NBA Summer League action is not for the casual fan; it's normally akin to watching pick-up games at your local park, except the guys playing have way better gear. The thing is, sometimes you can actually learn something. Every once in awhile a player like Hassan Whiteside will come out of the woodwork and reveal himself to be a diamond in the rough that can help your team win a championship.
This summer Heat fans had much to watch, including tenth overall draft pick Justise Winslow in action for the first time in a Heat uniform. Well, Heat-ish uniform, I guess. So what have Heat fans learned from these glorified LA Fitness runs? A few things, actually.
The evolution of Justise Winslow will be a process
Everyone in Miami rejoiced when Justise Winslow slipped to the Heat's 10th pick in last months draft, and for good reason, because Winslow is a stud. Once the games got going these past two weeks in Orlando and Las Vegas, though, Winslow had his ups and downs. It's to be expected that Winslow has some growing pains in his first season, but in the Summer League he's shown amazing versatility, ferocious defense, great ball-handling skills, and terrific instincts for a 19-year-old player.
Winslow finished averaging 11.5 points a game through four games in Orlando, and sprained his ankle last Tuesday in the Vegas portion of the games. Overall, Winslow's performance has been exactly what fans had hoped: extremely promising.
Miami's second-round pick Josh Richardson has a real chance to contribute
The one thing that will get a young player on the floor the fastest? Frantic defense. Miami's 40th overall pick Josh Richardson has proven that to be his specialty thus far in the Summer League. Dan Craig, the coach of the Heat's Summer League team, told Heat.com Richardson is "an elite defensive player at his position"; that's high praise for a pick at a place in the draft that usually nets the Heat another guy they send to Europe for more seasoning. Craig went on to say of Richardson; "He's a tremendous player, on both sides of the floor. We were really happy surprised with how quickly he was able to evolve into the NBA game, particularly from the point-guard standpoint."
With games of 18 points and 16 points in Orlando, Richardson has proven he can also score. If he continues to progress through training camp he might make the Heat's decision to trade Mario Chalmers that much easier, and a decision on Shabazz Napier and Tyler Johnson that much tougher.
James Ennis still hasn't put it all together
James Ennis continues to be one of the most frustrating players for Miami Heat fans to watch. One moment, he could be throwing down the highlight dunk of the NBA season. The next, he could be flailing about around the floor, completely out of control. You never seem to know which James Ennis will show up on any given night. Ennis failed to impress much in the Summer League, a place, at this point, he should totally dominate based on experience alone. Ennis admitted yesterday that the new roster additions, and his non-guaranteed contract, have put added pressure on him.
Ennis will find himself in a bit of a musical chairs situation when it comes to making this Miami Heat team next season. The talent is there, but he needs to be more consistent.
Henry Walker is a goner
Walker was a great story last season, but as the days go by it becomes increasingly clear he won't make this Miami Heat team. Stuck in between the proven-veterans and promising-rookies is Henry Walker, not a good no-mans-land to be stuck in when it comes to NBA players. Walker didn't flash anything other than a three-point shot last season, but luckily for him, that's the exact thing the Miami Heat lack most.
That fact alone might get him into training camp with the team. How can you not root for a guy like this?
The forgotten man, Shabazz Napier, might fit into the Heat's new uptempo offense just fine.
Out of action since late last season due to sports hernia surgery, Shabazz Napier has flown under the radar in his return to action. While Heat fans have been directing their attention to free agency and new draft picks, last year's mid-summer addition has been rehabbing. Napier showed in the Summer League he is healthy, and his game might translate best within the Heat's new push-the-pace philosophy.
With Richardson and Johnson in the fold, as well as Chalmers, Napier is caught in a numbers game at the point guard position. His play in the Summer League opened some eyes, and reminded Heat fans he was the hot thing around this time last year.
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Ryan Yousefi is a freelance writer for Miami New Times, a lover of sports, and an expert consumer of craft beer and pho. Hanley Ramirez once stole a baseball from him and to this day still owes him $10.