Before the 2020-21 regular season tipped off, a lot of expectations surrounded Justise Winslow with the Memphis Grizzlies — from being a starter, a combo guard, and arguably the best defender on the floor.
Winslow, coming off of a major hip injury at the Orlando Bubble in August of 2020, was set to make his long-awaited debut in Orlando with the Grizzlies until a freak accident in practice left him out for months.
When Winslow was traded to Memphis in February 2020, he was battling a lower back injury that it appeared the Miami Heat weren’t handling properly. Of course, there are assumptions, but Winslow’s trajectory to start the 2020 season looked like it could be the season he took off.
He went from a career season *potentially* in 2020 before injury with the Miami Heat, to a career-low season this year with the Memphis Grizzlies. Players work on their craft in the offseason, and Winslow has been rehabbing on injuries more than anything.
A lot of players will benefit from a full offseason, and Winslow is a guy that I can see coming back next season and thriving in Taylor Jenkins system. A full season to work on his craft, and not rehab - Winslow’s trajectory is still on track if health allows.
The best is yet to come for Winslow.
Winlsow appeared in 26 games for the Grizzlies this season, and had a career worse average in points per game, assists, field goal percentage, and three-point percentage. It was rough all the way around for Winslow.
No matter where Taylor Jenkins put Winslow on the floor, he struggled to find a rhythm and consistency. With that being said, it feels like Winslow was forced at times on to the floor, and into certain situations.
General Manager Zach Kleiman even referenced how hard it was to get Justise out on the floor coming down the stretch of the season given their depth. “There were a lot of guys that were capable of rotational minutes,” Kleiman said in his closing interview on Winslow’s lack of time on the court.
Coach Jenkins mentioned the bigger picture with Winslow, “He has so much better basketball ahead of him, and we can be apart of that journey... He is going to take ownership of that going into the summer.” Jenkins continued, “I know he is hard on himself, we are hard on him, and his motivation going into the offseason is regaining his best self.”
At 25 years of age, Winslow’s best basketball is indeed ahead of him. With a rough two seasons in the rear view mirrors, where does Winslow take his game this offseason? What are realistic expectations for Winslow in Memphis with the depth issues that already exists?
See, you can’t just go out and sign a 6’7” combo guard that plays his best on the defensive end of the floor. Kleiman didn’t build this roster on ‘hope.’ because that is a waste of emotion, and almost guaranteed to fail every time.
No, no, Kleiman built this roster based off of guys that would make an impact on the floor — no matter the situation. A healthy Winslow fits in this scheme. Maybe healthy Winslow isn’t a starter, but he becomes your X-Factor off the bench. Now, Memphis has a small-ball lineup with De’Anthony Melton, Desmond Bane, and Winslow at the four, or Melton and Winslow switch out. Either way, you still head into next season with one of the better bench units in the NBA.
Winslow fits the DNA of this roster — full of guys that just go do what is asked of them, whether they succeed or not, and do it to the best of their abilities. Look at Winslow, he was a shell of himself, but ran out there and laid it all out there in those 480 minutes.
Winslow’s timeline and trajectory fits with the current makeup of this Memphis Grizzlies roster: progressing. While the best is yet to come for this young and promising Grizzlies team — the best is yet to come for Justise Winslow as well.