When the Heat got the #10 pick in the draft this past summer, I had some high hopes. I mean this past draft class was STACKED with “ready-now” talent. The Heat were able to select Justise Winslow, a well-built forward out of Duke. Having just won a national title, Winslow was somewhat unknown until he dazzled in the NCAA Tournament. Winslow was not known as a shooter, but was heralded as a good defender and rebounder. With the 40th pick, Miami selected Josh Richardson out of Tennessee. Like Winslow, there were doubts about his shooting ability, but he too was applauded for his defensive ability.
Winslow started the year as a rotation player, but didn’t see a great deal of minutes. A few weeks in, Coach Spo saw that he had one tough defender in Winslow, which led to more minutes on the floor for the young man. Winslow now acts as the 6th man and starts for Wade when he misses a game. Richardson began the season on the bench and mostly went back and forth between the NBA and the D-league. Over the past few months, as injuries to Beno Udrih and Tyler Johnson hampered the guard rotation, Richardson’s number was called and he delivered both as a now much-improved shooter and as a scrappy defender.
Rook 1 (Winslow) and Rook 2 (Richardson), as tri-captain Dwyane Wade calls them, have become a huge part of Miami’s improvement over the past month. They both play over 30 minutes per game and fit right in to the team’s new offensive strategy that revolves around pushing the ball and running more. Winslow’s contributions don’t show up in the box score, but he did have a season-high 20 points in Monday’s win over the Nuggets. He is widely-known in Miami now as the team’s glue guy and bruising perimeter player, which is the kind that Pat Riley used to crave for his squads. Richardson, on the other hand, is averaging just under 14 points over his last five games, while also pouring it in from downtown (13-18 over the past 5 games).
The Heat’s front office did a great job with choosing these guys. They are probably the two biggest steals of the draft. It just goes to show that if you can play solid defense, you’ll get minutes. Both of them can do that and that is why they are rotation player on a playoff team.