In spite of Justise Winslow having an insane tournament run where he has consistently been the best player on the floor while looking like a cyborg amongst boys, it has not been a common reaction to discuss him as the #1 pick. He has elevated himself from a mid-late lottery pick to #6 ESPN and #5 DX, but has yet to gain any traction as a possible top 2 pick. This is likely because he was only the #13 RSCI player, and the top two candidate for #1 have been performing as advertised all season. It feels overreactive to suddenly elevate Winslow above them based on a few strong tournament games. This is normally an acceptable line of thought to prevent draft assessments from going off the rails, but Justise is special and deserves special consideration.
First it must be addressed why he was only the #13 RSCI recruit. DraftExpress’s pre-season video lists his weaknesses as perimeter shooting, offensive creation, and limited upside. Perimeter shooting lingers as a question mark, as Winslow has only shot 96/149 (64.4%) on FT and 23/89 (25.8%) on non-rim 2PA. But this is mitigated by his 45/108 (41.7%) 3 point shooting. While it is not a given that he will be an adequate 3 point shooter in the NBA, his odds are strong enough such that this is not a glaring red flag.
Offensive creation is an area where Winslow has clearly exceeded expectations. His ball handling still needs polish, but this has not stopped him from creating his own shot at the rim in the half-court. He combines his great first step with surprisingly smooth footwork to be one of the most productive wings at creating his own shot at the rim in the half-court in the draft. Using hoop-math.com’s splits, he has 30 unassisted rim FG (not including putbacks). Looking at last year’s class, his per minute rate exceeds that of most NCAA prospects in the draft, including all of the top 6 picks. The players who graded exceptionally well such as Jordan Clarkson, TJ Warren, and Elfrid Payton all appear to be good draft values, so I believe this is a relevant split to examine. Winslow’s freshman rate is comfortably behind the three of them, but they were all upperclassmen and it would not be surprising to see Winslow get to the rim with extreme frequency if he were to return as a sophomore. He clearly has significant upside as a slasher, especially if he can continue to improve his handle at a brisk rate.
The limited upside criticism has always felt overplayed to me to see for a player as young, toolsy, and skilled as Winslow, but I will nevertheless entertain the logic. He does not have great height/length for a SF (measured 6’6″ with a 6’10” wingspan at the Hoop Summit) and he was advertised as a good but not elite athlete. With a limited offensive skill set, it is understandable why he may have been seen as a 1 way defensive player. That said it is safe to dismiss the limited upside criticism with the promise he has shown as a slasher as well as his athleticism being better than advertised. He grades well athletically by every statistical measure from rebounds, steals, and blocks to rim creation and rim finishing splits. His athleticism also stands out by watching him play, especially with his monster transition defense.
I suspect that another factor plaguing Winslow’s upside perception is that there simply isn’t a superstar small forward that we can comfortably compare him to other than Kawhi Leonard who is much longer and a special snowflake that is generally an ill advised comp to make. On the other end, Chad Ford has been pitching Michael Kidd-Gilchrist as a Winslow comparison which is an extremely pessimistic projection for two reasons.
1) MKG had good tools, but explosive athleticism was not one of them. Elite strength with average burst is a common mold for disappointing translation from NCAA to NBA.
2) MKG’s NCAA statistics imply some hope for capable NBA 3 point shooting, but he has only shot 3/18 beyond the arc in his first 3 seasons. If Winslow is a complete non-threat from 3 then yes he will be disappointing, but this is the rock bottom end of his range.
As a cherry on top, VJL’s EWP formula ranks Winslow (8.7) ahead of MKG (7.0) entering the final 4. Winslow should be a better NBA player than MKG the overwhelming majority of the time. There remains a lack of a suitable upside comparison as one does not exist, so instead of forcing one it is better to evaluate Winslow on his own merits:
-His overall NCAA statistics are excellent. As a freshman he is filling every predictive part of the stat sheet other than FT% and mid-range shooting.
-His second half splits are staggering as he battled minor injuries earlier in the season and also has clearly improved his game as the season has progressed.
-Most of his monster games have come against the meat of the ACC schedule and tough matchups in the NCAA tournament.
-His athleticism, strength, and quickness are all big +’s. Height and length are not great, but they are not weaknesses if he has grown a half an inch or more since the Hoop Summit.
-He offers an elite defensive IQ and versatility. This is supported by Duke having the #12 kenpom defense while featuring offensive minded players as his primary support in Quinn Cook, Jahlil Okafor, and Tyus Jones.
-His individual dominance has correlated with team success as Duke has been smashing its competition during his 2nd half hot streak.
In short, Winslow’s statistics put him within arm’s length of the #1 spot when taken at face value. Every possible reason to value his statistics differently suggests that stats underrate him when taken at face value– physical tools, defensive reputation, second half splits, splits vs. top competition, team success, and rim creation splits/skills all grade favorably for him. The only possible hole in his game is perimeter shooting, but he nevertheless has a sizable slice of equity to become an average or better NBA shooter. Winslow glows with awesomeness from every angle and his draft stock should be valued tremendously high. He is a prototypical high floor, high ceiling two way wing prospect who is deserves consideration for the #1 overall selection.
Justise does not necessarily belong ahead of Karl Towns, as high floor, high ceiling two way center prospects are good too, and it is genuinely close between the two. The more important point is that Winslow’s perception needs to be updated from a solid consolation prize in the 4-7 range to a legitimate stud who is one of the top top prizes in this year’s draft and a favorite to become an all-star at some point in his NBA career. He really is that good, and it is time to treat him as such.
Would you rather: Wiggins (after we already saw him playing in the NBA) or Winslow?
Justise. Wiggins has definitely increased his stock in my eyes but he hasn’t outperformed expectations THAT much and Justise just doesn’t have holes in his game outside of his meh shot. Head says it’s close but heart says Justise all the way.
How about Andre Iguodala as a comp for Winslow? He was slightly more of a facilitator but everything else is remarkably similar between the two.
It’s probably the best comp out there. Still feel like it sells Justise a bit short (as an upside comp at least) because prime Iguodala was so underrated and Justise has potential to be a much better scorer.But there’s a reasonable chance that they end up looking real similar.
I like Winslow, but i really think his style of play – high-flying dunks and chase-down blocks – tend to inflate his value a bit. Statistically a guy like Johnson is actually better and he’s got better size and could possibly play some small-ball 4 in the nba. Same with Hezonja – good length, can shoot/score from anywhere, super-intense/competitive and a lot of upside defensively. I know he doesn’t “dominate” in europe – but who does?
I’m pretty sure that of the muscular types who posted good college stats, the super athletes are much safer translation bets than average ones. Stanley is a better shotmaker but that’s about it– Justise is way better at getting to the rim, finishing at the rim, and he is better defensively. Stanley is more or less incompetent at creating/finishing rim attempts and really Winslow has much much better upside.
Reblogged this on ScarecrowGrin.
I completely agree with your analysis, although I don’t see him going higher then 3.
As a 76ers fan, I’d like to see the them take Winslow with the 4th pick and grab Andrew Harrison in the second round.
I know most people are down on the Harrison twins, especially Andrew, but what’s your thoughts on him? I see him and his size as a low risk high reward.
I wouldn’t draft Andrew. He’s big and strong for a PG and that’s about it. He isn’t athletic, he has horrible vision, he isn’t that good on defense, he takes terrible shots. He also needs the ball in his hands to succeed and frankly he’s just not nearly good enough for this, best case he’s like a poor man’s Evan Turner which is just poor.
Maybe he somehow develops into an OK backup but I just don’t see the upside to make it worth bothering with him. If he was the #50 recruit and played for a random SEC team like Alabama nobody would even look at him as a prospect.
WRT Philly, I’m really curious to see what they do if they bink the #1 pick. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them trade down to 3/4 for a small fortune and nab Russell or Winslow. If they pick #2 and Towns goes #1 I believe this is almost certainly the route that they take.
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