Throughout the NCAA season, much of the focus has been on Duke forward Jahlil Okafor and Kentucky big man Karl-Anthony Towns. The two freshmen dominated draft talk for months, with Okafor's brilliant offensive game and Towns' defensive potential making them the two most intriguing prospects in field.
Until Justise Winslow stole the spotlight, that is.
Duke's freshman wing was arguably the most impressive player of the NCAA Tournament, and definitely one of the most productive. Winslow did a bit of everything for Duke, notching double-doubles against San Diego State and against Utah, dropping 19 points and 9 rebounds versus Michigan State, and tallying 11 points, 9 rebounds, 3 blocks, and a steal in the title game against Wisconsin.
Winslow opened a lot of eyes during the Tournament, and perhaps no player did more to raise his Draft stock. Winslow jumped from the 10-15 range to possibly the top five, and there are some analysts wondering if he's a better prospect than Okafor, his highly touted teammate. The Orlando Magic, currently with the fifth-highest Lottery odds, are right in that range, and they have to realize that Winslow would be an ideal fit.
Winslow's defensive versatility is remarkable. While only 6-foot-6, he's strong and very athletic, granting him the ability to guard bigger players with ease. He's a ferocious on-ball defender and a willing helper, and he plays with a ton of effort and hustle. Those skills, coupled with his athleticism, leads to spectacular plays like this one.
While he's known for his defense, Winslow is hardly a slouch on the other end of the court. He's an absolute beast in transition, and while his outside shooting didn't really stand out much this season, he has solid form, and many experts expect him to develop into a plus shooter. He's also a deft and willing passer, and he doesn't need the ball in his hands to be effective. If his jumper develops as hoped, he could grow into a deadly, versatile offensive player: a strong, athletic wing who can shoot, pass, and fearlessly attack the rim.
The best thing about Winslow; he may actually be available when the Magic pick. Look, Towns is the best prospect in the draft, and he'd be the pick if the Magic somehow landed in the top selection. But there's less than a 10 percent of that happening. Winslow, on the other hand, could hang around for a bit despite gaining so much momentum. Towns and Okafor are going 1-2, teams like the Los Angeles Lakers and the Philadelphia 76ers love Emmanuel Mudiay, and D'Angelo Russell seems like a lock for the top five. Winslow, at least for now, looks like he may be available in the 4-7 range, which is where the Magic will likely be picking. Nabbing him would give the Magic a shot at a true impact player without having to sacrifice assets to move up.
As the NBA becomes more and more perimeter-oriented, shooting, spacing and wing defense are more valuable than ever. Winslow can provide all three. He can become a dynamic '3 and D' player in the mold of Jimmy Butler or Kawhi Leonard. Players like that are the darling of the NBA right now, and Winslow could be next in line. He's a well-rounded stud who can score from the perimeter, attack the basket, lock down opposing wings, and dominate in transition.
The Magic's roster, while talented, is full of holes. There isn't one missing piece, and one player isn't going to immediately turn them into a contender. At this point, they should take the best player available, and once Towns is off the board, Winslow may be that guy. His defensive skill, versatility and motor give him a higher floor than a lot of other prospects, and if his shooting keeps improving, the sky's the limit. He'd give the Magic a much-needed dose of shooting and improve the offense's spacing, and the trio of Winslow, Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo could be suberb defensively. Winslow could very easily be a key player on a contending team, sooner rather than later. The Magic need guys like that.