Heat Check: How the Miami Heat Won the NBA Draft with Justise Winslow
The Heat won this draft. That much was evident by the 10th pick, when Justise Winslow somehow fell into Pat Riley’s lap. Winslow, a versatile freshman wing out of Duke University, was rated by most as a top 7 prospect, and was number 4 on my personal board. In the second round the heat duplicated their strategy, taking another versatile wing player in Josh Richardson, a senior out of the University of Tennessee. While they share a position, Richardson is a far different player from Winslow, from the strengths of their game to the level of national hype surrounding them. Richardson, considered a sleeper prospect by most, was not even invited to the NBA Draft Combine and was solely projected as a second round pick. However, hype does not make a good pick, as both of these players were drafted because the Heat front office decided that they could play a valuable role with the franchise.
Justise Winslow, SG/SF, Freshman, Duke University
Round 1, Pick 10
Height: 6’7” Weight: 225 lbs. DOB: 3/26/1996 (19 years old)
2014-2015 statistics: 12.6 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.3 SPG, 0.9 BPG, .485/.414/.641 FG/3PT/FT%
Draftexpress ranking: 7
While Winslow’s offensive game lags behind his defense, he has shown serviceable ability in the short run, and flashed major potential that could be tapped into with development. His biggest assets are his size and athleticism. He was one of the strongest wing players in college basketball last season, and it was evident the way he bullied defenders. Coupling his strength with his well above average speed, he had no trouble getting to the rim to get open looks in a variety of ways. Playing a small ball power forward a lot of the time at Duke, Winslow blew past bigger defenders with an explosive first step, and when smaller guards were put on him, he backed them down inside with his strength. While he does not possess the ballhandling ability of a point guard, he is very adept with the ball in his hands. Although more of a straight-line driver, he rarely turns the ball over due to his solid handle. Winslow has a great feel for the game, which makes his an above average passer, on the wing or in the high post. As a jump shooter, Winslow has made vast strides since coming out of high school. He surprisingly ended up above 40% from behind the arc, and even though he didn’t have as much success from the free throw line, his shot can look smooth, and it’s evident to see there is potential to be a good shooter in all facets of the game. Winslow’s other biggest strength is his motor. The dude plays like his jersey is on fire, and it shows. He is constantly getting open layups and putbacks because of his willingness to run the floor. Overall, he has all the tools to become an above average offensive weapon, it’s just a matter of putting it all together.
Winslow’s motor may be a huge strength of his game, but it leads to a lot of bad decisions on the offensive end. In many cases, Winslow would drive to the basket so fast that he would rush himself and make a bad pass, or take a bad shot. He often used his strength to push defenders aside and fall off balance, leading to him throwing the ball away. Even when he’s not rushing himself, finishing at the rim is a major problem for Winslow. All season long he’s struggled to make layups at a consistently high rate, which is alarming for someone whose game revolves around getting to the rim a majority of the time. For a player with great athleticism, Winslow plays below the rim often, which could be problematic against NBA length. The major concern, however, is his shooting. While markedly improving in spot-up shooting, he is a very poor shooter on pull-ups, and his shot is inconsistent and sometimes flat. He will likely end up as a solid spot-up shooter, but average everywhere else.
Justise Winslow is an elite defensive player. He was the most versatile defensive player in the draft, and will eventually be one of the most versatile in the NBA. He can guard multiple positions, which he showed in the NCAA Championship Game, effectively guarding bruising big man Nigel Hayes and offensive technician Sam Dekker. His strength, quickness, and motor are huge assets on this side of the court as well. He can handle bigger players in the post, and excels and closing out and keeping his feet in front of his man at all times. Winslow also rarely takes off, and has plays with focus and intensity that is extremely uncommon for someone as young as he is. His feel for the game on defense is, you guessed it, excellent. He plays passing lanes well, using his quickness to recover back to his man, and it not afraid to come over and playing help defense on a player driving into the paint. Winslow also attacks the glass with ferocity, and was one of the most effective wing rebounders in college hoops. These skills let to his above average per-40 numbers in steals, blocks, and rebounds (1.8, 1.2, and 7 respectively). Defense is going to be Winslow’s calling card in the NBA, and he is more than equipped to be exceptional at it.
There aren’t many. He has the tendency to trust his quickness a little too much at times and make drastic jumps into passing lanes to try and get a steal, which can be exploited at the next level. He also has a bad habit of not putting his hand in a shooter’s face from time to time. This, as everyone is familiar with the phrase “Hand down, man down”, is something that will infuriate coaches because NBA players will not have a problem shooting over him. The only other concern is that he won’t be able to bully opposing players once everyone he’s guarding is a little stronger. However, these are all minor weaknesses and can be easily corrected with proper coaching.
Round 2, Pick 40
Height: 6’6” Weight: 200 lbs. DOB: 9/15/1993 (21 years old)
2014-2015 statistics: 16 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 3.6 APG, 2.1 SPG, 0.5 BPG, .461/.359/.798 FG/3PT/FT%
Draftexpress Ranking: 59
Richardson, like Winslow, is a great athlete, and it shows in the way he plays. He was the leading score on a Vols team that plays in one of the top conferences in the country. He can score in a variety of ways, whether it is driving to the basket, shooting, or making off-ball cuts and finishing using his strong leaping ability. He’s made no shortage of highlight plays in his career, and he has the skill and athleticism to be an average scorer at the NBA level. He is a good shooter, especially on catch and shoots, and is a good creator (although below-average vision could be a hindrance). Unlike Winslow, his greatest issue is strength. As it stands, Richardson is a very wiry player for a shooting guard, which that led to fishing problems and a low 2-point field goal percentage, and his shot is very streaky from time to time. Until he fills out more, he would find it difficult to score against the strength of players at the next level.
On defense, he has the athleticism and length to be a defensive weapon. He plays the passing lanes extremely well and shows good defensive instincts, although he is prone to take bad gambles. Again, his biggest concern is strength, as players in the league can easily back him down and score on him inside. When he signs with the Heat, the first thing they trainers will have him do is grab a PB&J and hit the weight room.
Overall Draft Grade:
Justise Winslow is the perfect Heat player in three ways. First, he can step in and play either wing spot, his natural positions. He also possesses the strength to move to a small-ball power forward, something the Heat have done often in the past with LeBron and Shane Battier. Winslow is also capable of stepping in day 1 and guarding an opposing team’s best guard or small forward scoring option, and could handle most power forwards if need be. Second, he’s experienced winning at every level, which fits in with the standards Pat Riley is accustomed to. Finally, his intensity and passion for the game is something that will fit in well with the Heat locker room, especially with a player like Dwyane Wade, should he stay. On offense, he will project as a third or fourth option, and at his ceiling is still better off being a good second option. Josh Richardson will most likely start out in the D-League, but with some development and weight training could see himself become a solid reserve as a “3 and D” player.
Pat Riley has earned himself an A+ for this draft. I wanted to knock of the plus due to there being three better players than Richardson at his position left on the board, but with the volatile nature of second round picks, the loss is most likely minimal. Justise Winslow is going to be a star. As far as comparisons go, he could easily be Jimmy Butler, and more. He’s only 19 years old and he improved every game of his Duke career. The sky is the limit for him, and he will have a perfect storm of quality leadership and quantity of opportunities to reach that limit. Bad puns like the following should be avoided all the time, but it bears saying: Winslow making it to the tenth pick was criminal, and he’ll be serving Justise to those that passed on him.