Mario Chalmers has disappeared.
The Heat’s starting point guard is averaging 3.5 points and 27.8% shooting through the first four games of the NBA Finals. He has more fouls (12) than points (10) and nearly as many turnovers (8) as assists (9). He has been thoroughly outplayed by not just Tony Parker, but Patty Mills too. His slump pre-dates the Finals; he has not scored double figures in 13 games.
Prior to this season Chalmers had developed a well-earned reputation for being a gamer, someone who could be relied upon in the postseason. He had become that valuable asset on any winning team: the role player unafraid of the big moment, the unsung fourth wheel who picks up the slack when called upon.
He was the Heat’s second-leading scorer in Game 6 of the 2013 Finals, dropped 25 points in Game 4 of the 2012 Finals (the “Mario mother*cking Chalmers!” game) and at Kansas hit the biggest shot of the 2008 NCAA national title game.
So it has been a shock to see him consistently bricking shots as wide open as these on the game’s biggest stage:
He is shooting 1-for-7 from downtown in the Finals.
Chalmers’ malaise is by no means the primary reason why the Heat are down 3-1 – LeBron James has played only one great game so far and Dwyane Wade has played none – but it has not helped their cause and certainly has not helped his stock as he approaches free agency this summer.
Most expiring role players on Finals teams tend to get overpaid – see Trevor Ariza, Devean George, Austin Croshere et al – but Chalmers seems to be shaving an extra $250,000 or so off his next deal every time he steps on the court in this series. He is giving the Heat reason to prefer Norris Cole over him as their point guard of the future.
Cole, though not as polished an outside shooter as Chalmers, is three years younger, a peskier on-ball defender, has a great flat top and is under contract for another two years. Chalmers may be the one odd one out of the Heat’s salary cap puzzle moving forward as they attempt to retain the services of James, Wade and Chris Bosh and possibly seek to add Carmelo Anthony to the mix.
Several other teams will still see Chalmers, a 28-year-old with championship experience, as a good fit, but will any suitor be willing to pay him anything over $5 million a year after this meltdown? With the Heat facing elimination in San Antonio tonight, he will need to turn things around for the sake of their dying three-peat chances and his future earnings.