I’m not a fan of people who say, “I told you so.” But, I mean, I told you all that Justice Winslow was going to be an important part of this Portland Trail Blazers franchise.
Right, gloat out of the way.
Now, the Blazers have a decision to make. And they even have a trade deadline to make it happen.
The decision, either to try to re-sign Winslow in July or to replace him to ensure he didn’t lose it for nothing after February 9th.
The 26-year-old was part of a controversial trade in February with Los Angeles Clippers, where he landed alongside Eric Bledsoe, Keon Johnson, second-round pick Norman Powell and Robert Covington. That deal is getting better for the Blazers with each passing day.
And while, for some, his arrival has been met with little or no expectations, the 6’6 forward has proven to be a very easy player in the NBA with some national critics recently. Comparing it to Golden State Warriors Draymond Green.
And for good reason. Winslow’s focus on the team first and his ability to efficiently guard positions one-to-five have made him an oracle off the Blazers’ bench. Yes, he may not be scoring enough to enter the Sixth Man of the Year conversation, but he’s all this franchise needs from a bigger, athletic, and skilled backup.
Sure, he can’t shoot. But this team has a lot of shooters. However, his defense, speculative volleying, passing, and basketball intelligence have been invaluable since his arrival, and more importantly this season as the Blazers sit atop the Western Conference.
Like Draymond Green, the guy does smart things down to earth. It’s instinctive, whether it’s a pass or a screen and a defensive pass or cut, being in the right place at the right time is a skill.
There was a reason the former duke’s lead was said to be worthy Four first-round picks for the Boston Celtics To Danny Ainge on draft night in 2015. Yes, he’s been hampered by injury, dwindling opportunities and periods of poor form, but a natural ability will always find a way to shine.
Statistically, despite recording a nearly triple-double against the Phoenix Suns on November 4, his season numbers—7.9 points, 31 percent from three, 5.1 boards, 3.5 assists and 1.3 steals—do not do justice to his contribution. See what I did there.
But Winslow isn’t necessarily outgoing to put up flashy numbers. His value lies in the stats, doing all the little things that make his teammates and team better.
Now, if the Blazers want to keep Winslow beyond the 2022-23 season, there are a few factors at play. Due to the nature of his $4.1 million contract, specifically the early bird rights, the franchise doesn’t have the same options available to it with other contract players. We discuss this further down.
other moving parts
As we’ve mentioned countless times before, Josh Hart seems to be the Blazers’ best trading chip. He’s capable at both ends of the floor and with his $12.9 million deal this season and likely not getting a $12.9 million player option next season, Hart will almost certainly be on hiatus.
Cronin has said publicly that he still has it Work to do to improve this team Looking at the franchise payroll – trades, internal growth, and deep draft decisions seem like the only way forward.
While Winslow did not contribute as much as Hart, the difference is relatively small. There are no great shooters, but they thrive on ball handling, facilitation, collision, rebounding, and defense.
As for other free agents, Jerami Grant has already proven himself to be an essential part of this team and no doubt could be extended at some point this season. Drew Eubanks is on a minimum of veteran deals, so he wouldn’t be more than a throw-in as part of any deal.
The jackets are somewhat restrictive. As discussed, Winslow’s $4.1 million contract won’t bring much. We have already discussed Possibility of combining Winslow and Hart in a commercial deal (combined $17 million) but it probably isn’t the smartest of moves, exhausting the depth of the franchise’s wing.
I really don’t want to speculate on more potential deals because I’m honestly not sure what $4.1 million is going to get you. The only thing I would bring up is a report that the Boston Celtics might still be Be interested in WinslowThe player they wanted seven years ago. If this is indeed the case, the only player with a similar salary that I would look twice at is Grant Williams. But the soon-to-be 24-year-old arrives at restricted free agency next summer and can likely expect to be paid.
Winslow’s Early Bird rights mean the Blazers can’t extend it mid-season. This leaves unrestricted free agency as the only path they can take to stick with it for the long haul.
Early Bird franchise rights allow players to be re-signed regardless of status. However, it restricts the size of the deal to no more than 175 percent of the previous season’s salary, which puts Winslow’s highest 2023-24 salary with the Blazers at nearly $7 million.
Here comes the role of gambling. If Winslow continues to outperform his current deal, he may be able to earn more than $7 million from another team with physical space.
The only possible way the Blazers could pay Winslow more than $7 million, though, is if Cronin is somehow able to spend enough salary to reach the full Midlevel exception, which is expected to be around $11.3 million. In this unlikely event, I still suspect Cronin is giving Winslow too much, likely using the exception to go after bigger names.
Interestingly, the average level exclusion for taxpayers is expected to be just over $7 million. If that’s the only mid-level exception the Blazers have to work with, they might also commit to sign Winslow via Early Bird Rights, if he’s up for it, and use TPMLE on someone else.
Gauging Winslow’s market outside of Portland is difficult. At this very early stage, Cap Space teams will mostly be the franchise – Utah JazzAnd the San Antonio SpursAnd the Houston RocketsAnd the Detroit PistonsAnd the Orlando MagicAnd the Indiana PacersAnd the Charlotte Hornets And the Oklahoma City Thunder. But there are two other species that may be higher on the food chain – namely Memphis Grizzlies Which Winslow already played for him but he didn’t already speak as fondly Los Angeles LakersFinally free of Russell Westbrook’s outrageous deal.
Just to be clear, I’m not suggesting Winslow is going for more than a full mid-level exception, but it’s interesting to look at which non-Blazer teams might be in a position to offer something.
Like I said, I’m a Winslow fan so I may not be the best person to write this. But even the most apathetic observer of Winslow agrees that the Blazers have decisions to make before February about the future of the Texans in Portland.
One thing is for sure, Winslow can’t be extended mid-season, which means the Blazers either deal with him at the deadline or take a gamble and try to re-sign him in July. While the latter is less certain, you should try to stick with the big winger simply because he helps this team in multiple ways.