For the Jazz, who have been stuck in the rebuilding process for the past few seasons, the team’s recent stretch has been a huge sign of the possibilities that could be right around the corner. Over their past 10 games, Utah has won seven. Despite that recent hot stretch, Utah still sits 8.5 games behind OKC for the 8th seed in the Western Conference, which is pretty much an impossible goal at this stage in the season.
As we sit in this weird, but yet exciting, purgatory-like state for the final few weeks of the season, it would only seem right to start taking a look at the prospects that will be involved in June’s NBA Draft. With the Jazz on their recent winning stretch, Utah’s potential draft position has continued to slip, as they currently stand at No. 10. Despite that, there are still an abundance of solid prospects that Utah could look at to help improve their team.
Despite the team’s recent stretch as being the best defensive team in the NBA (allowing a league-low 90.7 points per 100 possessions since the All-Star break), the team doesn’t currently possess a lockdown perimeter defender, that they can pair up with the Favors/Gobert duo. The only player that could possibly be considered as such would be Elijah Millsap, who doesn’t particularly add anything to the offensive end.
Among the prospects in this year’s draft, Duke wing Justise Winslow would seem like one of the better fits for Quin Snyder’s defensive-minded team.
A Texas native who stands 6-foot-7 and weighs 229 pounds, Winslow has been able to create a reputation as one of the more tenacious defenders in this year’s draft class. On a near play-by-play basis, Winslow stands as one of the hardest working players on the court. That combined with a 6’10” wingspan and supreme athleticism leaves him at an advantage.
Winslow is able to utilize that trio of traits with his work as a PnR defender. Per Synergy Sports Technologies, opposing PnR ball handlers are averaging .487 PPP (points per possession) against Winslow. The 6’7” forward is able to accomplish that by being able to quickly recognize whether to either work over or under the on-ball screen. After he chooses which way to go, Winslow is able to use his long frame to create a huge distraction for the opposing player.
As his freshman season has gone on, Winslow has evolved into a solid defensive ball-hawk. Since the start of February, Winslow has averaged 2.1 steals per game, which included a six steal performance in a recent Duke blowout over Wake Forest.
Although a lot of Winslow’s impact rests with his work on the defensive end, Winslow has developed into a viable offensive threat. As the season has gone on, and he got more acclimated with the college game, Winslow has become a player that can either cut towards to the paint or square up and hit the perimeter jumper.
While he’s showcased an ability to get to the paint in the half-court, Winslow’s main bread-and-butter would be how he works in transition. Once Winslow creates some open space, Winslow becomes an absolutely unstoppable force. That statement can either be backed up from him averaging 1.3 PPP in transition, or from the following gifs:
Throughout the season, Winslow has been able to showcase himself as one of the most efficient perimeter shooters in college basketball. Among draft-eligible forwards, Winslow currently has the 3rd best 3-point shooting percentage (39%), as he only trails Justin Anderson and Anthony Brown. However, that shooting percentage looks pedestrian compared to how he’s been over the past few weeks. Since the start of February, Winslow has shot 50% (on 22 total attempts) from the perimeter.
As far as his potential fit with the Jazz goes, Winslow definitely seems like he would be able to make an immediate impact because of his work on the defensive end. Winslow’s ferocious nature combined with the way that Utah has been should make for a remarkable fit. Also, Winslow working alongside Gobert and Favors could perhaps make things better for the young forward, as he’ll have to focus on his own assignments, rather than fixing the mistakes of his fellow teammates like he has done with Jahlil Okafor.
While it might be more of a challenge for him to transition as an offensive player, he could still be effective based on how he’s able to work his way towards the rim in both on and off-ball cuts. Also, Utah’s pass-happy nature could allow Winslow get a lot of opportunities to showcase his work as a spot-up shooter.