Miami Heat forward Justise Winslow is only a rookie, but his name has already popped up in trade rumors.
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Pat Riley Reportedly Doesn't Want to Trade Winslow
Monday, Feb. 15
According to a Monday report by Adam Spolane of SportsRadio 610 in Houston, the Heat, Atlanta Hawks and Houston Rockets are “discussing” a three-way deal that would sent Dwight Howard to the Hawks, Al Horford and Jeff Teague to the Heat and Goran Dragic, Hassan Whiteside and Chris Andersen to the Rockets before Thursday's 3 p.m. ET trade deadline.
Spolane added: “Deal is not imminent. Atlanta wants Miami to add Winslow, but I’m told [Pat] Riley won’t trade him.”
It is understandable why Riley, who is the Heat president, wouldn’t want to trade the youngster before he even finishes a single season in the NBA. Winslow was the No. 10 overall pick in the 2015 draft and gives Miami a young asset who will likely develop into an impact player down the road but is still capable of contributing now.
He is averaging 5.7 points and 5.1 rebounds per night, although he hasn’t flashed much outside shooting range with a 25.8 percent clip from beyond the three-point arc. He is an athletic force at 6’7” and 225 pounds who slashes to the rim and creates openings for himself with a quick first step.
While the offense is still developing, Winslow’s best asset at this stage of his NBA career is his defense. He has the lateral quickness to keep up with ball-handlers but enough size to body up plenty of bigger forwards. According to NBA.com, opponents are shooting 2 percent worse overall and 3.8 percent worse from three-point range than their normal averages when Winslow defends them.
Winslow was also a national champion at Duke last season, so he understands what it is like to perform and thrive under pressure as the Heat chase a postseason spot in the Eastern Conference.
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Winslow boasts sky-high potential and is only 19 years old with a number of seasons remaining until he even scratches the surface of his prime. It is no wonder Atlanta wants Riley to include the forward in the possible deal.
Even with Winslow’s talent, it is easy to look at that proposed trade and see a potentially dangerous starting lineup for the Heat in the relatively wide-open Eastern Conference outside of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors. Miami is 29-24 and sitting in the No. 5 seed in the East, and this trade could give it a starting lineup of Teague, Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Chris Bosh and Horford.
There are 29 All-Star Game appearances between that fivesome alone, and all five players have been to at least one.
Miami would still have perimeter defense with Deng—opponents are shooting 0.3 percent worse than their normal averages from three-point range when he defends them, per NBA.com—and plenty of scoring in place with Wade (23.8 points a night in his career), Bosh (19.2 points a night in his career) and Horford (15.3 points a game this season).
What’s more, Teague is a scoring point guard (15.1 points a night this season) who can also set up his teammates (5.5 assists per game this season).
However, Ryan Yousefi of the Miami New Times made the case for holding on to Winslow, especially because Miami would likely still be looking up at a handful of teams in the race for the 2016 Larry O’Brien Trophy.
It's en vogue to say, ‘Never doubt the great Pat Riley.’ But it's not blasphemous to question whether it's the best idea to go all-in before the river with a pair of eights. The Miami Heat wasn't dealt these cards; it chose them — so it might be time to fold, take the L, and save your chips for the next hand. And the next. And the one after that. There is no shame in that, especially when you're very aware the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs are holding a royal flush.
Luckily for the Heat, while everyone else is raising the pot, Miami is able to simply check. No moves are necessary. The stakes do not have to rise. They do not have to play any of the following cards to improve today's hand.
Justise Winslow is a 19-year-old gem, a piece of a possible 2020 championship puzzle much more so than he is a piece of one today. He is, in today's NBA, a blessing. He will remain a big contributor on a minute salary for quite some time.
Trading Winslow to have that starting five take the court in the postseason may net the Heat some extra wins in this year’s playoffs. In fact, it may even net them an additional series victory, but everyone is still playing catch-up to the defending champion and 48-4 Golden State Warriors, not to mention the 45-8 San Antonio Spurs and 38-14 Cavaliers that happen to have LeBron James.
Winning now is a tempting move, especially for a team that is already in the postseason picture, but, as Yousefi suggested, Winslow is possibly a critical piece of the Heat’s future. Wade is 34 years old, Deng is 30 years old and Bosh is 31 years old, and Miami needs young pieces in place with its current core members all on the wrong side of their 30th birthdays.
Winslow gives the franchise youth and talent, which is the perfect combination to become a building block for Miami down the line.