The NBA had a full slate of games on Wednesday night as several rookies made their debuts with their respective teams. While all eyes were on players like Kristaps Porzingis and Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow had one of the biggest nights in the league as he showed the Charlotte Hornets what they missed by not drafting him. As the Heat earned the win in Game 1, is Winslow proving he is a starter for the Heat?
Winslow might have recorded just five points in limited minutes, but he notched seven rebounds and two assists while getting one monster one-handed dunk over the Hornets defense. The rookie proved the slow start in the preseason was merely just that and now he is coming into his own as he could be poised for more responsibility sooner rather than later.
"I love it," head coach Erik Spoelstra said, via CBSSports.com. "I love those stat lines where nothing jumps out at you except for the scoreboard and that's what it's all about. He's a basketball player. He plays to win. He's proven it. And I've said this since early on in Training Camp, you can't evaluate Justise's game by analytics. Sometimes it doesn't tell the true story. He just makes winning plays - both ends of the court."
Winslow earned praise from all of his teammates as players like Dwyane Wade credited the rookie for all of the little things he did right on the court. So where does that put him alongside Luol Deng? According to the Miami Herald, Deng is dealing with a hip injury. It did not prevent him from having a nice 13 points in the season opener, but some wonder if those numbers would be better suited for the reserve unit.
According to Ira Winderman of the Miami Sun-Sentinel, Deng will be a starter until Winslow can prove his success was not a one-night thing. If the rookie can demonstrate consistency, there might be a change in the starting lineup. The Heat made big gains in the season opener with their bench. Gerald Green put up 19 points while Mario Chalmers added another eight. The second unit which faced a lot of trade rumors over the summer almost outplayed the starting five and it could force some changes for Spoelstra.
"We've got ball movers on our second unit and right now we're really putting it together," Chalmers said, via the Palm Beach Post. "Gerald's our gunner, so we expect him to take those shots. Me and J-Mac are the ball movers and spot-up shooters, then you've got Justise as a slasher and you've got S.T.A.T. who can do the post work. We've got good balance."