Speculation ran rampant as to who the Miami Heat would select with the tenth overall pick in Thursday night's NBA Draft. Would it be a shooter? Someone who can defend the perimeter? A swingman who could step in and contribute right away?
Turns out, it ended up being the steal of the first round, and all those other things too, as the Heat had a bona fide possible star player fall into its lap when it selected Justise Winslow from Duke.
It was a special surprise from the basketball gods. After a year in which the Heat simply could not catch a break — losing LeBron, Dwyane Wade's injuries, Chris Bosh's blood clots, Josh McRobert's season-ending injury, being left out of the playoffs — karma showed its benevolence and mercy and delivered the Heat Winslow, a talented swingman with length, strength, the ability to shoot threes, a massive six-foot-ten wingspan, and a lot of room to grow.
At just 19 years of age, Winslow still has a lot of space to fill in his already ginormous six-foot-six, 222-pound frame. Yet he's already drawn comparisons to LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. His coach at Duke, Mike Krzyzewski, said before the draft that Winslow was the next Wade. ESPN draft analyst Jay Bilas said this during last night's broadcast: "[Winslow is] difficult to stop in transition. Plays bigger than his height, has amazing timing to go up and block a shot — almost LeBron James-like in his ability to do that.”
Holy and crap.
While it's unfair to heap such comparisons onto a 19-year-old kid's shoulders who has yet to see a single minute of NBA playing time, you can immediately see what Bilas was talking about in the clip below.
The ability to swoop down the court with speed, track down the ball, and make that block is absolutely LeBron-like. And filthy as hell.
But Winslow is more than just a powder keg of awesomeness wrapped in a freakishly large body. He's a student of the game who studies players like San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard and the Rockets' James Harden. It's rare to find a young player who desires not only to be a dynamic offensive player but also one who dedicates his time to being an outstanding defender.
His stifling defense was what stood out during this past year's National Championship run at Duke. His defensive rating was a whopping 92.8. He blocked shots with ferocity and used his quick massive hands to steal balls and create turnovers.
That's what makes Winslow perfect for the Heat. He is a student of the game who values defense yet also can also score.
According to Grantland's statistics, Winslow is fire from beyond the arc. He can also finish at the rim. Winslow needs to work on his midrange game, but that can be developed with time and practice. He's raw on the edges yet refined in the middle.
In our draft preview on Thursday, we predicted Winslow as a dark horse pick for the Heat, mainly because odds were against his being there when it was Miami's turn to pick. But in our analysis, we said Winslow's game resembled Golden State's Draymond Green:
Winslow is versatile like Green, is a ferocious defender like Green, and has a decent jump shot. Winslow can also finish at the rim. In other words, he has everything in a player Pat Riley covets: Size, defensive skills, and versatility.
And apparently, Pat Riley reads New Times because he said the same thing last night:
Pat Riley just compared Justise Winslow to Draymond Green in terms of versatility— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) June 26, 2015
As a member of Duke's National Championship team, Winslow comes in a winner. His basketball IQ and versatility to play small forward and shooting guard made him quite possibly one of two or three can't-miss prospects. Winslow was projected to go somewhere in the top five. For some reason — perhaps karma, perhaps luck, perhaps Riley's Jedi mind tricks — Winslow fell to the Heat at ten.
And Miami made away like bandits.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Hey, Justise Winslow... Welcome to Miami, now get used to ppl misspelling your 1st name. I know a guy who dealt w/ the same thing :)— Gabrielle Union (@itsgabrielleu) June 26, 2015
Absolutely love the pick @IAmJustise, worker and a competitor and a Champion most importantly.— Shane Battier (@ShaneBattier) June 26, 2015