Before the season (mid-October), I composed a feature article on Justise Winslow talking about how his attitude and fiery competitive nature was a welcome addition to Duke, not seen since Dahntay Jones. While his on-ball defense hasn’t been quite what I imagined, overall he has played through various injuries to be vital to Duke’s success as the x-factor, especially with the loss of Rasheed Sulaimon. Winslow’s ability in transition makes NBA scouts drool, as the pro game involves more spacing at all times, playing to his strength. While Winslow has much to improve on and could stand to spend another season at Duke, his strength, ability to play multiple positions, and the way he can impact a game without scoring will make him a lottery pick if he decides to turn pro.
Rather than positives/negatives, I will revisit my preseason article on Winslow and see how it compares now that the season has reached the point of mid-February. I will still focus on the positives and negatives, but for this scouting report, will split it into offense/defense.
On offense, Winslow is a work in progress. His athleticism has allowed him to succeed driving to the rim without a true finishing move not involving a dunk. He has a dangerously high dribble, and tends to fall in love with his outside shot, during which his balance tends to waver and the release point varies. He should be in attack mode as much as possible on offense. When attacking, he makes opponents react to him, setting up to draw fouls, highlight reel dunks, and most impressive to me on offense, his passing. A very unselfish player, Winslow’s Duke teammates need to understand to keep moving, because if they are open, he will find them. Last year, players stood around watching Jabari Parker, Rodney Hood, and to an extent Rasheed Sulaimon try to individually break down opponents for isolation baskets. The assist total will rise because of Winslow’s ability to create shots for others and help the spacing. If he stays in attack mode, offensive rebounds go up as well. Hustle and effort plays are always positive, and the young man’s motor is constant.
-For the majority of the season, Winslow absolutely fell in love with his outside shot, and because it worked for a couple of games early in the year, Duke seemed to live with it. But his release point is as inconsistent as I initially thought, and the percentages were bound to even out. When Winslow attacks first, giving him confidence, it sets up his ability to shoot from the outside and causes the defense to play off of him since they have to respect his penetration.
-Winslow still has times finishing at the rim when unable to dunk, but has improved as of late after a period of time when he would fade from contact.
-When driving, Winslow is as good and unselfish as I thought he’d be at creating for others. I said that offensive rebounds would improve because of his attacking, and this has come to fruition as well.
-There was a stretch of games when Winslow couldn’t throw the ball into the ocean, and it even reached the point where he shot free throws at about a 50% clip. His struggles seemed to be mental, and he lost his aggressiveness because he didn’t want to be fouled and be forced to shoot free throws. After all, if lacking confidence in your shot, having everyone in the game watching you shoot can be nerve-racking.
-HAS to improve his release point.
-Winslow’s transition offense is incredible, to put it simply. When in space, he is elite, and this is not just referring to the college level.
-Needs to consistently move better without the ball.
-Takes unnecessary risks trying to get offensive rebounds, flying at the ball and causing his teammates to be at-risk on transition.
Looking at Winslow’s style of play, his immediate impact will be felt most on the defensive end. Duke’s defense, without any sugarcoating, was atrocious last year. In transition defense, Winslow is at his best when a player from the opposing team is being guarded by Winslow’s teammate. It amazes me in videos how many times it looks like he stalks the unknowing ball handler from behind, knocking the ball loose and creating offensive transition opportunities for his own team. In half court defense, Justise crowds his man on the perimeter, extending the defense and forcing decisions under duress. Too many times in recent years, the Duke defense has consisted of sitting back and letting the opposition dictate strategy and tempo at will. On the ball, he takes good angles defending against drives, and when Winslow’s man passes inside to the post, he seems to have the ability to cheat and double team down low, while having the quickness and instincts to be able to recover if the ball is thrown back outside. Speaking of cheating off the ball, I am predicting some jaw dropping blocks of opponents when Justise unsuspectingly attacks from the weak side. As for rebounding, some players avoid contact. Justise seems to embrace it, from what I’ve seen on video and per his football comment. This will greatly help, as another Duke struggle recently has been players watching and not boxing out while opponents aggressively attack the ball. I will fully admit my bias towards Winslow, but I see no way anyone outworks the young man for a ball, whether it’s coming off the rim for a rebound or 50/50 loose balls.
-I compare Winslow to Ed Reed, an ex-free safety for the Baltimore Ravens. Ed Reed would watch the eyes of the quarterback and stalk receivers, getting a jump on routes and making the key game-changing play in countless victories. Ed Reed got burned because of his risk-taking, but the Ravens would live with these mistakes.
-In high school, if Winslow had an instinct, it was usually correct. In college, though, he is discovering that he is playing against smarter players, and he finds himself out of position countless times. Playing “center field” like Ed Reed in the NFL works with closing speed, but in basketball, plays happen in a split second, and being unaware and out of position is costly.
-Winslow’s awareness issues have caused him to struggle in half court defense, and Duke hasn’t forced nearly as many turnovers as I expected them to with Winslow in the fold.
-He causes havoc off the ball, but is overaggressive on ball, lacking proper fundamentals, and gets burned by offensive players with a high IQ and experience.
-Winslow has lapses of getting down on himself and not hustling back in transition defense, but when he keeps his head up, his chase down blocks in transition are as exciting as his highlight reel dunks.
-He embraces the physicality of guarding bigger opponents down low and also rebounding on the block, taking the pressure off of Jahlil Okafor.
-Must get better at boxing out instead of flying at rebounds instinctually. If he reads the bounce incorrectly, his man is in perfect position for the offensive rebound all alone.
When he signed with Duke, a Kanye West line immediately appeared in my head, and although Winslow would never sink to the depths of using it, I’m sure many fans will be more than happy to scream out “Too many Urkels on your team, that’s why your Winslow!” when playing against a certain Tobacco Road rival this season.
-Though some have changed it to “You don’t have Justise on your team, that’s why your Winslow,” I was close enough, haha.
Justise Winslow has an NBA-ready body, a passion for the game, and an aggressiveness most coaches dream for. His on-ball and awareness issues on defense have to be accounted for, as well as his tendency to fall in love with an inconsistent at best outside shot. His confidence wavers at times, affecting his effort level, but this can be attributed to being 18 years old and learning how to deal with adversity. From the first time I saw Winslow, he reminded me of Andre Iguadala in his prime, and still feel very comfortable with that. 99% of comparisons I see to him are of left-handed players, which though understandable, I find amusing. It’s almost like a rule of lefty to lefty comparisons. Winslow is a physical freak, an athletic wing who can guard multiple positions, slash into the teeth of the defense, provide a tough attitude (once he matures), and is almost unstoppable on defense. Though he has many parts of his came that can be improved at Duke, the NBA fits his style much better than college and his game will fully blossom at the next level. Enjoy Justise Winslow while you have him, Duke fans!