Duke University will be the home for the Class of 2014's top recruit, Jahlil Okafor, yet another phenom to come out of the windy streets of Chicago. While many lottery teams will have their sights set on Okafor's exploits in the post heading into the 2015 NBA Draft, the 76ers will be sure to hone in on his teammate, swingman Justise Winslow.
Praising a basketball player who calls Durham, NC his home is not the easiest of exercises for me. Coach K deserves a round of applause for the program and culture he's built, but each Duke iteration just feels like an extension of the last. I was always partial to the free spirits at UNC, whether it was Rasheed Wallace talking trash or Vince Carter baptizing whatever poor soul got in his way.
Winslow is a healthy mix of individual expression and team basketball. As is typical of the type of guys Coach K tends to recruit, he's a consummate teammate, one who's willing (and able) to make plays for his teammates. He makes the easy play, whether that means hitting an open man or taking the look given to him by the defense.
He's also not afraid to let you know that you don't have a chance at guarding him:
When he knows the competition in front of him isn't up to par, Winslow is a shark that smells blood. He averaged just shy of 28 points per game during his senior year at St. John's School in Houston, and Duke will no doubt lean on him to fill the wing-scoring void created by the departures of Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood. The Sixers have a dire need for a wing scorer who can create for himself off the bounce, and Winslow has already shown himself fairly advanced in that regard.
Potential Future Sixers
Where he'll really fit in with the future Sixers is on the defensive end. The word that comes to mind with Winslow is flexibility. He's got a non-stop motor and a wingspan that was measured at 6'10" at this year's Nike Hoop Summit, and his desire to lock down opponents has earned him opportunities to play international ball at a young age. Winslow was included on the U19 World Championship roster in 2013 despite being more than two years younger than seven of his teammates. He's the type of player coaches love to have around.
The issue -- tell me when you've heard this before -- is that his jumpshot needs work. His shot currently doesn't get a lot of arc, and the release takes a little longer than you'd like. He's a lefty, which can often be advantageous against defenders who are accustomed to players being stronger on their right, but strengthening the off hand will be key to his development going forward.
Assuming that the Sixers begin to turn their focus to team building rather than just amassing the world's largest collection of big men, Winslow is an excellent candidate for their top selection in the 2015 Draft. He's a jack-of-all-trades that will fill in the blanks, run the floor and make life easier for his teammates whenever possible. It certainly can't hurt to give Sam Hinkie's plan an infusion of Justise.