As the coaching picture of the Grizzlies continues to be more and more muddled, the roster of the Grizzlies has lost a little bit of attention. There are major questions regarding most players on the roster not named Marc, Mike or Quincy. While some (Austin Daye, Jerryd Bayless) are almost certainly not expected to be back, others such as local legends Tony Allen and Zach Randolph become a bit more dicey. The trade of Rudy Gay supposedly freed up space to bring back soon to be Free Agent TA; "the Grindfather" is beloved in Memphis and his status as the top perimeter defender in the NBA was further cemented in this past season's All-NBA Defensive voting. He should be back.
Zach, however, is an interesting situation. He is owed over $18 million dollars this coming year. He is getting older and his style of play is becoming more and more obsolete in a length and athleticism driven modern NBA. The major piece of the Rudy Gay deal was Ed Davis, a 6'10" athletic freak who is considered by many a future star PF in the league. Also, coming off an All-Star season his value may never be higher in terms of a trade. This is not a piece arguing for amnestying Zach; it makes more sense to keep him than pay him to leave. This argues for moving Z-Bo to a team that needs a star big, and there will be suitors for Zach. Three reasons for moving the big guy...
Reason 1- The future is looking over his shoulder. Using the system that the Grizzlies front office probably leans on heavily, John Hollinger's PER, the difference between Zach Randolph and Ed Davis using advanced analytics is .1. Is PER an imperfect measurement system? Absolutely, but using it as a tool to interpret overall play is valuable. Ed Davis' offensive efficiency is impressive; he is an excellent finisher around the rim, shooting 61% from inside the paint this past season. Now, it is a smaller sample size comapred against Zach, but Z-Bo in the same area shot 53% within the same area. An argument for Zach and against Ed would be his ability to stretch out his game past the paint, but Zach from just outside the paint this season only shot 32%. Ed Davis shot 42% for the season from the same areas.
And that is just a shooting argument. Defensively, Ed Davis' ability to move and block shots is far superior to Zach's. I have trouble seeing Ed struggle as much as Zach did on pick-and-roll defense. There is no denying that Ed needs to add some muscle mass and work on his post defense; I remember Emeka Okafor abusing him, for example. He also needs to commit to learning the system on both ends of the court. But Ed is 24 years old, an explosive athlete who can still be a paint presence to compliment Marc Gasol's all-around game and will only cost the team $3 million this coming season. Ed has room to grow, but the potential is staggering, and it may be time to allow the Big Boss Man to show what he's got.
Reason 2- A trade can make the team better now and in the future. This team needs better perimeter scoring. Period. There are ways to get this through dealing Tayshaun, or Darrell Arthur. The biggest bang-for-your-buck deal, however, would likely involve Zach Randolph. There are several teams that would like to have a PF of Zach's caliber. Here are some possible trade scenarios, brought to you by the beloved NBA Trade Machine; once again, purely hypothetical.
This trade would give Memphis two three point shooting threats, one being a stretch big, plus an expiring contract in Paul Pierce. Boston gets a big to help Garnett, a solid 2 in Afflalo and a future SF in Harkless. Orlando gets another first round pick as they rebuild for the future plus some veteran leadership to help mold a young team.
LeBron recently talked about how they did not have a Zach Randolph type presence in the post. Well, here is your chance to get one. Bosh is moved to a team that could use his spacing abilities, allowing for Marc to command the post area more and for Ed Davis to be the "next big in" for a season so he doesn't have to start right away. Hinrich can be a veteran PG/SG who can be a stop gap measure between Wroten and a full back-up role. Miami gets that post presence plus another wing who can shoot in Rip Hamilton. Chicago only gets 2nd rounders, but they get out of the Luxury Tax, very desirable for them.
There are other possible deals; Zach for Favors and Hayward, Zach for Thad Young and Spencer Hawes, Zach for Humphries, MarShon Brooks and a 1st round pick (yuck.) The point is, there is value there that can add depth to the roster and still add athleticism and shooting.
REASON 3- The Marc Gasol dilemma. Marc Gasol is quite possibly the best big man in the entire NBA. He can shoot, pass, defend, he is a revelation at a position that some said was a dying one in the league. One of his biggest strengths, however, is not utilized as much as it could be, and that is his low post game. A trade of Zach would allow for Marc to utilize his entire tool chest; using a trade scenario from above, imagine a Conley-Pondexter-Pierce-Harrington-Gasol lineup where 4 shooters space along the 3 point line and Marc gets the entire paint to himself. Imagine the slashing possibilities for Mike and Q, the open shots for Pierce and Harrington. Insert any other possible shooters (Korver, Webster, Brewer, Redick) and there is real potential from an offensive perspective. Marc has a real possibility to go from very good to great, but his big brother-from-another-mother may just be standing in his way at this point in his career.
So, there you have it. Arguments for moving Z-Bo; Ed Davis is the future at that position, Zach has trade value to help grow the roster and his absence may help Marc grow like Rudy's departure helped Mike Conley. After looking at both sides of the argument more in depth, I think that Zach should stay. He still has good basketball left in him, and if the Grizzlies are able to move smaller contracts like Darrell Arthur and Tayshaun Prince they will still be able to add shooters to help the spacing issues. Marc and Zach are the best big combo in the league, and that is a rarity that can come in handy against teams like the Miami Heat and others who are going smaller in their rosters. Keep this core together, tweak here and there to space the floor and push for the Finals these last two seasons of Zach's contract. Thanks for reading.