Miami Heat

Justise Winslow and the season that never was

AP Photo/Alan Diaz

This year was supposed to be fun for the Miami Heat.

Okay, maybe not “fun”: the Heat did lose Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in the same offseason, and the general pettiness from all three sides — Heat management, the players involved, and the fans following it all — got pretty tiring.

Still, this year was supposed to be a transitional one.

The playoffs were always a long-shot, but the idea of:

  • The Dragon, Goran Dragic, being unleashed
  • Shot-swatting and rim-rattling Hassan Whiteside getting more touches, and…
  • the youthful trio of Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson, and Tyler Johnson flying around like their turbo buttons were stuck

…would be worth the show.

But injuries happened.

Literally, every player on the Heat roster has missed time at some point this year — a crazy thing to follow, and even crazier to type.


That, of course, includes Winslow, the prized 10th pick of the 2015 draft. He missed a bundle of games with a wrist injury, then had his season ended on Wednesday with surgery to his torn labrum.

Coming off a solid rookie campaign, there was plenty of intrigue surrounding what he could accomplish with an increased role.

The results were mostly mixed; his per-game numbers shot up (10.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.7 assists), but his efficiency plummeted (39.7 true shooting percentage).

Even in a limited sample size and an ultimately underwhelming year, there were things to take away from his season.

1. The jumper is going to take a lot of time

We’ll start with the biggest negative.

Winslow’s jumper was already a major work in progress; playing with a wrist injury certainly didn’t help matters.

After shooting 34.7 percent on two-point jumpers and 27.6 percent from three last season, he shot 30.8 percent and 20 percent respectively.

Aesthetically, he smoothed out some of the kinks of his form from his rookie year; there was less of a hitch, and his release was slightly faster (excuse the quality):


However, he’s still clearly a rhythm shooter — and a very bad one at that.

Per Synergy, Winslow shot 7-30 (23.3 percent) on unguarded catch-and-shoot jumpers but shot 11-35 (31.4 percent) on jumpers off the dribble.

The good news is that he will only be entering year three next year. He has also shown that he’s a smart enough and skilled enough player to contribute in other ways.

Overall, though, his ceiling won’t be as high as it could be if his jumper doesn’t get to at least below-average.

2. The increased usage hurt Winslow defensively

Winslow’s minutes and touches flew up from his rookie year to this season. The added responsibility seemed to affect his energy defensively.

Statistically, the drop was drastic; via Synergy, Winslow ranked in the 28th percentile in overall defense after ranking in the 81st percentile as a rookie.

He had trouble with elite wings — but so does everyone, which is why those wings are elite. It was a bit concerning to see how badly Winslow was getting beat at times, especially off the dribble.

We all remember when Winslow got baked by Wade in his Miami return:


Winslow also struggled tracking guys and navigating screens. One of the things that stood out about his rookie year was his ability to stay connected without fouling.

Here’s a quick example of Winslow trying to chase Evan Fournier without much success:


Combining the pick-and-roll, dribble hand-off (DHO), and off-screen possessions he defended, Winslow allowed 0.93 PPP, a noticeable mark up from the 0.797 PPP mark he allowed last season.

3. Winslow has real potential as a secondary ball-handler

The 3.7 assists Winslow averaged would be enough to raise eyebrows, but the “how” was more impressive than the “what” this year.

Some of the reads he made out of pick-and-roll were impressive for a wing his age. As the year progressed, the game seemed to slow down for him in that regard.

I always go back to this skip pass against the Spurs. I slowed this one down just because of the ridiculousness of it:

James Johnson hit that three, by the way.

On the play below, Dion Waiters missed the three because, well, of course, he did. Regardless, check out the patience from Winslow on this pick-and-roll, the way he changes pace, and how precise this dart was:

Via Synergy, Winslow produced 1.232 PPP on his passes out of pick-and-roll, placing him in the 91st percentile.

That number will likely be lower next season, but the process itself is encouraging. Winslow sees the floor well and showcased the ability to hit targets in tight spots.

Until Winslow can shoot effectively, he’s going to need the ball in his hands to maximize his impact offensively.

As a scorer, Winslow has a way to go. He shot a shade under 39 percent as the pick-and-roll ball-handler, though he forced the issue and got to the paint more after he returned from the wrist injury.

Below, Winslow ran a side pick-and-roll with Johnson, and fooled Lakers forward Brandon Ingram by going away from the pick and finishing with a reverse layup:


4. The spin move may be his go-to

Winslow The Scorer has never been a thing, and that’s fine. That’s what makes his comfort with the spin move so exciting:


Even there, you see Winslow’s ability to change speed on the fly. It was subtle, but his slowing down helped set up the burst-and-spin.

5. Hints of a post game

While at Duke, Winslow occasionally posted up when playing the 4 in small-ball lineups. Miami explored that briefly this year, specifically in their first matchup against the Lakers.

Poor D’Angelo Russell couldn’t catch a break:




On the season, Winslow shot 5-12 on post-ups. That’s a pretty minuscule sample, but something to watch for moving forward as he gets stronger and more comfortable.

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