Before the Miami Heat tipped off against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday, the team announced on Twitter that Justise Winslow would need shoulder surgery. 

The pain got numbed a bit after Miami’s 107-102 win over the Kings, and Tyler Johnson‘s 23 points were the perfect distraction. Expectedly, though, the team is upset. Winslow will have an operation to fix a torn labrum and likely will miss the rest of the year.

“I really feel for him because I know how much time he put in this summer. He’s put in as much time as anybody,” said coach Erik Spoelstra before tipoff.

Although Winslow hasn’t turned into a great player, he’s slowly figuring himself out as a sophomore. His minutes are at 34.7 a night, and he’s making strides as a scorer (10.9 points) and playmaker (3.7 assists), but it’s hard for him to find a rhythm since he’s spent a nice chunk of the season on the sideline.

Miami, 11-26, has put Winslow on the floor for just 18 of their games. The 20-year-old is one of the Heat’s best perimeter defenders, and he holds opponents to just 33.9 percent on threes, a mark that’s 2.7 points lower than their average. Miami is already a very stout defensive ballclub, but Winslow is the piece that puts them over the edge. They keep their pace very low, resulting in great efficiency numbers, but the team allows more than 109 points per 100 possessions when Justise isn’t on the floor, compared to 105.5 when he is, according to Basketball Reference.

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Moreover, he’s hands and anticipation look much improved, and the former lottery pick is averaging 1.4 steals per game.

One thing Miami certainly won’t miss is his offense. What he did in his only year at Duke as a scorer hasn’t translated to the NBA, but, his upside was never as an offensive player. Regardless, Winslow’s shooting just 35.4 percent from the field after being around 42 last year. Could this be from him not being healthy? It’s plausible.

There are times when Winslow looks great, like his game against the Los Angeles Lakers last month when he dropped 23 on 10-of-16 shooting. Over the next four games, he shot 27 percent. Consistency is an issue.

Winslow’s game is predicated on hustle more than anything else, and he likes to hang out around the basket and compete for offensive rebounds. He’s also a guy who you can stick on the baseline as a target for dump-off passes once the point guard penetrates, and he’s played that role continuously throughout the year.

One thing he’ll need to work on religiously is his jump shot. It’s awful. I’m not sure why he shoots 27 percent on them, but, for the sake of his confidence, work needs to be put in. It’s even more perplexing because his form isn’t flawed. When he misses, though, he misses badly — hard clanks off the side of the rim are a great illustrator of why teams let him shoot open shots.

When looking at the good and bad for Winslow, it’s important to remember he’s only 20. There is a ton of time for him to develop. More importantly, he’s going to be heavily involved in Miami’s rotation for a long time, and there’s no better way for a young player to improve.

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