The hype regarding Justise Winslow is at the point of ridiculousness. Depending on who you listen to Winslow is the missing piece to take the Miami Heat to the NBA Finals or at the very least to the Eastern Conference Finals. A player who has never played in a NBA game, never guarded anyone, never tried to get his shot off, never had defenders swarm at him, never had to adjust to the speed of the game, never had to adapt to the schedule and the sleep and what Pat Riley likes to call “the peripheral opponent” is going to be the difference maker.
Please Miami. Stop.
It’s nice for fans to get all excited particularly since LeBron James left Heat fans with a bad case of dry mouth and sad eyes but remember this. No rookie not named Magic Johnson has been a pivotal key in the winning of a NBA championship. Not Michael Jordan. Not Larry Bird. Not Isiah Thomas. Not Hakeem Olajuwan. Not Kevin Garnett. Not Kobe Bryant. Not Shaquille O’Neal. Not Tim Duncan. Not LeBron James. Not Steph Curry.
Rookie development is part of the first year of heaven and hell that all rookies suffer through. It goes by so fast. Justise Winslow is 19 years old and there will be moments when he will look like it. There will be moments when he’ll possibly show why the Heat felt lucky when they snagged Justise Winslow, a defensive minded small forward who can do things off the dribble and drain perimeter shots.
He was seen as the steal of the draft. Winslow played his best when it counted the most, on Duke’s run to the national title and in the process he turned a lot of heads. The optimists compared him to Jimmy Butler. The pessimists said no, he’s a version of Lance Stephenson when Stephenson’s not acting crazy. Most are in agreement that besides Jahlil Okafor, Winslow has intangibles that will translate to the NBA on day one of the 2015-16 season.
Because of the glow surrounding Winslow’s potential many consider the Heat a threat to dethrone the Cleveland Cavaliers as Eastern Conference Champions even as the Cavaliers are returning most of their team from last year while the Heat have to re-incorporate Chris Bosh, play a full season with Goran Dragic, work in Gerald Green and Amare Stoudemire and hope Dwyane Wade can play 60 regular season games.
There is no way Winslow can live up to the hype. In this year’s NBA Finals, no rookies played. In last year’s NBA Finals, no rookies played. In the NBA Finals the year before, no rookie played. It is a stage that has to be earned and Winslow and his gifts have yet to be developed, something even he recognizes.
“More games, more physical, more back to back. You have to find a way to fight through it.” Justise Winslow to Miami Herald.
Winslow is a nice addition to a Heat team that is loaded with talent but have to learn to grow together and avoid the injury curse. To be sure Winslow is a nice addition, possibly the starter in his second year when the Heat let Loul Deng walk. Anything more than allowing him to grow at a pace all roookies must begin at is setting him up for failure which is the last thing the Heat want.
Pat Riley is all in proving LeBron James did not wreck him last season. Justise Winslow is a good start but if the Heat advance to the NBA Finals it will be because of Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.
photo via llanasnba