The Miami Heat entered draft night in the #10 spot — high enough to be in range for a solid prospect, but too low to be in contention for the best of the best. Or so we thought, anyway. With a hint of luck and Michael Jordan (cough, Rich Cho) turning down a Godfather offer from Boston — SIX PICKS! — as only he could, somehow, Duke wingman Justise Winslow slid to the Heat in the 10th spot, with Stanley Johnson (#8) and Mario Hezonja (#5) going before him.
To be honest, this almost feels TOO good to be true; like, is there something everyone else in the top 10 knows that the Heat (and Celtics) missed? If that isn’t the case, Winslow represents, by far, the best value pick in this year’s draft. Any time a top 5-6 talent in a draft class nearly slides outside of the lottery right into your lap, you have to be happy.
What makes this even better is that for Miami, Winslow fills a multitude of needs. I mean no disrespect, but James Ennis or Henry/Bill/Billiam Walker as your best backup wing simply wasn’t cutting it. 33-year-old Dwyane Wade with questionable knees being arguably the best athlete on your team — or at least in the rotation if you want to argue for Tyler Johnson — isn’t a good look. Oh, and it’s not like Luol Deng doesn’t already have 250,000 miles on his tires, mostly due to his stint in Chicago. There isn’t much shooting between Wade, Deng (at this stage, he’s average at best), Walker (although that doesn’t stop him from jacking them up), Ennis or Johnson (probably the best of the bunch) either.
Winslow immediately serves as youthful talent who can either back up Wade or Deng. He’s a great athlete, a very good defender, and projects as a very good knock-down shooter as well. Winslow is a good finisher at the basket and, from watching him, looks like a James Harden/Jimmy Butler hybrid when attacking the basket; his change of pace, array of eurosteps, and ability to make mid-air adjustments are very impressive for someone his age.
For Winslow, this represents a wonderful all-around situation for him. The Miami Heat franchise is one of the best in the NBA in terms of structure and professionalism. He won’t have to deal with dysfunction like he would’ve had he been drafted, I don’t know, sixth to the Sacramento Kings. Winslow is on a veteran-filled team including Wade, Deng, Goran Dragic (likely), Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem — all of whom can help show Winslow the ropes in how to handle himself as a professional off the court.
On the court, Winslow doesn’t have much pressure on him at all. He wasn’t drafted to save a franchise; he merely has to play his game — defend, slash and knock down open threes — in order to complement Miami’s already-established core. As Winslow looks to grow on the skills he already has, how great is it that he could be able to get defensive pointers from Deng if he returns? Who better to help Winslow improve his in-between game than pump-fake master Wade? Who better to help Winslow understand slashing angles and ways to create space on drives than Dragic?
Barring injury issues, I just don’t see how the Winslow-Heat partnership WON’T work out. Winslow is already a hard worker with a little bit of swagger to him. He understands and, most importantly, embraces Miami’s defense-first culture. He fills Miami’s need for a reliable wing off the bench or, in a worst-case scenario, a starting small forward if Deng leaves. The Heat got an absolute STEAL in Winslow with the #10 pick. After the injury-riddled year the Heat just had, it was only “right” that a little luck went their way.
Oh, and before anybody else coins the phrase: #WelcomeToTheJustiseLeague came from me.