Back in August, fresh off his team's five-game NBA title win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, Miami Heat triggerman Mario Chalmers said he belongs "in the front end of the top 10" among NBA point guards. Clearly, the past five months have seen the 26-year-old undergo a crisis of confidence — according to Fox Sports Florida's Chris Tomasson, Chalmers has now dropped himself to "the middle."
The middle of the top 10, that is.
"I'd say top 10," the Miami Heat fifth-year man said of where he ranks. “I'm not in the lower part (of the top 10), I'm in the middle part. I just have confidence in myself. I think I can compete with the best of them."
All of this is coming from a guy averaging 7.7 points and 3.4 assists. But Chalmers doesn't care how many snickers are heard about where he believes he ranks among point guards.
"That's how I feel no matter what people say or what people think," Chalmers said.
This is where we remind you that, among 74 NBA point guards averaging at least 6.1 minutes per game, Chalmers ranks 55th in Player Efficiency Rating and 52nd in Estimated Wins Added, and that he's 42nd among 65 qualifying guards in assist-to-turnover ratio. Also, that Chris Paul, Tony Parker, Kyrie Irving, Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry, Jrue Holiday and Deron Williams all exist, as do currently/formerly injured star lead guards Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo, Steve Nash and Ricky Rubio. "The middle part" of the top 10 is very wrong; "top 10" is also wrong.
In fact, given the play of guys like the Toronto tandem of Kyle Lowry and Jose Calderon, Kemba Walker, Brandon Jennings, Mike Conley, Jeff Teague and rookie Damian Lillard, even "the middle part" of the second 10 might be a stretch this season. The case becomes even more difficult to make when you consider that Chalmers' individual defensive marks in points allowed per possession on isolation plays, spot-up shots and in defending ball-handlers in the pick-and-roll game — widely considered perhaps his most valuable asset as an NBA player — are all worse this year than last, according to Synergy Sports Technology, and that his early-season "plus playmaking" has regressed toward his career assist-per-36 and high-value-assist (dimes leading to buckets at the rim or from 3-point range) levels.
And this is where we remind you that none of that really matters so long as Chalmers actually thinks he's that good, because that level of confidence is what's propelled his journey from Alaska to Lawrence to South Beach, and he knows it. More from Tomasson:
"I've always had a chip on my shoulder for being from Alaska," Chalmers said. "A lot of people said I wouldn’t make it. A lot of people said I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing now, and that has kept me going."
And as long as it keeps him going and he keeps fitting into a Heat scheme that calls for LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to do most of the ball-handling while shooters spread the floor and cash in, especially from the short corners — where Chalmers is knocking 'em down at a 47.6 percent clip this season, according to NBA.com's stat tool — then we doubt coach Erik Spoelstra's going to mind his point guard's overconfidence too much. Especially if it leaves the door open for big nights, like 10 for 13 from 3-point range to give the stars a night off or 25 points on 15 shots in an NBA Finals game to give the stars a boost.
The good news is that if Chalmers ever runs out of shoulder-chip fuel, it's a good bet that his teammates won't have any problem yelling at him and making fun of him to get him back in the right frame of mind. And hey, if even that fails at some point later this season, he can just make sure to re-watch the video of his Kansas jersey getting raised to the rafters at Allen Fieldhouse, take another look at his "Mister Clutch" bicep tattoos (no, seriously) and feel his internal confidence bar refill completely.
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