This year’s comeback of Miami Heat forward Justise Winslow from a season-ending shoulder injury in 2017 should be seen as a positive for the team. However, that success and the potential for more improvement during the upcoming year could make for a difficult choice by the team next July.
Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald notes that because Winslow will be a restricted free agent in 2019, the possible market among other teams may end up pricing him out of the Heat’s range. The Heat made Winslow a $4.7 million qualifying offer this season in order to ensure that his status will be restricted, but Jackson pointed out the Heat’s key problem:
“Making a long-term investment in Winslow — a decision that now looms — will further restrict Miami’s cap and tax flexibility.
“Winslow is set to become a restricted free agent next summer, and the Heat has three realistic options: 1. Sign him to an extension before the start of this upcoming regular season, the league’s deadline for such matters; 2. trade him next season or 3. attempt to retain him next summer, with the risk of another team making an offer that Miami would find unappealing.
Winslow handles the ball well, has improved his shot from beyond the arc and is an asset on defense. During the 2017-18 campaign, he averaged 7.8 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists, while hitting from long-range at a 38 percent rate. Jackson pointed out that similar numbers have gotten another forward, Kyle Anderson, a four-year, $37 million deal with the Memphis Grizzlies.
The financial ramifications with giving Winslow the same type of deal and also having the cap space to offer a max deal to a free agent are explained by Jackson:
“The Heat already is in a difficult cap predicament, needing to shed $43 million next summer to carve out salary cap space for a max player, which at this point seems unrealistic. If Winslow gets $9 million from the Heat in 2019-20, that number grows to $52 million and would push the Heat’s current salary commitments to $128 million for that 2019-20 season, well above that season’s projected $109 million cap and barely below the $131 million tax threshold.”
The Heat are already looking to deal some of their high-priced talent in order to have that flexibility. Next year, they’ll again have to deal with the free agency of Wayne Ellington, who recently re-signed with the team and will have full Bird Rights.
An offer right now to Winslow is possible, but until it’s made, the Heat will have to gauge just how valuable Winslow is to the future of the franchise.
“According to a team source, the Heat hasn’t given Winslow an indication of whether an offer will be made this offseason,” wrote Jackson. “Though no decision has been made, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Heat waits until next year to make a decision on Winslow. Last year, the Heat approached Josh Richardson with a four-year, $41 million extension in August.
“But from all indications, the Heat hasn’t been offering Winslow in trades.”