Justise Winslow made both his 2021 and his Memphis Grizzlies debut on Saturday night against the Phoenix Suns. Winslow played 21 minutes off the bench and took 14 shots, finishing with 9 points on 3 of 14 shooting, with 7 rebounds and a steal. The Grizzlies were down several players, as they have been all year, but Winslow’s minutes may reflect the team’s commitment to him, more than the opportunity provided by absent teammates.
Winslow is young, has a high pedigree, and Danny Ainge once tried to trade four first round picks for the rights to draft him. He’s been an attractive player ever since, but he’s only played in 70 games or more once (his rookie year in Miami in 2015-16). When last we saw him, Winslow had been traded from Miami to Memphis, but then the pandemic hit, and Winslow hasn’t played since.
His final full season in Miami saw the ascent of Point Justise as the forward began to distribute the ball for the Heat. He ended that season averaging 4+ assists per game, but in January of 2019, Justise was averaging 14+ points per game, shot 43% from three on 3+ attempts per game, grabbed 5+ rebounds, and dished 5+ dimes.
Was that just a really good month for the youngster, or was it a glimpse of something more? For comparison’s sake, here are the players who are matching or exceeding 14/5/5 with a 43+ 3PT% this season in the NBA:
- Kevin Durant
- Paul George
Again, Danny Ainge tried to trade four first round picks to draft Winslow. Maybe he thought that January 2019 Winslow would be the normal Winslow: an uber athletic wing and playmaker who could run an offense. Presumably, that’s what Memphis is hoping Winslow could become, too.
The Grizzlies have a LOT of young players on their roster, but Winslow’s ceiling could be higher than everyone’s other than Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson, Jr. Ja-Justise-3J is an ideal core for those who love Js, but Winslow’s hasn’t shown up yet: he went just 3 for 14 on Saturday, and while his volume of shot attempts is nice, his misses are less so, especially since his true shooting percentage has only cracked 50 once in his career, and that ain’t good. There’s of course plenty of hope as Winslow is still young, he’s dealt with injuries and strange rosters in Miami pre-Jimmy Butler, and there’s no reason to think that he can’t improve as so many other players have before him.
The Grizzlies do have a deep roster, but the point of trading for a player like Winslow is to see if you can help him blossom into an important player for your franchise. Plus, if Ja suddenly has another capable athlete to help him run the floor, play defense, and take even a slight burden off his shoulders, then it’s proof for the young star that his team knows what it’s doing. You’re much more likely to stay at your job if you respect your boss, and it’s never too early to start making moves to make sure your franchise face doesn’t look elsewhere.
In fantasy basketball, Winslow is currently 2% rostered on ESPN. If he continues to get around 20 minutes a game, his ownership will steadily go up, I think. If he produces well in those minutes and forces Memphis to start him, his roster percentage could skyrocket.
If you have an open roster spot that you don’t need for streaming, then you should pick up Winslow. If you don’t have the space right now, or you’d like to see more, I totally savvy that emotion, and you can just keep your eye on him. Gotta say, though: if Point Justise appears again, you may miss your chance to nab him.