For what could be seen by most as a fairly quiet day with limited surprises, the Memphis Grizzlies were at the forefront of everyone’s mind, blog, and podcast.
The main event for the Grizzlies was to (finally) send Andre Iguodala to the Miami Heat in exchange for Justise Winslow. There were, of course, other players involved in the trade — Solomon Hill and Jae Crowder from Memphis, and Dion Waiters and James Johnson from Miami — but Iggy and Winslow were the headliners of that transaction.
Winslow for Iguodala would have worked straight up with salary matching, but the Heat seemed to want to shed some salary and garner a little more flexibility heading into free agency this summer. On the contrary, Memphis traded away a trio of players on expiring contracts for three guys all making over $12 million through at least next season. Clearly this was a calculated move for Memphis, admitting that they do not have plans to swing on any of the more prized free agents this summer like Brandon Ingram, Bogdan Bogdonovic, etc. Taking a step back, this part in and of itself makes sense because the last time Memphis was able to land a “huge” free agent, they paid him $25 million and then traded him to Atlanta in the last year of his contract.
Another item we can glean from this transaction is that the Grizzlies front office thinks very highly of Justise Winslow and pictures him as the missing piece to the starting lineup puzzle that Jae Crowder filled for most of this season. Winslow isn’t known as a shooter, but last season he connected on 38% of his attempts from deep.
So far this season he has been sidelined with a back injury and has only played in 11 games. He is a versatile forward who has point guard skills and can guard 4 positions adeptly (5 against Houston). If anything, his defense will be an upgrade from Crowder and his shooting will probably exceed the 29% that Crowder has been shooting from three this season.
Also, Winslow is only 23 years old.
The former Duke Blue Devil is clearly excited to be in Memphis, as he tweeted out a picture of himself wearing a Grizzlies hat even before the trade was more than a Woj rumor. His fellow college teammates Grayson Allen and Tyus Jones reached out on Twitter to express their excitement to him. There is a culture that is being built here in Memphis, and Winslow could be a key piece in this positive momentum that Grizzlies fans have experienced the last several months. The guys are gelling, sticking up for each other in public, and seemingly just having fun.
Many NBA-following websites have graded this trade as anywhere from a D (what the hell, ESPN), to an A. To put it bluntly, if Winslow becomes a healthy player and just does what he has done the entirety of his time in the league, then this was a successful trade for Memphis. If he stays hurt and never gets to solidify his role on this team, it will have been a failure and Memphis should have sought the alternative collection of whatever 2nd round draft picks might have been available. We won’t know the answer to this until at least next season. On a positive note, Winslow can rehab here without pressure. Sure, the Grizzlies are fighting for a playoff spot. However, I am confident that they will not roll him out there on the court so long as there is risk of further injury. They took this same strategy with Jaren Jackson Jr. towards the end of last season and it has paid off massively this year.
Memphis fans should be excited to see what role Winslow plays in the pecking order of an already young and exciting roster.
In addition to adding Winslow to the Grizzlies, they quickly moved James Johnson to Minnesota for Gorgui Dieng and it also surfaced they would waive or buyout Deon Waiters. From just a quick perusal on Reddit, it is plain to see that Timberwolves fans love Dieng. He is thought of very highly and there will be an immediate role for him in Memphis. This year Memphis has struggled against true big men with Jonas Valanciunas off the court. Jaren is too foul prone, Brandon Clarke too undersized, Bruno Caboclo too clueless to guard the behemoths of the league. Dieng will bring a good level of experience and size to this roster and add much needed depth at the 5. He also has been working on stretching his scoring to beyond the perimeter.
This season he is shooting 38% from three on 2.6 attempts. Prior to this season he attempted less than 1 three per game. In December he took 3.1 threes per game at 35% success rate, and in January stepped that up further to 3.4 attempts at a 43% clip. His shooting stroke has earned him the nickname “Mr. Trebuchet” from the hipster Timberwolves faithful.
Initially I was very wary of such a massive salary burden if Memphis was planning on keeping both James Johnson and Deon Waiters, but turns out they immediately moved Johnson and we won’t see Waiters suit up in blue, so this makes the roster feel about right.
In a smaller move, the Grizzlies moved our guy Bruno to Houston for Jordan Bell, who can provide front court depth towards the end of the bench when needed. Caboclo is an interesting player that can be a decent player in a system more fitting for him, and Houston could be that place.
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