There may be nothing more exciting in college basketball than an excellent point guard and center combination, as Duke fans will quickly find out next season with Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones.
However, while Jones and Okafor are the headliners in Mike Krzyzewski’s loaded 2014 recruiting class, there is another player who could make just as big of an impact.
According to 247Sports.com, Justise Winslow is a 5-star small forward from Houston who checks in at 6’6” and 210 pounds. He is ranked as the 13th-best prospect nationally and the second-best small forward in the country.
The first thing that jumps out about Winslow’s game is his pure athleticism, which translates to versatility when formulating the lineup. He can play anything from point guard to small forward, but look for him to primarily play forward for the Blue Devils given the litany of guards on the roster.
Winslow can hit from behind the three-point line and is nearly impossible to stop from getting to the basket because of his explosive first step.
What’s more, he is lengthy and strong, which allows him to post up smaller defenders and finish in the paint. He is also a formidable passer and can handle the ball like a point guard.
Winslow could probably stand to improve his mid-range game a bit, which would lead to more scoring, but all of his other attributes make him a lethal overall player. Just ask Scout.com’s recruiting analyst Evan Daniels (h/t Laura Keeley of the News & Observer):
The thing about Justise is he can impact the game in so many ways. He’s not necessarily a great scorer, but he does everything else. He rebounds, he defends, he’s a good passer. Most importantly, he wins. He’s a tremendous athlete. He’s got this well-balanced all-around game.
Like I said, he’s never going to be accused of being a big-time scorer, but he does pretty much everything else on the basketball floor at a pretty high level.
Winslow’s best chance for early playing time as a freshman at Duke is by showcasing his elite defense. Paul Biancardi of ESPN notes that Winslow is impressive on that end of the floor:
Winslow may actually already be the best defender on Duke’s roster before even stepping on the court for a single game.
The Blue Devils struggled mightily with their perimeter defense last year, especially in the shocking postseason loss to Mercer, and Winslow can lock down point guards, shooting guards, small forwards and even smaller power forwards.
Will Justise Winslow start all season for Duke in 2014-15?
Therein lies the true value of Winslow.
Yes, he can score—and will certainly do so with the double-teams that Okafor faces and the penetration and kicks that Jones will demonstrate—but Duke needs defense in a bad way.
Winslow will start at the small forward position and earn a spot on the All-ACC Defensive Team in his first year on campus. Blue Devils fans would likely be thrilled with that type of splash.
Follow me on Twitter: