Dillon Brooks’s wait is over. Two days ago, Brooks (the good one) told reporters he “can’t wait” until the Grizzlies trade pseudoteammate Andre Iguodala, to “play him and show him what Memphis is all about.” “It’s not a distraction at all,” Brooks said. “I laugh at that type of stuff.” The Heat granted his wish: Per multiple reports, Miami will send a package headlined by Justise Winslow (the rest of the details, as of 8 p.m. PT, are still TBD) to Memphis in exchange for the three-time champion.
As part of the deal, the Heat will reportedly also extend the 36-year-old Iguodala’s contract for two years and $30 million, with the second year a team option. But Brooks got one last laugh on Iggy’s way out: Soon after the trade was reported, and Iguodala did a totally natural walk-off interview, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Brooks agreed to his own extension, for three years and $35 million.
For Miami, Iguodala provides a big boost on the wing—though perhaps not as much as it would’ve liked. The Heat are always star-hunting. After acquiring Jimmy Butler in a sign-and-trade this summer, Miami reportedly flirted with the idea of trading for Chris Paul. It also had eyes for Jrue Holiday, and later on Wednesday, Wojnarowski reported that Pat Riley was in pursuit of adding Danilo Gallinari to the Iguodala deal. Adding both veterans would make the Heat the most dangerous team in the East outside of the world-beating Bucks; with just Iguodala, they aren’t quite a surefire East finals participant, but they are better.
Butler has been a boon for Miami. The 30-year-old got the showcase he’s been passive-aggressively angling for and quickly proved he can handle the spotlight: With Butler on the floor this season, the Heat have a 114 offensive rating, which would rank second in the NBA, behind only the Mavs’ historic attack. But when Butler sits, the Heat’s offense craters to 106.4, which would put them in a tie for 23rd with the Cavs and Timberwolves–who will make history only for the number of times Kevin Love tries to dome his own teammates with his passes and Karl-Anthony Towns posts disgruntled Instagrams. Iguodala will help some in that regard—he’s only a career 33.3 percent career 3-point shooter, and prone to icy stretches, but he’s credible enough from outside to get defenses thinking; and if he retained his athleticism while taking tech meetings and cramming kombucha in the Bay the past four months, he’ll still be sharp working off cuts (90th percentile in 2018-19, one spot below Holiday).
Where Iguodala will really help Butler and the Heat will be on defense. While Jimmy and fellow All-Star Bam Adebayo form a snarly, switchy one-two punch, Miami’s defense as a whole has been lacking: They rank just 14th, far below their stiffest competition in the East—Milwaukee (ranked first in the NBA on defense), Toronto (second), Boston (third), Philadelphia (sixth), and even Indiana (ninth). If Iggy hasn’t lost a step, he can assume the role of guarding the opponent’s best perimeter defender, freeing Butler up to wreak havoc on the other end. Even if he has lost a step, he thinks the game on defense better than most, which will make him a more reliable option late in games than the likes of rookie Tyler Herro and Derrick Jones Jr. Herro has been a revelation on offense, but even a coaching Gandalf like Erik Spoelstra would struggle to hide the 20-year-old in crunch time of a playoff series against the Sixers’ Big Dogs lineup.
If the defensive chemistry doesn’t materialize over the second half, the Heat will try again next season, as the extension agreement struck as part of this trade keeps Iguodala on the books through the 2020-21 season. Crucially, it also maintains Miami’s flexibility for the long term. The Heat can walk away from the deal in the summer of 2021, when the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo can hit the market and Miami, natch, expects to be a major free-agent player. And if things really don’t work out with Iguodala, who will be 37 by this time next year, his contract will functionally be an expiring at the 2021 trade deadline.
For Memphis, this deal is all upside, minus a chance at revenge. Iguodala never reported to the Griz after Golden State unloaded his $17.2 million salary on them this summer to pave the way for the D’Angelo Russell sign-and-trade. By playing hard ball with Iguodala and contenders hoping he’d be cut loose, the Grizzlies ended up with a top-four-protected 2024 first-round pick from Golden State, but also one of the league’s best mystery-box players in Winslow.
Is he a point guard? Is he a center? That’s the benefit and the burden of Winslow, a 6-foot-6 “forward” with the body of a boulder. It’s a bit surprising that Miami would part with the 23-year-old. The Heat have a knack for finding players whose skill sets contradict their physical statures. Guards who play like bigs! Bigs who play like guards! It’s a real Island of Dr. Moreau down there. But while Winslow has never reached the heights of Adebayo, he’s consistently shown something—defensive chops, improved range (38 percent from 3 last season on four attempts), ballhandling—that always makes you wonder how good he can be if he could do, say, one or two more somethings.
Injuries haven’t helped; Winslow hasn’t played more than 70 games since his rookie season and he’s been limited to just 11 games this season. He’s currently out with a back issue, and has appeared in only one game, for 15 minutes, in the past two months. It’s always a bit curious when a team with all of the medical info on a player gives up on him, especially one of Winslow’s pedigree—national champion at Duke, no. 10 overall pick, Danny Ainge’s muse. But if he is healthy, Winslow is a great way for the Grizzlies to merge the past with the present.
The Griz, currently eighth in the West, have accelerated their rebuild faster than a Ja Morant fast break. And with a core of twentysomethings in Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr., Brandon Clarke, and Brooks, they figure to remain in the mix for the foreseeable future. But while Brooks and Morant clearly have the shit-talking and spirit of Grit and Grind patron saints Tony Allen and Zach Randolph down, they lack the defensive heft (20th in the NBA) that allowed their predecessors to back it up. Winslow, at his best, could bring just that, while still being able to fly down the court alongside Morant and Co.
The Grizzlies unfortunately don’t get to play the Heat again this season, tabling the Brooks-Iguodala cage match until next season. If all goes well, Brooks will be able to show Iguodala the next big thing in the NBA. The hope for the Heat is that what’s to come over the next four months with Iggy in tow will make it all worth it.
This story was updated soon after publishing to include Dillon Brooks’s extension agreement.