Not much has gone right for Justise Winslow this preseason as Winslow’s confidence appeared to be trending in the same direction as his outside shot.
Playing power forward seemed to give him a boost the first two games, but then he hit a wall and looked lost the next two games with five points, three assists and five turnovers.
Searching to boost his third-year forward, coach Erik Spoelstra decided to put the ball in Winslow’s hands for most of the Heat’s victory over Washington on Wednesday. The results were surprisingly good. … for the most part.
Winslow had nine assists and seven rebounds in 32 minutes, three more assists than he had in the previous four games combined. He played the entire fourth quarter and had four assists and five rebounds as Miami outscored Washington, 34-28.
“The aggressive attacks in the paint, finding his shooters on the weak side. …. He did a little bit of everything,” Spoelstra said. “He handled the ball, played up the court, post him a couple of times and then defensively he was guarding virtually everybody on the court.
“That’s the kind of multi-faceted game that he’s capable of. Once he gets more minutes, games under his belt I think you’re just going to see more and more of those kind of plays.”
Winslow, who played just 18 games last season because of wrist and shoulder injuries, even knocked down his first 3 pointer of the preseason, although it came after missing his first six shots of the game. That outside shot – which is as scrutinized as any aspect of any Heat player – remains a concern. He is shooting just 32 percent (8-of-25) in the preseason.
“The shots didn’t fall, but I found a way to get in rhythm, enjoying my teammates knocking down shots, just trying to play-make out there and have fun,” said Winslow, who was 1-of-7 from the floor against Washington.
Winslow, though, insists he is not backing down although during the previous two games he appeared to be passing up shots, taking just five of which two came in the final 23 seconds Monday against Orlando, one a layup and the other a dunk.
“I’m going to take my shots when they are there,” he said. “I’m just going to try to get in the lane and make plays. The mentality is just be myself and just try to find a little bit more rhythm and flow as each game goes on.”
The bigger question is where does Winslow fit in?
Rodney McGruder’s stress fracture in his left leg will keep him out at least three months, which could mean Winslow slides back into the starting small forward spot his held last year before the injuries set in. Could Winslow get a look at his old position? Or does he continue to come off the bench as he has all of preseason as a power forward but with the freedom to facilitate the offense?
Still, it will be interesting how many minutes will be available to Winslow on a team that is as deep as any in the league, even with McGruder missing time.