Expectations for 20-year-old forward Justise Winslow are soaring. Can he live up to them in 2016-17 (Erik Drost/Creative Commons)?

Expectations for 20-year-old forward Justise Winslow are soaring. Can he live up to them in 2016-17 (Erik Drost/Creative Commons)?

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In the first team-focused interview of the season, Slice Miami’Josh Baumgard makes On the NBA Beat history by becoming the first guest to appear three times, and the third time was certainly a charm (as were the first two). In this Miami Heat-themed episode, he gushes about the monstrous numbers Hassan Whiteside has the potential to post as the focal point of Miami’s offense. Baumgard also waxes nostalgic and practical about the ramifications of Dwyane Wade’s departure after 13 seasons as the franchise cornerstone. Plus, along with a range of other timely topics, he explains how Miami’s already stout defense can be even stronger this upcoming season. Scan some scorching excerpts below:

2:58-3:10 As the episode title suggests, second-year wing Justise Winslow will make or break Miami’s season, according to Baumgard: “I think he’s the key to the whole season. I think he’s the difference between whether they’re gonna be a 35-win team or a 45-win team. You’ve got to see some offensive improvement out of him, and I think with the increased role he’s ready for it.”

5:50-6:22 “That’s gonna be huge, because if he can develop a consistent jump shot, the defense is gonna play closer to him; that’s gonna open up driving lanes. And as we saw in the preseason, he’s a pretty good ball handler and he’s a very underrated passer. I think he can find guys in the corner for those open 3s, so, again, I think it goes back to Winslow. If he’s able to create some offense behind Goran Dragic, it’s gonna ease the burden on them scoring, because they’re likely not gonna be a great offensive team, but if they’re at least better than average, I think that bodes really well for their playoff chances.”

10:26-10:55 While our guest is quite enthusiastic about Hassan Whiteside’s individual projections, he expresses concern over the team’s lack of front-court depth: “Outside of that [Hassan Whiteside and backup center Willie Reed], it’s really, really thin. Josh McRoberts, he can’t be depended on to go home and take a shower and come back healthy the next day…you have Udonis Haslem who’s approaching like 50 years old, so they’re really thin at the 5 spot. So if anything happens to Whiteside or Reed, we’re gonna see Justise Winslow playing some 1 through 5 just like he did in the playoffs.”

17:08-17:58 Dwyane Wade’s impact on the Heat over the past 13 years was tremendous, admits Baumgard, but he also contends that Wade’s output no longer equated to what he would have been financially owed going forward: “Wade had a great playoff run, and he had a sensational series against Charlotte; if he didn’t have that series, they lose. But when you’re looking overall at what he brings at this stage of his career, I’m not sure he would have been the best fit for the Heat. I think you’re better off paying Dion Waiters $3 million than paying Wade 20+. If you look at last year’s numbers, Miami’s defense allowed eight points per 100 possessions more with Wade on the court, and then you consider the fact that he’s gonna hog the ball, put in a high usage and take it away from Dragic and Whiteside and some of these more consistent, efficient players, and a case could be made that they’re going to be better over the long haul without Wade. Now that might just be the homer in me, it might be the bitter fan coming out, saying he left us. But the numbers don’t lie when you look at it, and Dwyane Wade is not the player he was five, 10 years ago.”

20:37-21:03 He sees free-agent acquisition Dion Waiters as something of a wild card who can be highly effective if he comes in with a balanced mental approach: “Waiters, in certain spots of the preseason, when he’s not trying to do too much, when he’s not trying to be a scorer first and he’s actually trying to facilitate and pass for others, he’s somewhat effective. He can get in the paint, he’s athletic, he appears to have pretty decent passing vision. But I know he has the goods, the physical [tools] to do it. I think, with him, it’s more about the mental, and those kind of players always scare the crap out of me.”

Music: “Who Likes to Party?” by Kevin MacLeod