The Reintroduction of Justise Winslow: 'This Is Who I Am'

After carving his niche as a support player, Justise Winslow looks ready for the spotlight.

If ever there was a time for Justise Winslow to get comfortable, this offseason was it.

The 10th overall pick from the 2015 draft had just completed his most productive NBA campaign to date. His stat sheet was essentially a string of career highs, including his 12.6 points, 4.3 assists and 1.5 threes per game. His 43.3 field-goal percentage was a new personal best. Ditto his 51.3 true shooting percentage. His 37.5 percent perimeter success rate narrowly missed his best mark, but it shattered the dismal 25.8 percent from his first two seasons.

If he wanted to kick his feet up and bask in the finest offerings available on South Beach, who could've blamed him?

But that's not how Winslow operates. That season—a mini-breakout at the very least in the eyes of everyone—wasn't what he wanted.

Before his second season even started, he made his grandiose ambitions known. The then 20-year-old told assembled media at the Bahamas-based training camp that he not only wanted to lead the team "but to be a star and have my own team one day."

So, Winslow didn't settle this summer. He barely left the gym.

Despite skyrocketing his three-point percentage over the previous two seasons, he overhauled his shooting form. He changed his release point and sped up his stroke. He took hundreds of shots per day, from all spots on the court.

He had turned his three-ball from a worrisome weakness to something he could unleash when he really needed it. But that wasn't enough. In his mind, his outside shot can be one of the sharpest weapons in his arsenal.

"I think I should be [shooting] around five or six threes a game, but shooting a high percentage," Winslow told Heat Maven. "I want to shoot plus-40. I've been around 38, but I think shooting more will make it easier to get that percentage."

Winslow relays this information so calmly and confidently it's easy to overlook what he's saying. Ten players shot 40-plus percent with five-plus attempts last season. Four maintained that accuracy rate on six-plus shots a night.

It's a wildly ambitious aim to join that company, but dreaming big is kind of his thing.

When laying out his roadmap for the season at Media Day, Winslow's laundry list of self-imposed duties and goals included: "Starting point guard. Playmaking. Second-Team All-Defense. Most Improved [Player]."

Remember when Winslow's pining for the point guard spot caused such a media frenzy in September? Well, there he was running the first team offense on opening night while veteran Goran Dragic steered the second team.

Winslow ran it tremendously, too. He scored 27 points, dished seven dimes and snagged seven boards. When the cameras deservedly came his way in the locker room afterward, he essentially shrugged, stared straight into the lens and asked, 'What did you expect?'

"This is who I am," Winslow told reporters. "I'm not going to have 27, seven and seven every night. But my role is to lead this team, and I want to be held accountable to it. I've earned it."

Once billed as a potential franchise savior, Winslow again finds himself with a franchise that doesn't need saving. Not when four-time All-Star Jimmy Butler will make $142 million to fill that very role.

But for Miami to elevate its ceiling, to leap from a lottery team to one hosting a first-round playoff series, to post elite ranks on defense and above-average ones on offense, it could certainly use a costar.

Winslow—hungrier, more confident, more aggressive than ever—looks ready to share the center stage.

"He has an ability to impact winning, put his fingerprints on winning in a lot of different facets," coach Erik Spoelstra said. "That's not just with the statistics or the box scores, but it's with his voice, with his leadership, with his command of the game on both sides of the floor. He really truly has to be a great two-way basketball player for us."

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