Heat mailbag: Does winning stretch show that Justise Winslow is expendable?

LA Clippers guard Austin Rivers (25) defends Miami Heat forward Justise Winslow (20) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Dec. 16, 2016, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

The Heat are winning a lot of games without Justise Winslow. And when I say a lot, I mean A LOT.

Miami recorded 11 wins over its first 41 games. Since then, the Heat are 19-4. During this winning stretch, Justise has been out as he recovers from shoulder surgery.

Does this mean Justise is expendable? We answer that question and more in this week’s installment of the Heat mailbag.

If you weren’t able to ask a question this week, send your questions for future mailbags via Twitter (@Anthony_Chiang and @tomdangelo44).

Ryan: Is the Heat’s turnaround proof that Justise Winslow is expendable?

Anthony Chiang: Well, that’s the big elephant in the room right now. The Heat have won 19 of their past 23 games without Justise. And we’ll see if Miami can keep it going, as Justise is expected to miss the rest of the season after undergoing shoulder surgery in January. When Justise did play this season, he struggled offensively. He averaged 10.9 points on 35.6 shooting from the field and 20 percent shooting from 3-point range, and 5.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 18 games. Among players averaging at least 1.5 3-point shot attempts per game this season, Justise is the fourth-worst 3-point shooter. That’s not good, especially for a Heat offense that is now built around the drive-and-kick game.

Now you probably expect me to say Justise is expendable, right? Well, I’m not. He’s still just 20 years old, and he was dealing with an injured shooting wrist in a lot of the games he did play in this season. There’s still hope for Justise and he already has a lot of skills that make him a valuable asset. At 6-foot-7, 225 pounds, Justise has a solid frame for an NBA small forward and he’s an above average defender who has proven to have a pretty high basketball IQ. Justise still has plenty of room for improvement, and he also has plenty of time to grow at just 20 years old. Plus, the Heat still have Justise on an affordable rookie contract. Unless an incredible trade deal comes Miami’s way, Justise is not expendable right now. He’ll fit in when he returns next season as Miami’s starting small forward, allowing Rodney McGruder to move back to his normal bench role.

@_H00PS_3: Do you think the Heat will have to decide between Dion Waiters, Wayne Ellington, Josh Richardson, Goran Dragic and Tyler Johnson this summer? There are too many guards.

Anthony Chiang: Don’t forget about Rodney McGruder. Even though he’s starting at small forward right now, he’s really a guard at 6-foot-4. But I get your point, the Heat have a lot of guards. Do I see them all coming back next season? No. But I’m most confident in Josh, Goran, Tyler and Rodney returning. Goran and Tyler’s contracts with the Heat run beyond this season, and Rodney and Josh are on cheap non-guaranteed deals that will almost definitely keep them on the roster. As for Dion and Wayne, there’s some uncertainty whether Miami will bring them back next season. For one, Dion is expected to attract some big contract offers — like $12 million per or more — in free agency this upcoming summer and Wayne has a $6.3 million team option in his contract for next season. And second — like you mentioned — the Heat have a lot of guards. It’s hard to imagine the Heat investing a lot of money in Dion when they could already have Goran, Josh, Tyler and Rodney returning.

@KingSwaggElijah: What are the odds that the Heat sign Jared Sullinger?

Anthony Chiang: I wouldn’t say it’s impossible because the Heat did meet with Jared in recent days. But I was told nothing is imminent on this front and the meeting was considered due diligence. Jared could be an option down the road, though.

[Inside look at how James Johnson turned into incredible Miami Heat weight-loss success story]

[Miami has been turning up the Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena]

[Want more Heat news sent directly to your Facebook feed? Make sure to like our Heat Facebook]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s