The NBA offseason is quickly approaching full tilt, as teams are allowed to begin negotiations with free agents on August 2nd. When the clock hits six o’clock, Brad Stevens will legally be permitted to pick up the phone in an attempt to wow players to the Boston Celtics.
NBC Sports Boston’s Chris Forsberg has a few names in mind that he believes should hover atop Stevens’ call-list when that time arrives. The often linked-to Spurs duo of Patty Mills and Rudy Gay are among the bunch, as is former Celtic-turned-Brooklyn Net, Jeff Green. However, a far-less discussed name was also floated by Forsberg, one that Stevens’ predecessor would likely be quite fond of.
“Do it for Danny [Ainge],” Forsberg wrote. “The still-only 25-year-old [Justise] Winslow had his $13 million option declined by the Grizzlies and would be worth a low-risk flier. Winslow is still a versatile wing who can handle the ball and defend. With better health and lower expectations, he could jumpstart his career. And, well, even though Danny Ainge is gone, this feels like the perfect tribute to the former president of basketball operations.”
Winslow, who spent the past season in Memphis after five years in Miami with the Heat, had his team option declined by the Grizzles approximately 24 hours before the start of free agency, per Shams Charania of The Athletic. The move saves Memphis $13 million while allowing Winslow to hit the open market.
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Celtics Once Coveted Winslow Highly
Before Boston set itself up for the long-haul by drafting franchise cornerstones Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum in back-to-back drafts (2016 and 2017), Ainge perceived Winslow as the man to help push the Celtics over the top. In 2015, in the midst of a rebuild, after three consecutive years of failing to escape the first round of the playoffs, Ainge and company penciled in Winslow — a near blue-chip prospect at the time — as the apple of their eye.
According to Forsberg, who worked for ESPN at the time, the Celtics did their best to move up the draft board in order to secure Winslow’s services. At one point offering up as many as six draft picks in what proved to be a failed attempt to bring the Duke product to Beantown.
The Celtics made a strong final push to multiple teams in spots 4-9 on draft day. It culminated with an all-in effort in attempt to get Charlotte to deliver the No. 9 pick with Boston lusting for Duke forward Justise Winslow (the same player it coveted while trying to shuffle higher).
According to sources, the Celtics’ final offer to the Hornets was a package featuring as many as six draft picks, including four potential first-round selections (a combination of picks from this draft and in the future). But the Hornets could not be swayed and turned down multiple offers to select Wisconsin center Frank Kaminsky.
Winslow was ultimately selected 10th-overall by the Heat, while the Celtics stayed put, drafting guard Terry Rozier with the 16th pick. Ainge admitted later that night that the team may have gotten a bit overzealous in their relentless pursuit of the NCAA Champion.
“Maybe we were going too hard at it,” Ainge told reporters, via Mass Live. “There was a time when I thought, ‘Whoa, this is getting a little out of control. We’re putting a lot of eggs in one young player’s basket.'”
Winslow has not lived up to his pre-draft billing thus far, though injuries have certainly not helped his case. The Texas native has appeared in just 37 games over the past season, including 26 in 2020-21. In his lone season with the Grizzlies, Winslow averaged 6.8 points and 4.5 rebounds.
His most prolific campaign came back in 2018-19 with the Heat, when he produced a personal-best 12.6 points to go along with 5.4 rebounds and 1.1 assists. During his six-year career, Winslow has averaged 8.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game over 267 contests.