We dove into a new series evaluating the team by position. After checking out what Goran Dragic offers at point guard, and the versatility that shooting guard presents led by Dion Waiters, we now shift to the front court.
So let’s take a look at how the small forward position is looking for the Heat.
The Starter: Justise Winslow
Questionable because Justise only played 18 games last season for the Heat before season ending shoulder surgery. During that time, Winslow averaged 10.9 PPG and only had an 8.20 PER. That’s not overly impressive. But Pat Riley said that this starting position is his to lose.
Winslow posses incredible body strength for such a young man. He is a very good defender and will only get better. He has a good motor and finds himself in the right place often. He has a lot of the little things that make the rest of the starting lineup work. When Dragic and Waiters want the ball, Winslow just moves, sets screens and rebounds. He’s a great compliment to everything everyone is doing.
What he lacks is an offensive game. He has some potential, we just aren’t sure that he is going to progress as an offensive player. He did get better with his shot in his second season, but he’s not anything that opponents are worried about taking over a game.
Winslow won’t have much court time before training camp starts so it will be great to see where he is at and what he is ready to contribute more than last year.
The Reserve: Rodney McGruder
At 6’4, McGruder is really a shooting guard that was forced to play small forward, and I think that’s where he will stay. In his rookie season, he played 78 games for the Heat and averaged 6.4 PPG.
McGruder was surprisingly effective for Miami. He was a surprise keep out of training camp. But the Heat knew what they were getting in this undrafted rookie. The issue is if everyone is healthy, does McGruder still see the court. Last year, there wasn’t a game when every wing player was healthy.
McGruder provides good defense and capable open shooter from deep. And he has some experience starting for the Heat, so he’s a great asset. However, I think the Heat will be better off giving Winslow the ability to lead in the first unit.
The Help: Okaro White
Okaro is here because the power forward position is too crowded. He plays more PF than SF, but the same situation is with him — when everyone is healthy, he should not see the court much.
He was the beginning of the Heat’s long win streak last year. But realistically speaking, he doesn’t provide more than the other options. White should only be used in case of injury.
Strengths of the position
The defensive capability of McGruder and Winslow is hard to miss. Both of these guys excel on that end and love to square up against someone. So that is a huge benefit for this team. They are also both a little bit of glue guys and do the small things that lead to winning.
Weakness of the position
The most obvious weakness is going to be the ability for any of these guys to create on their own. That may not be asked or required of them, but sometimes you can get put in that position by accident.
Winslow hopefully progresses into that, but I don’t think it will be there this season consistently. The second weakness is going to be 3-point shooting. McGruder shot 33% last year and Winslow was at 20% before he got hurt last season. Neither of them are consistent. McGruder certainly has a good stroke, but the numbers need to be closer to 38% for us to see them a good shooter from outside. Spacing is key in this game and if these guys can’t space the floor that will be an issue.
Let us know what you think of the Heat’s small forward position.
Overall I think the Heat are weakest at this position, but the improvement can come from within. It should come from development from both of these guys and especially Winslow.
What grade do you give the Heat’s small forward position compared to the rest of the NBA?
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