I find Justise Winslow one of the most intriguing prospects available in the 2015 NBA draft. He started his freshman year slowly, eclipsed by not only a stellar crop of freshmen centers. As a perimeter player he was behind the likes of D’Angelo Russell and Stanley Johnson. He was the 3rd most visible freshman on the Duke team, behind Okafor and Jones. His start was OK, but nothing really worth noting. Through the non-conference schedule the assessment would have been: Decent start. Let’s see what happens in the conference games. After a poor January it would have been: Typical freshman wilting under the pressure of conference games. After he exploded during the last 2 months and was a huge part of Duke’s title run: Top 3 in the draft possibly top 2. Then those annoying guys with the tape measures appeared and the consensus became: Mid-lottery at best.
This table shows how his game improved as the season progressed:
The overall numbers show a solid NBA SF prospect. The Feb-April numbers are those of a potential star. From February through the end of the season, Winslow was a monster. He was scoring efficiently from all over the court. He was rebounding like a PF. His passing and defense were both top notch.
There have been a lot of good SFs to some into the league in the past 15 years. This is the best era for SFs the NBA has seen since the 80s. Here are the best ones to come out of college ball in the past 15 draft (excluding the 2014 draftees) and their freshman stats compared to Justise Winslow:
|Justise Winslow Feb-April||549||538||18.4||10.6||6.9||1.1|
I included Winslow’s stats from February to April on in a separate line because that could represent his real talent level. He played at this level for 563 minutes, which is a substantial amount of court time. I think it is fair to look at his overall numbers and his second half numbers as two different prospects.
Looking at this group, most were decent scorers as freshmen in both frequency and efficiency and Winslow measures up well here. The rebounding numbers are where things get kind of interesting. The freshmen with over 10.0 R40 as a group have been much better players than the ones who were under 10.0. All these players became pros who were at least solid players, but as a group the 8 who were over 10.0 have been collectively much better than the 8 who were below 10.0. Winslow was below 10.0 at 8.7. Second half Winslow was above 10.0 at 10.6.
The ASB40 has always been one of my favorite stats for SFs. It shows a prospect’s versatility. A low ASB40 has been a red flag for SFs drafted top 10 like Rodney White, Adam Morrison and Derrick Williams in recent years. Of the 16 players listed here 14 were over 5.0 (the magic benchmark) as freshmen. The two who didn’t were DeRozan, who was extraordinarily raw by NCAA freshman standards when he came in, and Korver, who did improve to 6.5 ASB40 by his senior year. Winslow is at a solid 5.8 for the year and a more solid 6.9 for the 2nd half. Either way he passes this test.
His stats taken over the entire season suggest Winslow will be a solid pro. His stats taken over the final 563 minutes suggest he’ll be a star. I have to be careful is assuming his finish was simply a case of the real player emerging once he got healthy and over some freshman jitters. Aaron Gordon finished very strong last year, but was less than a world beater in the 797 NBA minutes he played before his injury. Gordon is young and will have plenty of opportunities to get it right, but a hot streak at the end of a freshman year could be nothing more than a hot streak. The fact that Winslow sustained this level for 563 minutes without regressing and that it started after an injury healed suggest that 2nd-half Winslow is the real deal.
Another issue that has to be addressed with Winslow is his height. He was measured at 6’4.5” in bare feet and 6’6” in shoes at the combine. This is on the short side for a SF and will probably preclude him from being looked at as a guy who can shift over to PF in a small lineup. Looking at heights from the Draftexpress.com database there haven’t been too many successful SFs who measured under 6’5” without shoes. The flip side of that is there haven’t been any SFs measured under 6’5” even drafted in the top 10. So while there have been no successes, there haven’t been any busts either. The lack of height isn’t like a low ASB40 that I can point to as a consistent trait of top 10 SFs who have busted. I’ll also note that Shandon Anderson, Danny Green and Jae Crowder all measured under 6’5”, but have found success in the NBA after being drafted in round 2. There just isn’t a lot of evidence pro or con that says measuring 6’4.5” will keep a prospect from becoming a solid NBA SF. It’s obviously better to be 6’8” with the same stellar numbers Winslow posted, but I can’t say how serious a negative this is.
There’s also the possibility of him sliding to SG. I haven’t seen an “SG” or “G-F” next to Winslow’s name in any of the pre-draft chatter, so this isn’t something that has been widely discussed. The stats suggest he’s worth a shot at SG. He posted a 1.8 S40 (2.4 for 2nd half Winslow) which is the same as D’Angelo Russell. His A/TO is over 1.0. He shot .418 on 110 3-point attempts so he clearly has the range. If he posted the same stats as a SG, he would still be an excellent prospect.
There’s a lot to like about Justise Winslow as a prospect. In addition to posting great prospect numbers, his emergence as a force was the X-factor that pushed Duke to the national title. As a player he had a first half that was dramatically different from his second half. The fact that he improved is a good sign. It shows he’s a player who can learn and make the necessary adjustments.
I see little that says Justise Winslow shouldn’t be considered a top 5 draftee, possibly top 3. The height issue gives me a little pause. The overall stats show a player who is almost certain to be an effective wing in the NBA, possibly a dominant one. I think he’ll be an NBA star.
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