutes per contest and even played with the closing lineup in game three of the Eastern Conference semi-finals a few nights ago.
Per NBA.com, with Norris on the game this postseason, Miami's offensive rating (Points per 100 possessions) is 112.2. With him off? 109.2. In three games against the Bulls in the second round of the postseason, Miami's offensive rating is 122.7 with Cole on the court. Including defense, the Heat are roughly 25 points better per 48 minutes with Cole on the court in the series.
This is both the most obnoxious and the most pleasantly surprising show of #SmallSampleSizeTheater ever, at the same time.
I'm going to be fair. Even when his shooting regresses, which it will, if he can still be a solid shooter, I will monitor his production and acknowledge that he deserves more time going forward. I think Miami's coaching staff should continue to ride this wave as he has definitely earned it.
Cole has improved his game in several areas, and found a niche as a defensive pest this season. The coaching staff has raved about his work ethic. But this is the first time we are seeing offensive results for it. Not that his shooting form was ever flawed, but it has never been a regular threat in this league.
Am I convinced Cole is a good rotation player on this team going forward? No. Then again, the small sample of the postseason isn't the only time stretch this has happened. He also shot the ball well the last few months of the season.
For now, enjoy this miniature sample of completely devastating shooting Cole is putting on, but we will know more about him once this regressed, and the dust settles.
But I might have some apologizing to do at some point.