20-year-old Justise Winslow ready to take next step, carry more responsibility for Miami Heat

Justise Winslow of the Miami Heat poses for photo during Heat Media Day at American Airlines Arena, September 26, 2016. Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post

Justise Winslow of the Miami Heat poses for photo during Heat Media Day at American Airlines Arena, September 26, 2016. Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post

MIAMI — Most 20-year-olds find themselves running away from responsibilities. But Justise Winslow is not a typical 20-year-old.

“I just want to make more plays, man,” Winslow said of his plans for the upcoming season. “I want to have the ball in my hands more. I want my teammates and the coaching staff to trust me.”

For the youngest player on a fairly young Heat roster, that’s a lot to ask for. But since it’s Winslow, the Heat are willing to grant his request.

“Justise is going to get more minutes, more responsibilities,” coach Erik Spoelstra said.

“We plan on using him all over the court – handling the ball, posting up, drives, spacing the floor – the more responsibility we’ve given him, the more inspired his play has become.”

Miami Heat forward Justise Winslow warms up before the NBA basketball team's Red, White and Pink annual Scrimmage, Monday, Oct. 10, 2016, in Miami. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

Miami Heat forward Justise Winslow warms up before the NBA basketball team’s Red, White and Pink annual Scrimmage, Monday, Oct. 10, 2016, in Miami. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

That’s the next step in Winslow’s progression after averaging 6.4 points and 5.2 rebounds per game as a rookie. Even as a 19-year-old for most of his rookie campaign, he finished the regular season ranked third in minutes-played among rookies with 2,232 minutes of court time.

But Winslow wants more and expects more from himself this season. And with Dwyane Wade no longer on the roster after signing with the Bulls this offseason and Chris Bosh away from the team as he deals with ongoing blood clot issues, the Heat need more from Winslow.

“I want to step into that role. I want to be a leader,” Winslow said. “I definitely feel like I can step into that leadership role. I don’t know if I’m a vet yet, but what I am is I’m a learner and I’m a listener. That’s what this team needs.”

After making just eight starts in 78 games as a rookie, Winslow is expected to be the Heat’s starting small forward this season. He’s also expected to be a more efficient offensive player.

Winslow shot 42.2 percent from the field and 27.6 percent (32-of-116) from three-point range last season. He spent the offseason making tweaks to his shot.

“It’s not like we restructured my whole shot,” Winslow said. “But it’s just synchronizing everything with my feet, my legs, my elbow, my wrist. It’s just been a lot of synchronizing and helping everything stay in rhythm. But mechanically, there have been some things we changed and things we kept.”

Winslow is already showing signs of improvement.

Most of Winslow’s three-point shots came from the corners last season and he’s likely to see a lot of corner threes again this year. So it’s a good sign for the Heat that he made 4-of-7 corner threes this preseason after making 26.7 percent of his corner threes last season.

“Obviously some adjustments had to be made,” Winslow said of his shot. “You just sit and you watch film, you look at guys’ mechanics. I feel pretty good about where it’s at. It’s just going to continue to get better. The only way is to put in the time.”

The No. 10 overall pick in last year’s draft put in the time this offseason working with the USA Basketball Select Team where he watched All-Stars like Klay Thompson shoot the ball with the same exact mechanics every time. Now he’s putting in the time after Heat practices, as he’s consistently one of the last players to leave the court as he shoots three after three.

San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) and Miami Heat forward Justise Winslow scramble for the ball during the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game, Friday, Oct. 14, 2016, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) and Miami Heat forward Justise Winslow scramble for the ball during the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game, Friday, Oct. 14, 2016, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

“I’m just running my race, doing my thing and focusing on my process,” Winslow said.

Winslow’s game and stoic persona has led to some comparing him to Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard. Even Spoelstra made the comparison after the Heat defeated the Spurs during the preseason.

“They make a lot of winning plays and you can’t define them necessarily by a box score,” Spoelstra said of Winslow and Leonard. “Now, Justise can fill up a box score, and he’s showing his development. But there’s so many plays that don’t show up in the box score that showed up in our own charting with coaches and that’s what separates him.”

All of this, including this comparison, seems like a lot of pressure for a 20-year-old.

“What pressure?” Winslow said when a reporter mentioned this to him.

Just more proof that Winslow is not a typical 20-year-old.

“Everybody takes that step, man. You can’t look at it as pressure,” Winslow said. “It’s just a responsibility. As long as you’re putting your best foot forward and putting 100 percent into it, you can be satisfied whether you fail or succeed. When you put those hours in the gym, you feel confident. There’s no added pressure for me.”

[Q&A with Heat small forward Justise Winslow]

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