Justise Winslow Proving to Be Amongst NBA’s Elite Defenders

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Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra surprised just about everyone when he made forward Justise Winslow guard Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns during the Heat’s 109-97 win on Nov. 24. It turned out to be a brilliant move as the Duke University product held Towns to just two points in three quarters.

The Heat’s 2015 first-round draft pick is quicker and more agile than Hassan Whiteside, which is one of the reasons why he performed better defensively against Towns.

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“I mean kind of our post defense is try not to let the guy touch the ball, so just run him hard, try to make it hard for him to get touches,” Winslow told reporters after the game on Friday. “I think he got a little frustrated early in the game, he wasn’t getting the rhythm baskets he’s used to or even just the rhythm catches. So we just make it tough on him. I think by the second half, he was kind of trying to force things. We just didn’t give him any easy looks, nothing easy. Toward the end of the game, he started getting a little going. But just trying to make it tough on him.”

Spoelstra also spoke about Winslow’s defensive versatility after the game.

“I think that showed some of the versatility that we love so much about Justise,” Spoelstra said. “I feel very confident playing him against 4’s or 5’s or 3’s, or 2’s or 1’s. He’s very studious, competitive and not afraid of taking on a challenge where he could potentially get embarrassed. So those things tend to play well for us.”

So far this season, Winslow has held his opponents to 38.8 percent shooting from beyond 15 feet and when they shoot from the three-point line that percentage drops to 36.5. If that doesn’t convince you of his stellar defense, according to basketball-reference.comhe has a defensive rating of 104 per 100 possessions and has recorded 0.6 defensive win shares so far, which would put him on pace for 2.34 for the whole season.

Coming out of Duke, Winslow had a reputation of being a strong defensive player. Everyone knew that he could keep up with the smaller players because of his quick first step as well as the bigger players because of his physical build. However, few would have foreseen him guarding 7-footers like Towns.

The 6-foot-7 forward’s defensive motor is unmatched and he is consistently the hardest worker on defense during games. If he can continue to smother more agile bigs the way he did with Towns, it will allow for Whiteside to stay closer to the paint, which will make opposing players think twice before attacking the basket.

The Heat have faith in Winslow, having picked up the fourth-year option on his contract just before the season began. This season, he has performed like the player that fell to the Heat in 2015 and by adding this new layer to his defense, he is showing signs of repaying that faith.
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David is a Miami native and University of Maryland graduate with experience in writing, editing and video production. He is a proud contributor of Heat Nation.