Miami Heat’s Justise Winslow may find himself in a starting role soon

AUBURN HILLS, MI - NOVEMBER 12: Justice Winslow
AUBURN HILLS, MI - NOVEMBER 12: Justice Winslow /

Having improved his game lately, Miami Heat forward Justise Winslow may soon find himself in a starting role.

Heat Nation was over the moon when the Miami Heat were able to snag Justise Winslow as their No. 10 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.

A former Duke University standout, the power forward spent just one year playing college ball, but averaged 12.6 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.3 steals a game, in 29.1 minutes of play. He won a national championship, averaging 14.3 points and 9.3 rebounds during the NCAA tournament, and was named ACC Freshman of the Week, also earning honorable mention All-ACC honors.

On paper, it appeared president Pat Riley and company walked away with a steal.

But fast forward to the 21-year-old’s third season in the league and fans are now split on the matter. While the #JustiseBetter movement is still going strong on Twitter, other Heat supporters have given up on the young buck ever living up to his potential.

However, that may soon change. Because lately, Winslow has been showing major improvement.

Averaging 6.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists a game so far in 2017-18 play, the Houston-native is still figuring out his role on the team. Between missing the majority of last season and the team itself adding some new faces, Winslow has yet to settle in. But the good news is, it’s certainly a process that’s heading in the right direction.

Take Miami’s 126-115 win over the Phoenix Suns, for example. Winslow finished the evening with 14 points (on 5-of-11 shooting), 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 1 steal in 37 minutes. He looked fresh on his feet, had more pep in his step and generally just seemed more comfortable in his own skin. In part, simply due to time running its course. But also because the forward has turned his conditioning up a notch.

"“My endurance is pretty good. I feel I’m able to make more plays out there, I’m lighter, more explosive. Definitely I feel like I have the ability to make more plays…  I am probably jumping quicker and getting off the ground, that jump off the ground is really quicker. I think [my weight loss is] helping with a lot of my game.”"

Besides slimming down though, Winslow is also changing things around when it comes to working on his game. The likes of which include perfecting his shot until 2:30 in the morning. While the third-year has always had a commendable work ethic, he knows he has to go that much harder if he wants to catch up to the rest of the squad.

So what will his future hold, when it comes to contributing this year?

Well, hopefully a starting spot. Something that head coach Erik Spoelstra is not yet ruling out.

"“It was something I was looking at before, but then Dion [Waiters] was out and Hassan [Whiteside] was out…. Nothing is in cement right now, but Justise gave us rock solid minutes at both ends of the court.”"

As for Winslow, it seems he just wants to play.

"“With my ability as a playmaker, I feel I can also play point guard… It’s becoming a speed game. I am not even sure what position I prefer.”"

Next: Miami Heat have great history against Washington Wizards, but will it last?

One thing is clear: the Miami Heat haven’t given up on Justise Winslow. And neither should fans.