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Rosen’s Rookie Reports: Justise Winslow

Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports

The visiting Miami Heat hung with Indiana for 24 minutes before the reawakening of Paul George, and the explosive scoring of Monta Ellis changed the game and led to a relatively easy 96-83 win for the hometown heroes.

Miami’s blue-chip rookie, Justise Winslow, was given several opportunities to slow down the Pacers’ onslaught. However, except for a few flashes of brilliance, Winslow had little impact on the game.

Here’s what the young man did and didn’t do in his 29 minutes of daylight.

OFFENSE: FGM-A = 2-6; 3FGM-A = 0-2; FTA-M = 0-0; A = 0; OFF REB = 1; TO = 4; PTS = 4

On two possessions early in the game, Winslow was entrusted to carry the ball across the timeline. He accomplished this task safely with the only caveat being that, under modest defensive pressure, he had to turn his back to the rest of the action. This meant that should any confusion (or injury) among the remaining Indiana defenders have resulted in one of Winslow’s teammates being unguarded, the rookie wouldn’t be able to take advantage of the situation with an appropriate pass. Also, by having to labor to move the ball into the attack zone, Winslow also lost valuable seconds before Miami could activate its half-court offense.

After those two sequences, Winslow was relieved of this particular responsibility.

Once the Heat did settle into their offensive sets, Winslow was virtually ignored. He was, more often than not, a spectator stationed on the weak side. As the game progressed, he was somewhat more active — mostly used to reverse the ball and then make useless, unseen dive cuts. Occasionally he was asked to set a screen — except for a single sturdy one of these, the contact he initiated was utterly ineffective.

The first of his buckets came when Winslow rose and dunked a missed jumper by Chris Bosh. The other was a layup at the end of a fast break.

Otherwise, the rookie botched a layup, bricked a pair of treys and also launched a 20-foot jumper that clanged off the side rim.

Two of his TOs resulted when he lost the ball as he tried to spin-and-dance his way through heavy traffic. Poor judgment here, as well as an inability to create his own shots. Bad passes comprised the other mishandles — one made while he was on the move, the other when he was chosen to inbound the ball from near the timeline, and threw a home run that landed in the expensive seats beyond the nearest baseline.

But he did complete a nice entry pass into Luol Deng in the low post.

Even so, Winslow was heralded as a defensive force, and anything that he might be expected to contribute at the other end of the game would be welcomed but not demanded.

DEFENSE:  DEF REB = 3; ST = 0, BLK = 1; PF = 1

At various points in the game, Winslow guarded George, Ellis, C.J. Miles and Rodney Stuckey.

On one sequence, Winslow left George unguarded (!) on the perimeter to ostensibly help defend Ellis. A quick pass to George led to a drive, a bucket and a free throw — all with Winslow elsewhere. That’s three points scored under Winslow’s watch. Put two more digits in this column when Winslow chased down George after one of Indiana’s 13 steals and fouled him from behind. This was actually a heads-up play, forcing George to convert two free throws (which he did) instead of yielding a dunk.

Winslow also exhibited some veteran aggressiveness when he beat George to a preferred screen and knocked Indiana’s featured scored ass-over-tea-kettle — with no whistle forthcoming.

Winslow did a terrific job on Stuckey: Brilliantly defending a 3-on-1 break that forced Stuckey to miss a complicated layup. Overplaying a screen and preventing Stuckey from getting off a shot. Helping off George in time to force Stuckey to miss another layup. And Winslow’s in-his-face pressure made Stuckey miss a short baseline jumper.

If Ellis was passive on the few occasions that Winslow had him tagged, Miles repeatedly gave the rookie grief.

On the plus side, Winslow made a terrific closeout that prevented Miles from launching a trey. Plus he diligently tailgated Miles around a screen and forced him to miss a contested jumper.

Otherwise, Miles routinely beat Winslow on several catch-and-go situations. Fortunately for Winslow, Miles missed two of the ensuing layups, had another two blocked first by Bosh and then Hassan Whiteside — but did convert a fifth opportunity.

OK, having to stick with a veteran point-maker who receives the ball on the move is a difficult task for any rookie. Yet there was one play in which Miles had the ball and Winslow had a chance to defend him in a static one-on-one situation. But Miles faked, re-faked, spun, staggered the rookie and buried an easy 12-footer. 

Give Winslow credit for battling his way through screens, for always boxing out, for always getting back in transition defense and for looking to come from the weak side to help on defense. This last attribute helped the Heat’s cause when he made a great read and came out of nowhere to block a layup by Jordan Hill.


Winslow’s lefty shots are tight-wristed and severely flawed  —something that can be overcome by hard work during the offseason. Also, his spins and crossover dribbles leave the ball too far from his body and easily deflected.

For sure, the rookie can run, jump and hustle himself into viable scoring opportunities, but he remains a liability in Miami’s half-court sets. Indeed, he sat for the final 4:12 seconds of the game because Miami needed Gerald Green’s scoring more than Winslow’s negligible offense.

On defense, Winslow has the toughness, quickness (with both his hands and feet), willingness and alertness to possibly become a bona fide stopper. Should this eventuality come to pass (along with even a minor adjustment in his shooting mechanics), then, as a 10th draft pick, Winslow would be a steal.

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