The recent form on display from third-year forward Justise Winslow is vindication of the faith shown in him by the Miami Heat.
Through his first two and a half seasons in the league, the general consensus had been that while he was an elite defender and had developed his ball-handling and playmaking abilities to an exceptional level, his lack of perimeter shooting and touch around the rim remained a sticking point.
Much had been made of his injury-interrupted 18 games season last year, when Winslow shot at just a 35.6 percent clip from the filed, including a ghastly 20.0 percent from 3-point range. To commence this season, things were also looking bleak for Winslow on the offensive end.
Through his first 39 games, the 6’7″ swingman had shot at just a 40.5 percent clip overall from the field. Interspersed in this was a 14-game absence due to a knee injury. However, after taking some time getting back into game shop follow his knee issue, Winslow appears to have turned the corner in terms of his confidence and execution at the offensive end.
Over his past four games, this is how Winslow’s numbers have appeared:
- 14.3 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 2.5 APG, 2.3 SPG, 52.4 FG%, 50.0 3P%
Watching him firsthand over the past week, the most evident change in Winslow’s game has been the confidence he has shown in his outside shot. Despite his well-chronicled struggles in shooting from deep, Winslow’s inclination to let it fly in a catch-and-shoot situations is only going to install more confidence and belief when his teammates are looking for him to contribute.
Recently, Winslow commented on the recent improvements in his game:
“Just getting into a better rhythm every game and playing with confidence and just hooping really. Everybody wants to score man, regardless of what they say. The winning plays thing is true, definitely true. But everybody wants to score. It’s nice when you’re able to do that and other stuff too.”
While Winslow’s progress on the offensive end has been the most noteworthy, he has still managed to maintain his elite defensive attributes. In addition to averaging 2.3 steals per game over his past four games, Winslow also averaged 2.8 deflections per game while registering a team-best defensive rating of 100.3.
While Winslow has demonstrated the ability to perform at both ends off the court, the most impressive aspect of this is that he has done it both as a starter and coming off the bench. Given the flexibility of the Heat roster and the amount of players able to play multiple positions, having Winslow perform at a high level in both roles is going to be vital as the business end of the season quickly approaches.
“It sounds sacrilegious, but Winslow — who has a similar body type, strengths, and weaknesses — is being used like Draymond Lite….Winslow’s defense would have to reach an even higher level to come close to Green’s, but his passing vision and versatility fit the Draymond mold.”
While it’s a small sample size, Winslow’s recent shooting exploits are reason for much optimism among the Heat coaching staff and fans alike. Currently holding onto seventh spot in the Eastern Conference standings with a 34-31 record, the rate at which Winslow can continue to improve at the offensive end could go a long way to determining how far the Heat advance this season.