Norris Cole, Who Has Been The Miami Heat's One Glaring Weakness, Is Dominating In The Playoffs

lebron james norris cole

During the Miami Heat’s winning streak, the excellent NBA writer Tom Haberstroh from ESPN wrote an article that eviscerated Miami Heat guard Norris Cole.

Haberstroh laid out a body of statistical evidence that said Cole was the Heat’s one weak link, concluding:

“Yes, the Heat do have a weakness. And truth be told, it’s stunning they’ve been able to get away with it for so long. Contrary to popular belief, Miami’s greatest sore spot isn’t rebounding, size or any area of their game. Rather, their weakness has taken the form of a specific player on their roster.”

Cole had an awful regular season. He shot poorly and too much. He didn’t play defence. And the juggernaut Miami Heat took a significant statistical dip whenever he was on the court, despite the fact that he played alongside LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh at times.

But due to the unpredictability of basketball (or, more cynically, the falsehood of a small sample size), Cole has completely turned things around. 

Two months after rightly being called one of the worst rotation players in the league, he’s playing out of his mind in the playoffs.

He has scored 18 points in each of the last two games. His minutes are steadily increasing. He’s shooting the lights out. And in Game 3 he played crunch time and buries the back-breaking three-pointer that sealed things for the Heat.

The stats breakdown is stunning:

  • Regular season: 5.6 points, 42.1% shooting, 35.7% 3-point shooting in 19.9 minutes
  • Playoffs: 9.6 points, 64.1% shooting, 76.9% 3-point shooting in 22.3 minutes
  • Chicago series: 14.3 points, 80% shooting, 100% 3-point shooting in 23.9 minutes

In the playoffs, the Heat have outscored their opponents by 4.0 more points per 100 possessions when Cole is on the court than when he isn’t. During the season, they outscored their opponents by 6.8 fewer points per 100 possessions when Cole was on the court than when he wasn’t.

Cole was a detriment in the regular season. He’s now an asset.

At a time when his minutes should have disappeared, he’s playing more than he did in the regular season.

To pump the breaks a bit, all of this screams SMALL SAMPLE SIZE. 

Cole’s problem, as Haberstroh noted earlier this year, is that he’s a scorer who can’t score. He does nothing else besides shot, and he’s not a good shooter. But because of that silly shooting hot streak (80 per cent!), he is all of a sudden the type of player he thinks he is.

This version Norris Cole is valuable, especially with Dwyane Wade clearly hampered by that sore knee. But eventually Cole is going to regress to the regular-season form, and Miami will face a rude awakening if he’s still playing 24 minutes per game.

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