Miami Heat: Justise Winslow has been a fantastic point guard so far

Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images /

 Justise Winslow, a fourth-year forward, has stepped his game up as the Miami Heat’s starting point guard when All-Star point guard Goran Dragic got injured.

At the beginning of the season, Miami Heat forward Justise Winslow had established himself as a quality role player. He was known as a good defender with a solid 3-point shot that could take on ball-handling responsibilities from time to time.

His development hadn’t sky-rocketed, but he was becoming a useful player for Miami. However, when his All-Star teammate, Goran Dragic, got knee surgery that would make him inactive until February, Winslow took on Dragic’s role as the ball-handler and facilitator.

Head coach Erik Spoelstra chose Winslow to be the starting point guard over other guards such as Tyler Johnson and Josh Richardson. Winslow had a brief stint at point guard in early December, totaling 21 points, nine assists, six rebounds and only one turnover in a dominant win against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Winslow has thrived in this new role so far, averaging 15.1 points, 5.5 assists, 5.5 rebounds and 1.9  steals per game while shooting 46.3 percent from the field and 34.4 percent from 3 in the eight games he’s started at point guard. The Heat’s record in those games is 5-3. One of those wins came against the 2-seeded Milwaukee Bucks, and one of the losses came against the top-seeded Toronto Raptors by two points.

When asked about his stint as the starting point guard, Winslow told, “This is good growth. This is blooming and blossoming before people’s eyes.” His move to point guard was just a part of the great season he’s having. He’s upped his production as the season has progressed, increasing his stats across the board from November to December. His net rating jumped to +13.6, the best net rating of any month in his career.

Winslow’s strong defense hasn’t dipped, either. His defensive rating of 99 since the move to point guard is among the best in the league since then (among players who play 20 minutes per game). He’s earned .022 defensive win shares in that time, tied for 14th-best in the league. Winslow has held his opponents to 42.4 percent shooting on field goals on the season, and he’s held his opponents to around the same percentage as a point guard.

Erik Spoelstra has been very complimentary of Winslow’s growth this season, citing his defense and ball-handling as reasons why he’s improving this season. Spoelstra also raved about his versatility, saying his “perfect stat line” for Winslow is “14-15 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists, five steals.” Spoelstra truly believes that Winslow is one of few basketball that can impact the game from so many different aspects.

While it remains to be seen if Winslow can maintain his high level of play, the Heat should definitely consider him as the primary ball-handler for the future. Tall wing players that can handle and facilitate the ball have been very impactful, and will continue to be as long as the NBA is a perimeter-centric league.

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Winslow could become an Andre Iguodala type of player. Players like these that play great defense, shoot efficiently from 3, and play as a point guard create matchup nightmares. The 22- year-old can be a high impact player for years to come if he maintains, or even exceeds, his current level of play.