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Super Mario? Nah, Just Solid

We know he's confident. Mario Chalmers entered the league a year ago with a chip on his shoulder after Mario slipping to the second round of the draft, and refused to take a back seat to any guard picked ahead of him.

We know he's durable. Although he only had to beat out a barely-wanted Marcus Banks, a still-rehabbing Shaun Livingston and a seldom-used Chris Quinn, Chalmers (pictured right) grabbed the starting job last season and became the only rookie in Heat history to start every regular season and playoff game.

We know he's valued. Why else would Heat president Pat Riley go as far as to proclaim that he wouldn't bring in anyone to start ahead of Chalmers, despite the team's significant void of point guard depth? That means - barring a last-minute change of plans - bypassing a group of proven veterans that consists of Ty Lue, Brevin Knight, Flip Murray, Jamaal Tinsley and just-off-the-market Allen Iverson.

Yes, we know plenty about Chalmers. But there's at least one thing we don't. And that is whether or not he's clearly - beyond a reasonable doubt - the solid, steady, clutch point guard this franchise will place in the backcourt alongside Dwyane Wade for the foreseeable future?

This season will go a long way in determining that answer. I still find it a bit strange that Chalmers went from having to be taught the point guard position at this level a year ago to becoming practically untouchable and essentially irreplaceable in just the span of 12 months.

And that leaves the Heat in a curious situation entering camp just two weeks from now. Chalmers and Quinn are the only two point guards under contract. Riley said last week that Wade will again handle significant time at the position late in games and in crisis situations.

Mario-magic That sets up a huge gamble for the Heat. An injury to Chalmers means far more minutes for Wade. An injury to Wade means the season is done, during a contract year for your franchise player to boot. Riley is a risk taker. But he ain't crazy, which is why I think he will address needs at the position via a trade or free agent signing at some point before the start of the season.

If Chalmers (pictured left, driving against Jameer Nelson) continues to develop, there's no question he could be a solid starter in this league for a long time alongside Wade, assuming Wade re-ups as expected next summer in free agency. Remember, greatness doesn't need spectacular as a sidekick to win. Simply solid would do.

That's why Jordan worked so well with Paxson and Armstrong. It's why Kobe gets it done with Fisher. Between now and the Sept. 28 start of training camp, we will rank how the Heat stacks up in the East at all five starting positions, the bench and coaching. Let's start at point guard, where I've got Chalmers ranked 10th in the East entering the season, based on production, potential, expected progress, overall impact and durability among other factors. Here's where the Heat stacks up at the position.

1. Devin Harris (pictured right), Nets. 2. Gilbert Arenas, Wizards. 3. Derrick Rose, Bulls. 4. Rajon Rondo, Celtics. 5. Devin Harris Jameer Nelson, Magic. 6. Mo Milliams, Cavs. 7. Jose Calderon, Raptors. 8. Mike Bibby, Hawks. 9. Rodney Stuckey, Pistons. 10. Mario Chalmers, Heat. 11. Raymond Felton, Bobcats. 12. T.J. Ford, Pacers. 13. Chris Duhon, Knicks. 14. Luke Ridnour, Bucks. 15 Lou Williams, Sixers.

If Chalmers makes the sort of second-year progress the Heat is expecting, Miami will be fine at the position. But if the team enters the season as is at the point, Mario will have minimal margin for error.

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ twitter.com/wallacesports. To post a question or join our live Heat chat each Thursday from 1-2 p.m., click here.)

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