Goran Dragic’s impending return after the All-Star break will give the Heat a gifted offensive player who can shoot with range, set up teammates in the half court and deftly run the fast break.
But it will do something else, too: Create a potential conundrum for coach Erik Spoelstra.
Heat guard Justise Winslow, who has started and thrived in Dragic’s absence, admitted this past week that “I would like to start” even when Dragic returns.
Winslow said Spoelstra hasn’t told him what he’s thinking regarding potential lineup changes, and Spoelstra has declined to speak much about Dragic beyond saying he’s making great progress in his recovery from December knee surgery.
“I’m going to think about that and let my curiosity go crazy during the All-Star break,” Winslow said of how Dragic’s return will impact his role and the Heat’s lineup. “That’s something that is out of my control. I can say what I would want, but it’s up to the coaches and I am ready to execute whatever role they give me.”
Asked then if he hopes to remain a starter, he said: “I would like to start.”
But Winslow wants to make this clear too: “I’m excited to have Goran back. Him being left-handed, there are a lot of things I have taken from him and put in my game. I love playing with Goran. I love his passion and his fight that he plays with.”
Winslow believes he would thrive playing alongside Dragic because of Dragic’s ability to play off the ball.
Winslow also said, unsolicited, on Wednesday night that “Dion [Waiters] being inserted into the starting lineup has been good for us.”
One option would be starting Dragic with Waiters — a combination that worked well together in the second half of the 2016-17 season but less so to start last season — and bringing Winslow off the bench.
The Heat could also start Winslow at power forward and move Kelly Olynyk to the bench, but that would be taking Winslow out of the position (point guard) where he has done his best work.
In 26 games since taking over at point guard, Winslow is averaging 14.2 points (which would rank 24th among all NBA points guards if full-season stats for other point guards were used), 5.8 rebounds (fourth) and 4.8 assists (21st) while shooting 38.9 percent on threes (10th).
Dragic, in 14 games as Miami’s starting point guard before being shut down with the knee injury, averaged 15.3 points (21st among point guards), 4.9 assists (20th), 3.1 rebounds (26th), while shooting 41 percent from the field (26th) and 31.4 percent on threes (35th).
But those shooting percentages aren’t reflective of Dragic’s career. He’s a much better shooter traditionally, including a career 36.2 percent accuracy rate on threes.
Teammates are excited about Dragic’s return.
“First of all, as soon as he steps on the court, he draws a lot of attention, because everybody knows what he does,” Josh Richardson said. “I think he will open the court up a little bit more for everybody. He brings a lot of scoring, a lot of aggressiveness. I think it will be great for us.”
Olynyk said Wednesday that “you almost forget that Goran is even on our team when you look at our squad. With him coming back hopefully after the All-Star break, now you add a dual-threat scoring, passing guard who really expands our offense and gives us a little explosiveness, It’s pretty special. Hopefully we can get him back ASAP and get him in seamlessly.”
Waiters said Dragic’s return “is going to be real good” but cautioned “it probably will take a little time for him. He’s been out two months.”
As for Winslow, he will accept whatever role he’s asked to assume when Dragic returns. He takes pride in the growth in his game when given an extended chance to play point guard, his preferred position.
“It’s been a great 2 1/2 months of learning for me and I’ve really enjoyed it,” Winslow said.
TNT will air a 60-minute discussion between Kevin Garnett and Dwyane Wade at 6 p.m. Saturday, with a replay at 9 p.m. Monday on NBA TV.
Wade offers insight on the Heat drafting him, playing with Shaquille O’Neal and later, the Big 3 Era and his childhood.
Speaking by phone this week, Garnett said of the interview, which was conducted at Wade’s home: “It was a dope conversation and for me, I got lost in the conversation and didn’t realize it was an interview. It was all fun and good vibes. He will forever be one of the best two guards to ever play the game.”