Will Justise Winslow find success in Miami?

Apr 6, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Justise Winslow holds up a piece of the net after defeating the Wisconsin Badgers in the 2015 NCAA Men
Apr 6, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Justise Winslow holds up a piece of the net after defeating the Wisconsin Badgers in the 2015 NCAA Men /
Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports /

It was baffling to many when Justise Winslow fell to No. 10 during the 2015 NBA Draft. Heading into the event, he was seen as a possible top five pick. Add in the fact that he fell to the Heat of all teams, and you can just about make a case for a draft conspiracy.

The fit with Miami is going to be interesting with Winslow. In college, he started and played the majority of his minutes in the frontcourt next to Jahlil Okafor. He won’t be able to do that in the NBA, with the size advantage of power forwards being too much for him. He might be able to get away with it in some small ball situations, but for the most part Justise is going to be strictly a wing.

Will this role change lead to success within the Heat’s system?


Erik Spoelstra’s offense was the pioneer of the new slash and kick NBA. His system is built on perimeter guys getting into the lane and making the right read off the help defender; either score, kick out to a shooter, or drop it to the big. The objective is to get the defense into a scramble mode and on their heels. This type of beautiful ball movement and flow originated with them.

Winslow was the best player in the entire draft at getting into the lane. He got to the paint at will last season, aided by 17.9 percent of his possessions ending in free throws — one of the higher marks in the country, according to Synergy Sports.

The way Winslow euro steps and draws contact is very similar to his new teammate, Dwyane Wade. He also moved the ball well within Duke’s spread post up system. Getting into the lane and making the right read is right up Winslow’s alley.

These types of tools are the perfect set of skills for Coach Spo’s offense. The only thing that’s worrying is Winslow’s inconsistency as a shooter. While he shot above 40 percent from 3 last season, his free throw percentage was barely above 60 percent — a much better indicator for predicting future 3-point shooting success. Even if Winslow was able to be the knock down shooter he was in college, he is crafty and smart enough to find ways to get into the cracks of the defense.


Miami’s defense became famous for being hyper active and aggressive; blitzing and trapping pick and rolls, using their length and athleticism to disrupt offenses. The problem now: this was successful when they had LeBron James and a healthy Dwyane Wade. With an ageing Wade surrounded by a different cast of characters that aren’t suited for this style of defense, we might be seeing a new look on that end from the Heat next season.

With the Warriors winning a title built around a defense predicated on switching assignments everywhere on the floor, we’ll likely see more NBA teams try to replicate it. With their talent, there’s no reason why Miami couldn’t be one of those teams. They still have length on the wing in Wade, Winslow and Luol Deng, but not necessarily the athleticism to continue their hectic style. Switching might be the way to tone it back.

Whether they keep the same scheme or turn to something else, Justise will be able to morph into it just fine. He is long enough to stay in front and guard perimeter players and has just enough bulk to guard power forwards in a pinch. He can’t be a full time four, but playing him there as the lynch pin of a switching defense could be successful.

If they decide to stay the course with the blitzing scheme, Winslow is the type of player that would blend in well. Not only is it nice that he has a long wingspan for a wing at 6-10, but he is a high IQ player who seems to always be in the passing lanes for steals.

Knowing which players to help on and where to rotate is something many rookies struggle with their first season. Having a player like Winslow, who already has the IQ and instincts to be successful, gives him a leg up on his peers.


During the NCAA tournament, Winslow was able to show the high upside player he can be. The jump shot might not be there right away, but the rest of his game on both ends are enough for him not only to be an immediate impact guy, but a franchise building block.

It seemed like a heist on draft night, and after digging in further, Winslow being in Miami is highway robbery for Pat Riley and company. That bodes well for their future.