There are a lot of things that can, and probably will, happen for the Heat between now and the beginning of next season.
But assuming Miami brings back this season’s team, is Justise Winslow still the best option to start at small forward? We answer that question and more in this week’s installment of the Heat mailbag.
@abdrrhmnkyklk: If the Heat retain all free agents and make no significant addition, do you expect Justise Winslow to start on opening night?
Anthony Chiang: Remember this Pat Riley quote from last summer?
“So we lost (Luol Deng) and we lost (Joe Johnson), but the person that is going benefit the most from this to step up is Justise Winslow. He’s capable of starting in this league and that is right now who we have slotted in there, and I feel very comfortable with it.”
Or how about this Pat quote from his season-ending press conference a few weeks ago?
“I’ve been around players like Justise Winslow for a long time. He is a warrior, defender, cares about winning, has tremendous energy. The guy had a tough ride this year. He had a sprained wrist and played with it. Separated his shoulder, had that surgery. I took a look at a lot of those guys like Justise who came in as one and done guys. Kawhi Leonard averaged eight points a game his first year. Six years later, he’s 25. We are measuring this guy after 75 games. That’s unfair. … He ain’t going anywhere. I’ve read where you can package him here, package him there. He has something to prove. There’s no doubt. He will prove it. He’s a winner.”
So, as you can see the Heat are still publicly optimistic about Justise and his future. There’s no doubt that it was a difficult season for the 10th overall pick in the 2015 draft, as he was limited to 18 games because of various injuries and shot just 20 percent from 3-point range when he was on the court. But I would expect Justise to be the Heat’s starting small forward on opening night next season if there is not a significant addition this summer. Who are Miami’s other options? While Justise was out this season, Rodney McGruder started in his place. The 6-foot-4 rookie held his own, but the Heat don’t see him as an NBA starter. The perfect role for Rodney is a consistent one off the bench. So I’ll ask this question — if this season’s core returns, why wouldn’t Justise be Miami’s starting small forward next season?
@DosMinutos: Which spot in the top three do you think the Heat will jump into during Tuesday’s draft lottery?
Anthony Chiang: The first pick. Because, why not? In all seriousness, the chances are very good that Miami ends up with the 14th overall pick. The Heat enter the draft lottery with a 98.2 percent chance of having the 14th overall pick and a 1.8 percent chance of moving into the top three (worst among the lottery teams), including a 0.5 percent chance of winning the lottery, 0.6 percent chance of getting the second pick and 0.7 percent chance of securing the third pick. So yeah, don’t get your hopes up, Heat fans.