Free Agency: Should the Houston Rockets pursue Justise Winslow?

Golden State Warriors v Memphis Grizzlies
Golden State Warriors v Memphis Grizzlies / Justin Ford/Getty Images
Justise Winslow, Houston Rockets
Memphis Grizzlies v Denver Nuggets / C. Morgan Engel/Getty Images

The Houston Rockets have reportedly been linked to Justise Winslow now that his $13 team option has been declined by the Memphis Grizzlies. The sixth-year forward out of Duke University has suffered through an up-and-down career but won’t turn 26 until March of next year. 

Which Justise Winslow would the Houston Rockets get?

Winslow’s inconsistent play has been marked by his inability to stay healthy. He has posted three seasons where he has played 60 plus games and three seasons where he has featured in 28 or less. There has been an inextricable link between Winslow’s production and his availability. 

In 2017-18 and 2018-19, Winslow’s two most productive seasons to date, he featured in 68 and 66 games. In the two seasons since, 2019-20 and 2020-21, he saw his production fall off of a cliff and only featured in a combined 37 games. 

Comparing the healthy version of Winslow to the oft-injured version gives us some insight into what will make or break his career. From 2017-18 to 2018-19, Winslow averaged 10.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game on 37.7-percent 3-point shooting. From 2019-20 to 2020-21, he averaged 8.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 2.5 assists on 19.8-percent 3-point shooting. 

Even in a diminished state, Winslow remains a solid defensive player who can defend multiple perimeter positions, but his 3-point shooting will determine his ultimate worth. When Winslow is converting his 3-pointers he is a jack of all trades, master of none basketball switch army knife. Capable of spacing the floor, initiating the offense, and hounded the other team’s best scorer. 

When his shot isn’t falling from the perimeter he loses value off the ball, defenses sag off of him and limit his passing, and then he’s nothing more than a defensive specialist. Winslow’s defense is solid but isn’t elite enough to be his carrying card, he needs to chip in everywhere on the court to have a spot in the NBA. 

The concern with Winslow is that his free throw shooting has been consistently poor. Free throw shooting is a good proxy for 3-point shooting ability and if that’s the case, Winslow’s two accurate seasons from deep might be the outliers. 

Should the Houston Rockets pursue Justise Winslow?

Should the Rockets pursue Justise Winslow? At the end of the day, it all comes down to money. If Winslow wants to take a one-year prove-it deal to restore his value then the Rockets offer a safe landing spot. They’re a rebuilding team and can offer him a sizable role that showcases his talents. If he wants a multi-year deal at around the $13 million he made annually each of the past three seasons, then he can go try his luck somewhere else. 

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If the Rockets believe they can restore Winslow’s 3-point stroke then he’s a flyer worth taking. If he can’t be fixed or he remains injury prone they can easily move on. However, if his shooting can be fixed then the Rockets will have landed a valuable player entering their prime who could feature into their long-term plans or be moved for more assets.