Heat forward Justise Winslow, talking about his shooting on the day before the opening of training camp last September, put it this way: “Once that minor detail gets settled, I think we’re going to have a really fun ride.”
Nearly four months later, this much is clear: Though the sample size remains limited, his perimeter shooting is much improved.
Already a skilled defender and ball-handler, the 21-year-old Winslow is moving closer to becoming a complete player.
Winslow has made all three of his three-point attempts in his three games back since returning from injury, including a key corner three to put the Heat ahead by five late in Wednesday’s win in Milwaukee.
He’s 8 for 9 on threes in his past six games, 13 for 24 over his past 13.
For the season, he’s at 42.5 percent on threes (19 for 44) after shooting 27.6 percent as a rookie (32 for 116) and 20 percent in just 18 games last season (7 for 35). He’s shooting 42.5 percent overall.
Launching thousands of jumpers under the watch of Heat coaches clearly has helped. But so has a change in mechanics, with a move toward an approach closer to the one he used in his one season at Duke.
“I really liked my shot from Duke,” Winslow said this week. “Getting ready for the NBA, I tried to adjust things for the range and it kind of threw me off [as a rookie in 2015-16]. And I had people in my ear, especially in the first year, really trying to change it.”
So Winslow and Heat coaches changed his mechanics in the summer of 2016.
That “summer, I kind of started from square one and really tried to understand the art of shooting,” he said. “Unfortunately, I got hurt last year but not too much has really changed from last year to this year [in the mechanics].
“A lot of it is similar to how I [shot at Duke]. I still had some of the funky wrists at Duke. But other than that, I think it’s pretty similar to what it was at Duke.”
Winslow said this is the best he’s felt, mechanically, with his shot.
“Just being able to shoot from anywhere on the floor and it still feels effortless and be consistent and repeatable,” he said. “That’s one of my favorite things about the stroke I have now.”
He cites Heat assistant coaches Rob Fodor and Chris Quinn for helping him get to this point and also credits coach Erik Spoelstra for “throwing some things in some workouts and helping me understand the flow of the shot.”
Among the lessons he learned from this process: Be selective with advice offered.
“It’s tricky because different guys want to tell you different things,” he said. “For the most part, they’re kind of saying the same thing in different ways. It can be tricky when you are working with different guys on your shot. You don’t really want to have too many ears when it comes to your shooting mechanics.”
Besides work on the court, Winslow said he also spent time the past two years studying video of Hall of Famer Chris Mullin, Rockets All-Star guard James Harden and Raptors swingman C.J. Miles — not only because of their shooting skills but also because, like Winslow, they’re left-handed.
“I loved James Harden growing up, being from Houston, somebody I looked up to,” Winslow said. “I watched a lot of film on him in general. He has a little bit different stroke. It’s hard to watch right-handers.”
There’s still work to be done. But the progress is encouraging.
“He’s improved leaps and bounds,” Wayne Ellington said. “So much potential. And he’s going to get better.”