Coming out of high school in 2014, Justise Winslow was only the 15th ranked prospect according to ESPN, behind guys who aren't even in this year's draft. However, after a decent first season at Duke, culminating in his outstanding NCAA tournament, he has shot up the rankings, and is now poised to be a Top 5 pick.
However, rankings mean squat, as some of the teams picking above Detroit are really throwing draft boards for a loop. Several questions are being thrown about, such as the rise of Kristaps Porzingis, the Sacramento future of DeMarcus Cousins, and whether the Knicks and Lakers are shopping their picks. All this means that some prospects will drop, as usual, and Winslow could be one of those come Thursday. If the Pistons find themselves in a position to take him, expect them to do so. Let's take a look at him.
Let's start with his measurables. Winslow had question marks about his size going into the draft combine, and those fears were not allayed by his physical measurements. It really says something about the NBA that a guy who is 6'4.5" without shoes on is considered small. Winslow has a playing height of 6'6.5", and a standing reach of 8'8.5", both under average for the standard NBA small forward. However, what works for Winslow isn't his height but his other physical attributes. He possesses a 6'10.25" wingspan, and his chiseled 222-pound frame only carries 5.3% body fat. He, like Johnson, is a physical specimen amongst his age group, and he was able to use his frame and strength to bully smaller opponents at the collegiate level, something which will be harder to do at an NBA level. Physically, he is an almost exact replica of Lance Stephenson, in terms of height, wingspan and weight. However, Lance plays shooting guard at the next level, while Winslow is projected as a small forward.
Style of Play
Right away in the NBA, one thing you can count on from Winslow is his defensive competitiveness. The man is an absolute terror on the dirty side of the ball, as evidenced by his 2.5 defensive win shares contributed over his freshman season at Duke. He uses his above average athleticism and quickness to stay in front of men on the perimeter, while using his strong frame to hold position in the post, something which came especially handy after his shift to power forward late in the season.
On the offensive end, Winslow's role in Detroit would largely be catch and shoot three pointers and perhaps initiating some pick and roll as a secondary ball handler. He had a very good three point percentage with Duke at 41.8% on 2.8 attempts per game, and a good overall FG% of 48.6%, very high for a perimeter player, and this points to some promise as a slasher. What you don't want Winslow doing too much of is creating his own shot, however, due to some poor mechanics when on the move. Also, his poor FT% of 64.1% limits his slashing potential, as teams can simply foul him and make him earn it at the line. Therefore, his high FG% points to slashing potential is immediately nullified by his poor FT%.
He showed some promise as a distributor, averaging 2.1 assists per game on a Duke team with a very good point guard in Tyus Jones, and offensive hub in the middle in Jahlil Okafor. He had a respectable 13.2% assist percentage, but the main problem with relying on Winslow from a creation standpoint is his turnovers. He only averaged 1.8 turnovers per game against his 2.1 assists, but his turnover percentage was higher than his assist rate, at 14.2% (and his usage rate was 22.9%). At the next level, on a team with guys like Brandon Jennings and Reggie Jackson, Winslow won't be asked to create nearly as much, but the concerns are there. He does make up for it with solid rebounding, averaging just under 9 per 40 minutes, with a total rebound rate of 13.1% and a defensive rebounding rate of 19.8%, meaning he is not afraid to mix it with the big guys and pull down tough boards, a good sign given his size.
Drafting Winslow would prove an immediate success on the defensive end, and his three-point percentage indicates that he can develop enough of a free throw to not be considered a liability. Otherwise, were we to draft Winslow, we would potentially have three positionally below-average foul shooters in the starting lineup, with Winslow's poor 64% for a small forward joining KCP's miserable 70% mark for a starting two guard, and Andre's abysmal sub 40%, which is poor for, frankly, a disabled donkey, let alone a center.
Winslow would fit the core of super athletic players, however, and offers great defensive potential with KCP and Reggie Jackson due to their length. His three point stroke also means defenses have to at least respect him enough to not totally sag off him and clog the paint, something the offense desperately needs. He also has the added bonus of having enough athleticism and rudimentary ball handling to be able to put it on the floor and attack the basket, something which Kyle Singler and Caron Butler failed to do. An added bonus is that Winslow has that championship pedigree, winning the NCAA tournament with Duke in 2015.
What do you think, DBB? Bring Justise to The Palace?