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Justise Winslow as Miami Heat point guard may unleash Josh Richardson on defense

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The Miami Heat recently have gone in an unexpected direction with outstanding results lately.

Miami Heat v Orlando Magic Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

The appointment of Justise Winslow as the Miami Heat point guard could result in letting Josh Richardson do what he does best: defend.

The burden of being a leading man weighed on Richardson early in the season, but now that Winslow is more than willing to assume that responsibility, Richardson can be let loose to focus on defense.

His love for playing the role of a stopper translates into elevating his talents to new heights in recent action.

The numbers also back up how in the last six games Richardson regained his zip and vigor on the defensive side by letting others, such Winslow, Hassan Whiteside and Tyler Johnson catch fire to score from inside and out.

Heat’s last six games

Hassan Whiteside 7-0 0.072 94.9 21.0 13.5 11.6
Josh Richardson 6-6 0.071 95.0 14.2 12.6 11.4
Justise Winslow 6-7 0.065 97.4 17.7 14.7 16.6
Derrick Jones Jr. 6-7 0.063 97.7 6.0 17.1 10.6
Kelly Olynyk 7-0 0.054 100.4 2.2 17.0 12.2
James Johnson 6-8 0.047 102.8 9.5 14.4 13.3
Tyler Johnson 6-4 0.047 102.8 1.5 18.3 12.2
Rodney McGruder 6-4 0.044 103.7 2.8 14.1 12.7
Bam Adebayo 6-10 0.035 106.6 -8.9 18.0 13.4
Dwyane Wade 6-4 0.021 110.9 -8.1 17.3 11.2

Besides the Defensive Win Share (Def WS) and Defensive Rating (DEF RTG) numbers Richardson excels in defending against points scored by other teams from turnovers (TOV) and fast breaks (FB) due to his instincts and athleticism on defense.

In finding their own identity the Heat can build a team around their unique strengths, which include length, quickness, and smart use of defensive tactics.

Shorter All-Stars such as Allen Iverson and Chris Paul never won a championship, while Miami bought in 7-1 Shaquille O’Neal, 6-11 Chris Bosh and 6-8 LeBron James to win rings, i.e. the Heat’s “Big 3” literally were big men.

The top six players for Miami Heat in Def WS and DefRtg are all 6-6 and over, so whenever the Heat go small they struggle on defense for the most part.

The emergence of 6-7 Winslow at point guard to take over more of the scoring load allows the 6-6 Richardson to create opportunities on offense from his stops on defense.

Unless the Heat find a 6-3 player on the caliber of a Stephen Curry, historically the NBA hasn’t been kind to lineups with three players 6-4 and under on the court together.

For the 28 seasons since 1990-91, Chauncey Billups and Tony Parker were the only NBA Finals MVPs under 6-4.

Even shorter regular season MVPs such as James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose, Steve Nash and Iverson couldn’t bring home a championship to their fans in the last two decades.

The pairing of a deliberate Winslow with an active Richardson may be the key to unlock the Heat’s offense when a legitimate go-to scorer emerges on the team.

The way a longer and more athletic Miami team has performed in the previous eight games (8-4) suggests they may be only a single player away from becoming contenders.

Perhaps he could be Dion Waiters, who was shown in full practice workouts with the team on a twitter post.

Hot Topics from today’s practice!

Take a step into today’s practice and find out how the guys play to approach the last 2 games of 2018!

Meanwhile 6’8” two-way player Duncan Robinson is shooting 50.5% (48 of 95) on 3-pointers in his last ten games, and 47.8% (64 of 134) for the season for the Skyforce.

Robinson and 6’8” Yante Maten are fringe NBA talents, but could give Miami some needed punch on offense to cross up other teams whose defenses would not be prepared against legitimate scoring threats, because they game plan for Miami to be offensively challenged.