Back in 2015, the Miami Heat appeared to strike gold when they selected top prospect Justise Winslow at the No. 10 pick in the NBA Draft.
Expectations were high for a guy who had thrived in his lone undergraduate season at Duke University, but injuries hampered him during his time in Miami.
After a solid rookie season in 2015-16, in which he ended up as the team’s starting centre in the team’s last playoff game, he tore his labrum in his sophomore season, which wasn’t going so well before the injury. That injury started a run of poor luck in which he couldn’t remain healthy for the following three years.
“I was very selfish; I thought the world was centered around me, especially when basketball was taken away,” Winslow said, according to The Athletic’s Jason Quick. “I didn’t know how to fill myself up. That’s when a lot of the negativity and darkness started to creep in.”
Quick provided some insight into the pessimism and gloom alluded to by Winslow.
“He drank heavily,” Quick wrote regarding Winslow. “He passed through women. And confusion and frustration surrounding his parents’ divorce, which had long festered while he focused on his career, came to the surface.”
During his stay in South Florida, Winslow was a divisive player. Many fans lost faith in his potential to become an impact player for the Heat after his injury problems. However, there were many supporters who stuck by him no matter what.
During the 2018-19 season, he averaged 12.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 1.1 steals a game while hitting 43.3 percent of his shots from the field and 37.5 percent of his tries from outside the arc.
The 26-year-old continued some of his strong play in the 2019-20 season, Jimmy Butler’s first with the Heat, but he was eventually traded to the Memphis Grizzlies as part of the transaction that sent Andre Iguodala, Jared Crowder, and Solomon Hill to Miami.
He couldn’t stay with the Grizzlies and eventually signed with the Los Angeles Clippers, who moved him to the Portland Trail Blazers in February 2022.
The eighth-year player appears to have found a permanent home with the Blazers, although he is presently sidelined with an ankle ailment suffered in late December.
He should reclaim his spot in the rotation for a squad that is 21-24 and in 12th place in the Western Conference whenever he returns.
The Heat and Blazers have already met twice this season, so the only way they would meet again would be if both teams reached the NBA Finals.
It’s wonderful that Winslow appears to have put his prior problems behind him. Many Heat fans are sure to have a soft spot in their hearts for him and will support him for the rest of his career.