Notes From Summer League: Hope In Uncertainty With Miami’s Youth Movement

Commentary

It is not an easy time to be a Miami HEAT fan. South Florida sports legend Dwyane Wade has decided to leave Miami after giving the city 13 unforgettable years of incredible basketball and three championships.

To go along with that, the status of two other Miami HEAT legends are also uncertain, as Udonis Haslem explores his own free agency and questions still remain regarding Chris Bosh’s health.

Factor in the loss of two key starters in Luol Deng and Joe Johnson, and it’s hard to imagine what the Miami HEAT will look like going forward. The future of the franchise is more uncertain than ever. However, in these dark times, a beacon of hope emanates from Orlando Summer League where Miami’s young prospects hold the promise of a new era for Miami.

In case they’ve escaped you, two of the first names that should pop into your head when thinking about the HEAT’s future should be Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson. After stellar rookie campaigns where they managed to consistently produce for a veteran-laden team, “Rook 1” and “Rook 2″—as they were affectionately dubbed last season—look to carry a heavier load as they enter their sophomore campaigns.

Their play so far in Summer League has indicated that they’re ready for an increased workload. Winslow has displayed a tremendous amount of growth both physically and talent-wise. He came into Orlando Summer League with a noticeably stronger frame and a much more aggressive approach to his game. His increased confidence on the offensive end is evident and he hasn’t been afraid to put shots up.

The 20-year old is using his strong frame and ball handling skills to work his way into the paint. The release on his jump shot looks much smoother and he definitely hasn’t been afraid to hoist up an open jumper. He still has a long way to go, but it definitely looks like Winslow is ready to take on a bigger role next season.

Josh Richardson showed off his incredible shooting ability last season and has continued to do so in Orlando this summer. Whether he’s working from midrange or from beyond the arc, Richardson has been letting it fly with great success through four games. He’s also displayed some active defense and improved playmaking early, and with an opening at the starting shooting guard position, he looks like he’s ready to fill in for Wade’s hole.

Although, Winslow and Richardson haven’t been the only two providing hope this summer. Two Sioux Falls Skyforce alumni have impressed early on in Orlando. Versatile wing Rodney McGruder will look to make an impact with his solid all-around game while point guard Briante Weber will seek to carve out a role next season with his relentless defense and impressive athleticism.

Other players to watch out for include skilled big man Stefan Jankovic and promising two-way guard prospect Michael Carrera. All in all, there are plenty of impressive prospects in Orlando for the HEAT right now who could end up playing important roles in the future of this team.

The Miami HEAT will enter next season with seemingly impossibly large holes to fill at multiple positions. Nobody will be able to replace the overall impact of Wade, and it’s unclear whether any one player will be able to match the production levels of Deng or Johnson.

Nothing is clear entering the upcoming NBA season, but if you’re looking for a reason to be optimistic, look no further than Orlando Summer League. From the ashes of a seemingly disastrous offseason, a bright future could potentially rise for Miami.

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