Should Justise Winslow be the Heat’s long-term starting power forward? Erik Spoelstra not ready to commit yet

PHOENIX — Erik Spoelstra isn’t really into long-term commitment when it comes to his starting lineup.

The Heat (5-6) have already used six different starting lineups over the first 11 games of the season, but the sixth one he decided to start in Wednesday’s win against the Suns has the look of a group that he may stick with for a while. Spoelstra inserted 21-year-old Justise Winslow into the starting lineup at power forward next to the four usual starters — Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters, Josh Richardson and Hassan Whiteside.

Miami Heat forward Justise Winslow (20) in the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Nov. 3, 2017, in Denver. The Nuggets won 95-94. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

This five-man group posted the top plus-minus out of every other Heat lineup used against the Suns, outscoring Phoenix by a team-best seven points. Winslow was a big reason for the unit’s success, finishing with 14 points on 5-of-11 shooting from the field and 2-of-4 shooting from 3-point range, six rebounds and five assists.

But Spoelstra still won’t commit to this new starting lineup as a long-term thing with the Heat moving on to face the Jazz on Friday, the fifth stop of Miami’s six-game trip. Although he did reveal that he’s been thinking about playing Winslow as the Heat’s starting power forward for a while.

“It was something I was looking at before, but then Dion was out, Hassan was out,” Spoelstra said after Miami’s win in Phoenix. “To work our rotation a little bit best in their strength zones is something I want to look at. Nothing is in cement right now, but I thought Justise gave us some really rock-solid minutes on both ends of the court.

“Defensively he was guarding one though four, literally, at different points in the game. And offensively, he showed a real nice poise with the ball in his hands, but also making some plays off the ball, when other guys were making plays. This is definitely something I hope we can build on with him.”

Winslow is the fourth different player to start at power forward for the Heat this season. James Johnson, Kelly Olynyk and Okaro White have all started games at that spot already, so Winslow knows his time as a starter could be temporary.

“Things change every day around here,” said Winslow, who was selected with the 10th overall pick in the 2015 draft. “So the most important thing is that we went out there and got the win as a team. That felt good.”

But this Heat starting lineup makes sense. A lot of sense.

Johnson has made it clear he’s more comfortable in a bench role, Olynyk seems to be too slow-footed to play next to Whiteside, and White is limited offensively. But Winslow’s skill set makes him an intriguing option at the starting four spot, with his 6-foot-7 and 225-pound frame fitting the mold of today’s small ball NBA power forward on both ends of the court.

“A lot,” Dragic said when asked what Winslow brings to the table. “His ability to create, to find guys. He can put the ball on the floor and he can guard multiple positions. It’s kind of unique because even like [James Johnson], fours are defending pick-and-rolls now like guards, so they need to be really careful when they’re defending those two guys.”

It helps that Winslow is slowly becoming a better outside shooter. After making 30.8 percent of his jump shots as a rookie and 27.1 percent of them in his second NBA season, the Duke product is shooting 12-of-37 (32.4 percent) on jumpers through 11 games this season.

“I’m just trying to play off instinct,” Winslow said. “I put a lot of work in this offseason, just trying to play off instinct and make the right play, whether it’s me shooting or it’s me just slinging it and getting us into something else or it’s me spraying to an open guy. Just trying to play off instinct.”

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