The Portland Trail Blazers were a more successful team when Justise Winslow was available this season. They were even better when the team’s health allowed him to provide a legitimate two-way presence off the Blazers bench.
Unfortunately, after missing that last 50 games of the season, the Blazers and Winslow have to decide whether they’re better together or apart this free agency. As they make that decision, let’s look at Winslow’s season in review.
Per Game Stats:
— 29 games
— 26.8 minutes per game
— 6.8 points per game
— 5.0 rebounds per game
— 3.4 assists per game
— 1.0 steals per game
— 0.4 blocks per game
— 40.9 percent from the field
— 31.1 percent from three
— 71.4 percent free throw percentage
— 95th percentile for assist to usage rate among forwards
— 90th percentile in steals for forwards (steals on 1.7% of opposition plays)
— 84th percentile in assists rate for forwards (18% of teammates made shots on his assists)
The 27-year-old’s team-first focus and ability to competently guard positions 1-5 made him effective off the Blazers bench. Standing 6’6 and carrying more than 220lbs, Winslow is both strong and nimble, able to stay with players of all shapes and sizes.
With career numbers of 8.2 points on 31% three-point shooting, Winslow is not an elite scorer. But it may not be necessary on this team. This season he showed he can be impactful with his ballhandling, passing and general basketball IQ. All these qualities have been cited by General Manager Joe Cronin as team needs.
Winslow doesn’t have to put up gaudy numbers. He does all the proverbial “little things” to make his teammates and the team better.
The Blazers own Winslow’s Early Bird Rights, which allow franchises to re-sign players regardless of their cap situation.
However, they restrict the size of the next deal to 105 percent of the average player salary for the prior season, which is projected to be around $11 million. The full Midlevel Exception is also expected to sit at a similar amount.
Given his injury issues, it’s doubtful any team offers Winslow more than this but whether the Blazers should offer anything more than the vet minimum could be up for debate. Winslow made $4 million last year.
Winslow only played 29 games this season. Not including his rookie year, he’s averaged 38 games a season thanks to growing list of injuries, which is concerning to say the least. The veteran will enter free agency this summer with all-too-familiar doubt surrounding his ability to stay the court.
When he was on the court, Winslow demonstrated a variety of skills, plus size and athletic ability that the Blazers need. He proved himself a useful table-setter and defender, offering sage, smart and composed play on either side of the ball.
Retaining Winslow for these qualities may make sense for the Blazers, but his injury history looms large. If they have him back, it has to be for the right price.