The Miami Heat are quickly approaching training camp and before you know it, they will be playing in the preseason. That’s why we are taking a closer look at the roster and doing it position-by-position.
Yesterday, we looked at the shooting guard position led by Josh Richardson/Tyler Johnson/Dion Waiters.
Today, it’s the small forward position.
The Miami Heat’s depth at the small forward position has altered significantly since last season. Where Luol Deng, and Gerald Green found themselves a season ago is where Justise Winslow, James Johnson, and Luke Babbitt find themselves now. In terms of outlook, I’d say its promising.
Winslow obviously gained a significant amount of experience last season while being mentored by both Wade and Deng, and both James Johnson and Luke Babbitt are experienced veterans that have proven they can contribute in important situations.
With that being said, you can expect Justise Winslow to hold down the most minutes at the position as he prepares to inherit the Heat franchise.
As I mentioned above Justise Winslow, James Johnson, and Luke Babbitt will all be sharing time at the position with Winslow seeing the majority of minutes. However, what’s interesting is that each player brings something different to the table in terms of skill set.
Winslow, is a lock down defender who has spent the summer working on his shot. James Johnson is an athletic slasher who at 29 shows no signs of slowing down and has had his moments with the Toronto Raptors. Luke Babbitt is a solid shooter, who given the minutes has proven that he can contribute consistently as proven by his last season in New Orleans.
Justise Winslow has a great rookie campaign, but is in an interesting position this season. With no Bosh, Wade or Deng Heat fans have declared him the face of the franchise. This is fine, and Winslow himself has embraced the pressure, but its pressure nonetheless and considering he didn’t have any last season it does provide an additional hurdle for him this season. Where Winslow needs to contribute this year, is on offense. It’s common knowledge that Justise can lock down the best of offensive players, but his offensive game was unimpressive last season. Justise shot 42% from the field last season, and just 27% from long range. He’s spent the summer working with a shooting coach, so hopefully his game will have improved in that regard.
Winslow will have to come to play every night this season, and considering his work ethic that shouldn’t be a problem as long as he avoids the sophomore slump.
James Johnson replaces the veteran presence previously occupied by Wade, Deng and Bosh. After two solid playoff runs with the Raptors, Johnson brings a winning mentality to the Heat locker room as well as an immediate ability to contribute offensively. Johnson’s minutes were limited in Toronto last season at just 16.2 per game, however he still managed a respectable average of 5 points, 2.2 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per game. Johnson’s role on the team, I suspect will be that of a mentor. It’s no secret that he helped Rap’s prospect Bruno Caboclo improve last season and I can see him doing it again for younger Heat players. Johnson should be a nice addition to the Heat and at the very least, will have some great dunks in transition.
Luke Babbitt is a smart player, who is definitely underrated. Though his play style is slow and calculated, his shot selection is smart and his release dependable. He also has a knack for getting himself open looks through spacing, which will benefit both him and Goran Dragic. Despite being a great shooter from downtown, Babitt can also contribute from inside the key with a variety of post moves and a soft touch on his floater. I’m not sure how much he’ll be utilized by the Heat going forward, but this play-style is generally liked of by Erik Spoelstra.
The Grade — B
So much will be determined by the rotation, but this core of small forwards is solid. There are obviously no stars at small forward, but Winslow’s potential is limitless and both Babbitt and Johnson bring their own unique skill sets to the table.
Grading them now I would give them a B.