Not fair, not smart, comparing Justise Winslow to Dwyane Wade

So Mike Krzyzewski says that Miami Heat first-round pick Justise Winslow could be the next Dwyane Wade. That’s what the Duke legend told Jay Bilas anyway, and that’s a mouthful.

Duke's Justise Winslow responds to a question during the NBA basketball combine Friday, May 15, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Duke’s Justise Winslow responds to a question during the NBA basketball combine Friday, May 15, 2015. Jason Lieser of Palm Beach Post standing directly behind him (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Everybody goes a little daft with the draft. Let’s just agree that nobody in this rookie class deserves to enter the league with that kind of pressure on him.

[Most needed position would have meant passing on Dwyane Wade]

[Jeremy Foley still doing a lot of things right at Florida]

[NFL guessed wrong 50 years ago picking Atlanta over Miami]

The No. 10 spot in the NBA draft isn’t supposed to produce Hall of Famers, NBA Finals MVP’s and other foundational franchise saviors. If it happens, great, but go leaping after that dream just because it makes you smile.

Winslow, I think, will be very good for the Heat. Pat Riley certainly thinks so. He talked about Winslow’s fall to No. 10 and likened it to the year that Caron Butler came to Miami at the same number and in the same way. Butler, a small forward like Winslow, had a strong rookie year, starting 78 games and averaging 15.4 points. Can’t ask for more than that.

The thing with Butler is he didn’t become an all-star until his fifth NBA season. He had already played for two other teams by then, the Lakers and the Wizards. Riley used him for trade bait after two Heat seasons, packaging the promising young pro in the deal that brought Shaquille O’Neal to Miami.

Winslow, we’re hoping, will be so productive that he sticks with the Heat for a long time, starts a lot of games and maybe even becomes part of a championship unit.

Riley doesn’t always see draft picks the way everybody else does, however. Unless it’s a star like Wade, he’s thinking about trading them for veteran help almost from the day the kids arrive.

Here’s another small caution. Guys get drafted at No. 10 for a reason, and the last four who did haven’t amounted to much at this point.

Four years ago it was Jimmer Fredette, the long-range fad of the NCAA tournament from BYU. He has started seven games in his career. Total.

Here are the numbers on the three most recent No. 10 picks. Prepare to be underwhelmed.

***

AUSTIN RIVERS, 2012 Draft

Yr.                 Starts   Pts. Avg.     Reb. Avg.   Assists avg.

2012-13           26          6.2              1.8                   2.1

2013-14            4           7.7              1.9                 2.3

2014-15           5             7.0                2.0                   2.0

***

C.J. McCOLLUM, 2013 Draft

Yr.                   Starts     Pts. Avg.   Reb. Avg.   Assists Avg.

2013-14           0             5.3                1.3                0.7

2014-15           3             6.8               1.5                 1.0

***

ELFRID PAYTON, 2014 Draft

Yr.                     Starts     Pts. Avg.   Reb Avg.   Assists Avg.

2014-15               63           8.9           4.3               6.5

***

Payton, Orlando’s point guard for most of his rookie season, has been the best of them, but unless you’re a big-time NBA fan, you may not have heard of him.

Not to pile on Rivers, either, but he’s playing for his dad, Doc Rivers, head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers, and still started just two of 41 regular-season games since coming over from New Orleans midseason.

Rivers was a one-and-done star at Duke, too, just like Winslow, if it matters.

Probably doesn’t.

Can you imagine if Heat had passed on Dwyane Wade and drafted most urgent need?

[cmg_cinesport url=”http://cinesport.palmbeachpost.com/embed/palm-beach-sports/nba-draft-lottery-preview-miami-heat/#autostart=on;”%5D

Pat Riley needed a point guard to ignite a sluggish lineup in 2003. He could have drafted T.J. Ford of Texas or Kirk Hinrich of Kansas to fill that hole. Aren’t you glad he didn’t?

[Tom Brady is using all his allotted timeouts]

[If you take the party out of Johnny Football, what’s left?]

[Anybody seen Darko, the dud of the 2003 NBA draft?]

Drafting No. 5 overall, Miami took Marquette shooting guard Dwyane Wade instead. Three NBA titles later, that decision to take the best available player clearly made all the difference for the franchise. Wade hopefully isn’t finished yet, either, if the Heat can keep him happy with a new contract this summer.

Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade (3) before pre-game introductions at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, Florida on June 12, 2014 (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade (3) before pre-game introductions at 2014 NBA Finals. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Not that Hinrich would have been a total disaster. He’s still in the league and working on a career average of five assists per game. Ford didn’t last quite as long because of injuries but he did start on playoff teams in Milwaukee and Toronto.

Compare almost anyone to Wade, however, and you come up short.

Well, there is LeBron James, of course, who went No. 1 overall in the 2003 draft, but Riley didn’t have a shot at him back then. What he got was an astoundingly athletic alternative in Wade, who never backed down to LeBron or anyone else from his first days in the league.

There’s a longer version of this Wade draft item coming on Thursday. You’ll find it in our print edition that morning and on the web, too, at mypalmbeachpost.com.

A little appetizer. There’s something in there about Wade beating LeBron on a last-second summer league shot when both were new to the league.

Not to dampen NBA draft enthusiasm, but has anyone seen Darko?

Where are you, Darko Milicic? More specifically, how could the 7-footer who got drafted ahead of Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade in 2003 get lost in the first place?

These are important questions as we prepare to spin the roulette wheel of another NBA draft next Thursday. Here’s another one. Do you know the only player to be drafted ahead of Milicic, the Serbian skyscraper who started with Detroit and in 12 NBA seasons averaged 6.0 points per game?

His name is LeBron James. Like Milicic, LeBron never played a minute of college ball in this country. Like Milicic, he had an NBA body as a teenager.

[Deciphering ‘Nerdgate,’ the St. Louis Cardinals childish hack job]

[It’s better this way, with LeBron coming up short in NBA Finals]

[A tip of the cap to Ichiro Suzuki, Japan’s gift to the Marlins]

NEW YORK - JUNE 26:  Darko Milicic is selected #2 overall in the first round by the Detroit Pistons holds up a Pistons #31 jersey during the 2003 NBA Draft at the Paramount Theatre at Madison Square Garden on June 26, 2003 in New York, New York.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images) ORG XMIT:   ORG XMIT: MER0705071350323490
Darko Milicic was selected #2 overall in the 2003 NBA draft by the Detroit Pistons.  (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

The difference is that LeBron was and is so unstoppable that it comes as a shock all these years later when he doesn’t win an NBA title, even if the mission is to do it almost single-handedly.

Milicic? Not so much. An internet search turned him up playing these days for a Serbian pro team called Metalac Farmakom, which probably means something to Miami Heat point guard Goran Dragic but doesn’t mean anything to me.

The names Kristaps Porzingis and Mario Hezonja don’t mean that much to me, either, though it seems they each will be drafted in the top 10 next week by NBA teams that can’t resist their slick Euro moves and towering builds. With the buzz that’s growing in all the mock drafts, Porzingis, the 7-foot-1 Latvian, even looks like top-five.

This institutes added mystery to a draft process that already is baffling enough.

LeBron didn’t have to be LeBron, for instance. He could have turned instead into Kwame Brown, a player considered such a sure thing that he was the NBA’s first No. 1 overall pick drafted straight out of high school.

The Washington Wizards and team president Michael Jordan took Brown over all others in 2001 based on the shot blocker’s play at Glynn Academy in Brunswick, Ga. That was a disappointment to Billy Donovan, who had Brown signed to a scholarship at Florida, but hardly a surprise. Brown was ready for the NBA, everybody agreed, but after bouncing around the league with seven different teams the 6-foot-11 project retired, uncompleted, with a career average of 6.6 points right in Milicic’s neighborhood.

Add it all up and I’m glad that Pat Riley is in charge of using the Heat’s No. 10 overall pick. He doesn’t get them all right, as we’re reminded every time Michael Beasley comes and goes in Miami, but he has a good feel for what players will be worth to the franchise a year or two from now.

That’s what the NBA draft is for most organizations, a facet of the team’s long-term development, an acquisition phase to be utilized in future trades.

Once a player’s been around the league for a while and showed himself adaptable and tough enough to stand out, then it’s time to get excited about him.

That’s how you tell the difference between Goran Dragic and his brother Zoran.

That’s how you learn to make your plans as if the draft might not work out at all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

LeBron James needs more help than these crumpled Cavs can give him

LeBron James is back in the NBA Finals beginning tonight but I figure he won’t be there for long. Make it Golden State in five.

To me, this series shapes up a lot like LeBron’s first Finals trip with Cleveland way back when he was 22. San Antonio won it in a four-game sweep with LeBron desperately in need of support from a Cavs lineup short on supplemental stars.

Cleveland averaged just 80.1 points in the 2007 Finals and the Spurs even won Game 3 despite scoring only 75.

[Dwyane Wade was better than you thought last year]

[A greater appreciation for the Heat’s four-year cavalry charge]

[Bulls went to Iowa State for coach once before with poor results]

This time around it’s a high-octane Warriors team with MVP Stephen Curry in LeBron’s way. If the Cavs had all their players it might be a long series, but Kyrie Irving is hurting and Kevin Love can’t play at all. That means LeBron will need to do more than score 28 points a night. He’ll also need to rebound and defend at monster levels.

CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 26:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrates after defeating the Atlanta Hawks during Game Four of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2015 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on May 26, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Cavaliers defeated the Hawks 118-88.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH – MAY 26: LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrates after defeating the Atlanta Hawks during Game Four of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2015 NBA Playoffs. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Oh, plus he does most of the coaching, too. It’s a little too much to ask once you get out of the Eastern Conference and into the NBA’s fast lane.

Looking back on the 2007 Finals, there really wasn’t much more LeBron could have done. He didn’t have Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. He had Sasha Pavlovic and Drew Gooden and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. When LeBron had a 4-for-16 shooting night in Game 1, there was no one else to help.

LeBron pressed the whole way. The best game was the clincher for the Spurs, with LeBron scoring 24 points on 10-of-30 shooting and only two other Cavs in double figures. San Antonio won 83-82.

No matter what, two things will be different for LeBron this year.

First, he’s a much more versatile scorer at 30 and will shoot a higher percentage, with lots of assists to keep the Warriors defense scrambling.

Second, there will be a lot more interest in this series. The 2007 Finals were a bust for ABC, with the lowest television ratings to that point for a championship series.

Viewership numbers dropped 27 percent from the previous year’s Finals, and you’ll probably like this next part.

The 2006 Finals were a Miami showcase, with the Heat taking their first title in six games against Dallas. Dwyane Wade was the Finals MVP with a 34.7-point average. Pat Riley was the Heat’s coach.

Dwyane Wade with 2006 NBA Finals MVP trophy (Damon Higgins/Palm Beach Post photo)
Dwyane Wade with 2006 NBA Finals MVP trophy (Damon Higgins/Palm Beach Post photo)Heat’s coach.

For now, though, it’s time to see if LeBron can do more with this Cleveland team, which won 53 games during the regular season, than he did with the 2007 Cavs, who won 50.

If he manages somehow to win another championship in his first year back in Cleveland, it will be a greater achievement than the two he won in Miami. That’s how much of the load is on his shoulders alone.

Oh, by the way, the FiveThirtyEight website, where numbers are king, figures that LeBron’s current Cavs roster is better than the 2007 crew, but only by a hair.

And if you can make sense of anything in that deep bucket of data, thank your calculus teacher.

If you can’t, feel free to enjoy this crazy NBA Finals preview from Taiwainese animators: