In 2015, the Miami Heat drafted a player they thought would defend multiple positions, develop into a wing scorer and become consistent three-point threat.
Those were the visions coach Erik Spoelstra and team president Pat Riley had when they selected Justise Winslow in the first round. After four-and-half seasons of experimentation, the Heat finally gave up on the project.
They included Winslow in a six-player trade that involved receiving Jae Crowder, Solomon Hill and Andre Iguodala. The deal marked the beginning of the Heat getting the player they expected of Winslow.
Crowder has been every bit of what the Heat coveted then, especially during this postseason. He defends all positions. He can score from the perimeter. Against the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference semifinals, Crowder has guarded everyone from Giannis Antetokounmpo to Brook Lopez to Eric Bledsoe. The Heat, who lead the series 3-0, can close it out Sunday at 3:30 p.m.
"He's a competitor so he's going to do whatever is necessary," Spoelstra said. "He does it on both ends. It's not an easy series for him. He has to sacrifice his body and play against the MVP, sometimes play against a 7-footer, sometimes put him on guards. He's basically guarding one through five in this series."
Winslow was solid during his Miami tenure. At times, he showed he was ready for a breakthrough. But he never reached the level of Crowder's impact. He is averaging 11.6 points and shooting 62 percent from the three-point line in the postseason.
"It just tells me the work that I put in when the lights are not on is paying off," Crowder said. "I just feel like I'm going to keep staying at it. I'm going to stay in the gym, stay watching film, stay focused, stay being an all around professional. That just shows me my hard work is paying off. I'm really pleased with the work that I'm putting in and it's not going to stop."
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