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March 6, 2016 - Miami, FL, USA - Miami Heat's Justise Winslow drives against Philadelphia 76ers' Jerami Grant during the second quarter on Sunday, March 6, 2016, at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami (Photo by Hector Gabino/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire)
Miami Heat

Nardone: Justise Winslow ready to prove he’s bigger than his numbers

Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire

Justise Winslow is such an odd player to follow. Not only is his first name the nemesis of many a basket-blogger, but even the most analytically savvy have a hard time discussing him in the terms most people want to.

You know that he is a good player, makes different kinds of layers of impact during games, and still has potential to become something a little more special than a role player on a good team.

But, man, that box-score and fancy-stats make it hard to talk about him like that. Even in the context of him being a rookie last season, a then still teenager, six-points, five-board averages don’t make anyone — or their mother — want to make such crazy declarations on the talented forward.

That’s part of the issue here, too. Winslow is a 6’7″ forward. Not that small forwards at that height are uncommon, but many argue that the listing of his height is more than generous. That he, the former Duke Blue Devils star, is actually roughly 6’5.” Two inches might seem like semantics, but if you’ve ever talked to a soul who played high-level competitive hoops (or a significant other), two inches can make a world of difference.

Winslow was also a poor three-point shooter as a rookie. Shooting well below 30 percent from beyond the arc is fine for some forwards, but it can be argued that his limited range would, in turn, limit his ability have tangible impacts on any individual game he has played in.

Yet, he has made many an impact in a variety of basketball games. It is just that there’s really no data to back it up. Not in starts, not in minutes, not in rebounds, or points, or true shooting percentage, or anything else.

April 7, 2016 - Miami, FL, USA - The Miami Heat's Justise Winslow, middle, drives the lane against the Chicago Bulls' Justin Holiday and Mike Dunleavy (34) in the first half on Thursday, April 7, 2016, at the American Airlines Arena in Miami (Photo by Carl Juste/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire)

April 7, 2016 – Miami, FL, USA – The Miami Heat’s Justise Winslow, middle, drives the lane against the Chicago Bulls’ Justin Holiday and Mike Dunleavy (34) in the first half on Thursday, April 7, 2016, at the American Airlines Arena in Miami (Photo by Carl Juste/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire)

He’s been solid, if not more so than that, and we can’t really talk about it because the “eyeball test” has been tagged as this archaic tool to use while discussing a basketball player.

And while it is true that our eyes aren’t the endgame anymore, it can still very much be part of the equation. Really, while analytics are — rightfully — an important part of evaluating players, one can’t simply ignore what the eyes relay to the brain because the style in which a talent plays doesn’t do well with numbers.

Anyway, that’s all debatable. How impactful he was, how good or bad he was, all the things he was or wasn’t during his rookie season, we can argue that until Tim Tebow finally announces he’s the second-coming of the world’s most famous carpenter.

What we do know now, however, is that an odd and unfortunate string of events is going to force us to find out how good he is more quickly…. at least I think?

Chris Bosh isn’t going to play for the Miami Heat this year. It is a sad and tragic turn of events. Speaking from the perspective of how it hurts the Heat, it does so drastically. Losing an All-Star caliber player doesn’t often help any NBA franchise.

Dwyane Wade is also gone. Place the blame for that on whoever you want, but it won’t change the fact that the official end of Miami’s “Big Three” is complete. It was not five or six or seven, it was only a couple, and that couple was great, but an entire era of Heat basketball is in the history books with Boston’s Big Three, Tim Duncan’s San Antonio Spurs, and a slew of other important historical basketball generations.

This does put everyone — most importantly, Winslow himself — in a position to figure this out in haste. While his game is definitely not “number reliant,” Miami might not directly ask him to do more this season, but they sure as hell will need him to.

The good news here is in that Winslow thinks he can be more. A better player not only in his style which makes for the confusion in the first place but with the sort of production that can help us better discuss his goodness — or lack thereof (for the negative folk out there).

“That’s what I want,” Winslow said to The AP on Wednesday. “That’s what I’ve been working for my whole life, to make it to the NBA – not only that, but to be a star and have my own team one day. This is the next step in me progressing and getting there, expanding my role and growing as a leader. And I accept whatever the coaching staff throws at me.”

It is a somewhat mixed bag in the quote. He wants to make the team his but is still willing to do what the coaching staff asks of him, which can mean more of the same from the forward due to other players on the roster “needing” touches more than he does.

But, at the very, very least, it shows he wants to do and be more. That he isn’t satisfied with being one of the most mind-boggling players on the planet to discuss. That he, Sir Justise Winslow, most confusing to spell first name in all of the NBA, might make our lives easier by trying to do more because the Heat will need him to.

Here is to hoping, like hell that however good, or bad, or decent, Winslow actually is, becomes a clearer thing to look at this upcoming season.

Nardone: Justise Winslow ready to prove he’s bigger than his numbers

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