Miami Heat

Justise Winslow’s plan this season? ‘To play point guard’ for the Heat

Entering this offseason, Justise Winslow revealed one of his goals.

“I’m going to try this offseason to figure out what position I am,” Winslow said with a grin in April.

Whether Winslow, 23, has figured that out yet is still undetermined. But there’s one thing he was clear about Sunday: He wants to play as a point guard.

“I’m looking forward to playing point guard this season,” said Justise Winslow, whose Robin’s House Family Foundation teamed up Carnival Cruise Line to host more than 25 underprivileged kids for a day of fun Sunday aboard Carnival Horizon while the ship was docked at PortMiami. “We’ll see how that works out, but that’s my plan, is to play point guard and be the point guard for this team.”

While filling in for injured starting point guard Goran Dragic last season, Winslow averaged 13.1 points on 43.3 percent shooting from the field and 36 percent shooting from three-point range, 5.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.1 steals to go with a plus-minus of plus-51 during the 31-game span Dragic was out because of right knee surgery.

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“But everyone has ideas of what they want their role to be, and for most people it never fits what they want,” Winslow added after saying he wants to play as a point guard this season. “Everyone always wants a bigger role, whatever team you’re on. So you just have to understand that as a basketball player — everyone wants the ball late in the games, everyone wants the ball in their hands, everybody wants every play to be run for them.

“That’s just how we’re built as basketball players. It doesn’t make you wrong thinking like that. That’s how I’m gong into the season. That’s how I’m approaching it. I want to play point guard. I feel like I’m going to play point guard. Me and Goran played together last year, so I’m sure we’ll be able to figure it out.”

Winslow ended last season with career-best averages of 12.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.3 assists while shooting a career-best 43.3 percent from the field and making a career-high 96 threes on 37.5 percent shooting from deep in 66 games. But even after shining in an on-ball role, coach Erik Spoelstra said in April that he does not consider the 6-7, 225-pound Winslow a point guard but rather “an all-around basketball player.”

Winslow, 23, can realistically be used as a point guard, shooting guard or small forward. But Winslow has made it known on multiple occasions that his preference is to grow within a point guard role.

“At times, it can feel like your versatile and it almost can limit you or hinder you like you said, just throw him around anywhere,” said Winslow, who is due $13 million for 2019-20 in the first season of the three-year, $39 million extension he signed with the Heat last year.

“But my versatility at the end of the day, it makes me the player I am and it only helps me. I’ll never be mad at someone for saying that or saying that he can do too many things. But I’m looking forward to the season, for sure. At the end of the day, we got a lot of versatile guys and we should be able to figure it out.”

While the Heat made changes this summer — including the significant addition of four-time All-Star Jimmy Butler — 10 players return from the 2018-19 season-ending roster and the point guard situation isn’t much different from last season. Guard Kendrick Nunn has stuck after signing with the Heat on the final day of the 2018-19 regular season, but Winslow and Dragic still look to be the top two options at point guard.

When healthy, Dragic has been the Heat’s starting point guard for the past five seasons. Dragic, 33, has started in 268 of the 282 regular-season games he’s played in with Miami, and the 14 games he was used off the bench came last season while Winslow started in his place.

One thing was clear on Sunday: Whether it comes as a starter or not, Winslow wants to be used a point guard this season.

“I just think for what our team wants out of that position — somebody who is a great communicator, somebody who is vocal, somebody who gets guys in their spots — I feel like my playmaking and my ability to take care of the ball has gotten a lot better, as well,” Winslow said. “That’s kind of what our organization sees in that position and I think I pretty much embody all that. So that’s why I think I’m good fit.

“It’s just about winning, really. So that’s how I approach it.”

Here’s what else Winslow had to say Sunday afternoon ...

With the Heat trading Josh Richardson to the 76ers as part of the Butler deal this offseason, Winslow said of the departure of his close friend and fellow member of the Heat’s 2015 draft class: “Just the emotional standpoint, that’s someone I grew close to. So even more than just having him as a teammate, just having him around the city, being able to go to his house, go out to eat, having that just easy communication, I’ll always have by my side. As a competitor, it won’t be too hard. It’s part of the business, but the emotional part is a little hard, but we’ll be Rook 1 and Rook 2 forever.”

As for the Heat’s addittion of Butler this offseason, Winslow said: : “It was interesting. I mean it all happened so fast, kind of happened out of the blue. I called J-Rich kind of right after it happened, just to talk to him. But it is a new dynamic. You know, him and J-Rich have a lot of similarities, actually. They’re both great two way players. So I think Jimmy should have a pretty smooth transition being able to fit in. I think we can use him in a lot of efficient ways.”

On his Sunday event aboard Carnival Horizon with his family’s foundation, Robin’s House Family Foundation: “We’re here on Carnival Horizon. I’m with my family foundation, Robin’s House, and we have a beautiful back-to-school event. We’re going to have fun with the kids, get in the water and go down the slides. I’m excited.”

Founded by Robin Davis and her son, Justise Winslow, Robin’s House Family Foundation encourages and guides children and young adults to discover their highest potential through education, recreation, and community outreach.

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Anthony Chiang covers the Miami Heat for the Miami Herald. He attended the University of Florida and was born and raised in Miami.
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