Grading the 2013-2014 Memphis Grizzlies: Zach Randolph, PF

Steady as she goes, Zach Randolph's play was one of the few constants during the tumultuous season the Memphis Grizzlies recently concluded. Z-Bo rebounded, scored and helped carry the team into the playoffs. How Zach re-invents himself heading in to next season (and his next contract) is one of the main storylines of what has already been an intense offseason in Memphis.

Zach Randolph, PF

2013-2014 Regular Season Statistics

GP MIN FGM FGA FG% 3PM 3PA 3P% FTM FTA FT% ORB DRB REB AST TO STL BLK PTS +/-
79 34.2 7.1 15.2 46.7% .0 .3 10% 3.2 4.3 74.2% 3.4 6.7 10.1 2.5 2.3 .7 .3 17.4 2.2

Advanced Metrics- Offensive Rating 104.7, Defensive Rating 103.1, Net Rating +1.5. Usage Rate (Number of plays "used" per 40 PACE adjusted minutes)- 24.8, True Shooting Percentage (adjusting for value of FTs and 3PFGs)- 51%

2013-2014 Playoff Statistics

GP MIN FGM FGA FG% 3PM 3PA 3P% FTM FTA FT% ORB DRB REB AST TO STL BLK PTS +/-
6 39.0 7.0 17.3 40.4% .0 .2 0% 4.2 6.8 61.0% 2.8 5.8 8.6 2.3 1.7 .8 .2 18.2 -5.3

Advanced Metrics- Offensive Rating 93.4, Defensive Rating 101.4, Net Rating -8. Usage Rate (Number of plays "used" per 40 PACE adjusted minutes)- 23.7, True Shooting Percentage (adjusting for value of FTs and 3PFGs)- 44.7%

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If you had told Portland Trailblazers fans 10 years ago that Zach Randolph would eventually become a beloved member of a community and the steadiest presence on a roster for an entire season, they likely would have laughed at you. The man they call Z-Bo has certainly come a long way from his "Jailblazer" past, and while he is still not perfect he certainly has become a Memphis icon. He is embraced by a city that many feel he personifies; rough around the edges, hard-working, determined and blue-collar, Zach and Memphis do appear to be a match made in mud heaven.

On the court, Zach was there for the Grizzlies when you needed him more often than not this past season. Marc Gasol, Tony Allen and Mike Conley all missed significant amounts of time this year with a variety of ailments. It was Zach Randolph who chugged along, again averaging a double-double for the season and continuing to frustrate opponents with his low center of gravity and "old man game." When Zach had it working in the post, be it high or low, it was violent poetry in motion.

Defensively Zach struggled at times, as did much of the team with Marc Gasol being out for so long. Z-Bo especially missed his "brother from another mother" in this area; between his ability to call the defense and opposing team's offensive sets as well as his length/timing, he could take on the best big of the opposing team and allow Zach to rest a bit more defensively. Zach has never been known as a defensive monster, but his footwork was slow throughout the year, especially in reaction to various pick and roll/pop situations.

This lack of lateral foot speed showed itself a good bit in the Oklahoma City Thunder playoff series. Against a set of bigs who could match his physicality, Zach did not have the athleticism or length to make OKC pay for the way they defended him. Check out Zach's season shot chart on the left as compared with his playoff one on the right.

Z-bo_season_shot_chart_medium Z-bo_playoff_shot_chart_medium

To be fair, anytime you play 6 games against Serge Ibaka and the OKC defense instead of a set of inferior teams, percentages will fall. Marc Gasol's performance shooting wise dropped more than Zach's did. However, Zach's lack of finishing in the lane and inability to convert his jab-step jumper hurt his game a good bit. His offensive rebound numbers were down as well despite playing 5 extra minutes in the playoffs, affecting another area that he could have helped the team. The loss of more efficient  Zach play, in addition to other factors, cost Memphis the series (and the loss of Zach completely for Game 7 did not help matters.)

Reinforcement and refinement for Zach Randolph.

Reinforcement- Continue to Share the Rock

Watching tape of Z-Bo this season and just watching the season unfold as it happened it became clear that Zach was moving the ball better than he had in a while. The numbers back this up. Randolph averaged an almost whole assist higher this season than he did during the previous two. His highlight reel above showed great examples of this; whether he was playing off of Marc Gasol in high-low post sets or dishing to a slashing Tayshaun Prince or Tony Allen, Randolph became more of a creator for others in 2013-2014. As his game evolves with age, if he could force teams to respect his ability to facilitate more it could allow more space for him to work that he will need to compensate for loss of foot speed.

Refinement- Share the Rock More in Crunch Time

Much of the criticism of the Grizzlies roster as constructed is that there is no set end of game go to guy. Mike Conley has fit in to this role some, but at other times it has been Zach Randolph. Z-Bo isolation plays in spots have become like Rudy Gay isolation plays of the past in that they stop set offense in crunch time situations with ball movement often dying in Zach's hands. You can appreciate that willingness to be "the man" to an extent, but at times this year it came at the expense of attempted comebacks. Here are Zach's shooting numbers when the Grizzlies were behind in specific situations (data from media.nba.com/stats)

  • Last 5 minutes tied or losing by 5 or less: 11-31-35.5%
  • Last 3 minutes tied or losing by 5 or less: 6-16- 37.5%

Compare that with Mike Conley's 58.3% and 48% scoring percentages during those same periods of time and in come-from-behind situations it would appear Conley is better suited to lead that charge. Z-Bo's percentages are far better when the team is ahead (46% and 48.7% during those times) so Zach can certainly help close out the game. Z-Bo should make sure Conley gets first dibs on scoring the ball when the Grizzlies are down moving forward.

Three Thoughts Before the Final Grade

  • During the playoffs Zach Randolph was the best Grizzly at getting to the free throw line, averaging almost 7 attempts from the charity stripe over the course of his 6 games. For whatever reason, he was also one of the major culprits of missing out on converting these chances. 61% for the playoffs was 13% lower than his overall season average. Those lost opportunities did not help Memphis in their attempt to upset the Thunder. Hopefully this is not a developing trend.
  • Going along with the Z-Bo iso concerns from earlier, Zach could continue to find ways to better score the basketball while supporting the team scheme. One of the first pieces I ever wrote for Grizzly Bear Blues (which you can find here) dealt with how Zach could possibly help the Grizzlies by taking a step back. While he was unable to this season due to injuries to his teammates (and possibly being unwilling to anyway), one item from that article that still rings true is offensive rebounding as a focus. Zach could be the best garbage man in the league, cleaning the offensive glass using his keen sense of timing and positioning. More Conley, Gasol and Lee shots moving forward mean better spacing, and possibly better use of Zach.
  • As far as leadership is concerned, you can argue this was one of Zach's best seasons. He led through action and by example, doing his job as best he can night after night. When the Grizzlies needed him most down the stretch, he was there. The games against the Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks the last week of the season were especially powerful performances (32 points and 9 rebounds vs. Phoenix, 27 points and 14 rebounds vs. Dallas.) He struggled against OKC, but you can argue Memphis never would have been in the spot they were to give the Thunder a run for their money without Zach Randolph.
  • The Grades

  • Growth in His Game- C+
  • Offensive Production- A-
  • Defensive Impact- C
  • Leadership/Intangibles- A
  • FINAL GRADE- B+

    Zach gets leniency defensively for his partner in crime Gasol being out. Z-Bo had a very good season, and without him there's a good chance the Grizzlies don't stay afloat during those Gasol-less days. The key to this offseason (before the insanity of the past 8 days) was Zach's return and how it happened. I have always been of the opinion that Zach at a good price for the franchise is a fine move going forward. Z-Bo at $24 to $33 million over 3 years would be a fine window, especially if the contract was in descending order (i.e. $12, $10, $8 million.)

    Zach could also opt out and find greener grass elsewhere, with a team with cap space who is willing to overpay to get the likely best PF available if he opts out. Zach at 3 years $39 million or more would be hard for him to turn down, and the Grizzlies would be wise to not pay that amount. Of course, Zach could decide to take the guaranteed money now and opt in to his deal using his player option for $16.5 million this coming season, which would hamstring the Grizzlies cap wise and lead into another season of contract uncertainty, not ideal considering Marc Gasol is up for renewal himself after next season.

    Zach has been a huge part of this Grizzlies franchise since his arrival. His return is probable, but under what terms? Will Peragate affect his decision making? Will he truly take less to help build a winner long term? Or will he opt in or look for more cash in another NBA city?

    Time will tell. One thing is for sure, whether or not you see him as a long term fit for the Grizzlies, this much remains true-

    Zach Randolph can (still) ball.

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