Only 19 years old, Justise Winslow can still add an inch or two to his height and 25 pounds to his frame topping out at 6'8" and 245 lbs., to become a powerful small forward able to challenge anyone in the NBA.
The science of auxology (human growth) indicates that at age 19, men are still developing their strength until they reach their physical peak in their early 20's. Derrick Rose, as is Greg Oden, is a cautionary tale about over-playing a developing body that needs time to fully mature. While teenagers, school gave them both a breather to rest, but once in the pros the intense physical activity overwhelmed their bodies.
At 19, Rose suffered tendinitis playing Summer League basketball. In his first season as a pro, he won Rookie of the Year honors playing heavy minutes leading the Chicago Bulls to the playoffs. Next season (20 years old) he had an ankle injury in his first preseason game. At 21, he was an All-Star and at 22 a MVP playing a 97-game season. By 23 he tore the ACL in his left knee.
LeBron James fortunately, for his body, played on lottery teams during his first two formative seasons in the NBA, so he was not subjected to the grind of post-season play while he was still growing into his body. Michael Jordan's Bulls did not go past the first round in the playoffs until he was 24 years old. Incidentally at 22 Jordan missed 64 games with a broken foot, giving him time to complete his growth into super-stardom.
Many are clamoring for Winslow to be an immediate starter and go from playing 40 40-minute games in college to possibly 100 48-minute games in the NBA if the Heat go deep in the postseason, i.e. 1600 minute schedule to a 4800 minute schedule in a single season. If Winslow starts he risks suffering the same fate as Rose, however remote the chances are.
An orthopedic web site recommends stretching and even an ankle brace during practice to prevent needless sprains or stress fractures from overuse. Interestingly as Winslow becomes stronger, a boxing site focused on developing hand-eye coordination and footwork, notes being left-handed may be natural since, "It’s common for the left shoulder to be higher because of the way the organs are distributed in the body and the difference in size of the lungs."
Already Justise had ankle issues after playing for three games in a row during Summer League and his minutes dropped significantly during the Las Vegas tournament after playing consistently in Orlando. His body simply was not ready for the sudden shock of playing or practicing every day, that the NBA brings.
By 22 years old he will reach full strength and become a force to reckoned with in the paint area, but only if he allows his body to develop at its own pace. Both James and Jordan won their first rings only after their 25th birthday, so time is on Winslow's side.
Hassan Whiteside last season was not the same player the Sacramento Kings drafted in 2010 when was 21. After maturing for four years and avoiding injury with limited playing time, he was able to fulfill his full potential at 25 years of age. Keith "Kito" Benson has become a different and far more stronger player than the Heat saw in 2011 with the Sioux Falls Skyforce. Ready to contribute immediately he could earn a roster spot as a backup to Whiteside, provided he proves he is worthy of it.
Pat Riley is a big believer in players being physically ready -- that is over 23 -- to fully contribute to a championship team. He has a good reason for that, because men at 19, 20, or even 21 have not filled enough to deal with brutal 4800+ minute NBA schedule. Agility and quickness decrease after age 20, but today's NBA places a premium on power, which peaks at 25 years of age.
The Philadelphia 76ers have not had any luck with Joel Embiid, the Bucks with Jabari Parker, nor the Jazz with Dante Exum. The Miami Heat will be cautious with their prized rookies Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson, who have All-Star careers ahead of them, to let their bodies reach full potential without injuries getting in the way. Rookie of the Year may be a noble achievement, but Miami Heat fans prefer their team hoist the championship trophy in 2016. And in 2017, 2018, etc.
At potentially 6'8" tall and 245 pounds, Justise Winslow will become an imposing presence in the NBA three years from now. By then Richardson will be 25 years old and in his prime physically and mentally. Along with Whiteside they will be able to shoulder the physical burden of the Heat's expectations, as Wade, Bosh, Dragic, and Deng finish out their careers.
Hopefully Heat fans will temper their expectations this season, as other rookies fall by the wayside with stress injuries due to their bodies not being fully able to take the punishing 82-game regular season and/or the 100 game NBA championship season.