Love Griz or List Griz: Assessing the Value of Zach Randolph

What is it worth to you to keep Zach Randolph in Beale Street Blue? - Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

Buying a home is a major investment. Keeping around a man who helped you remodel your franchise is as well. But as values fade and skills decline, it is important to not overpay for memories and what the home, or the player, used to be. All that being said, how much is a Zach Randolph really worth?

What makes a house a home, exactly?

Is it the four walls and a roof that protect you from the elements? Or the crown molding all around the rooms? Perhaps it is the hardwood floors, or the stainless steel appliances? So many modern amenities give the feel of the high life, and thus for many value in a good home.

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Of course, for others there is something to be said for memories made in that building where you live out your days. Crossing the threshold as Husband and Wife, new pets, babies born, first steps, first words. Yards and nearby parks for children to play and make friends, dinner parties with old college buddies and work colleagues, laughter and tears. A house is not just a shelter to many; it is a part of the story of your life.

The heroes of our sports teams are similar in this way. Where some see a means to an end, a place to stay until the next available upgrade, others see the good times and  all that occurred while that player was on the squad. Therein lies the challenge of NBA General Managers, in this case Chris Wallace. The community of Memphis falls hard for those that love them back; it's unfortunately too rare for those in the We Don't Bluff City to have an outsider come enter their ranks and reciprocate the admiration and respect that they feel for them.

Zach Randolph has done that in spades. He and the city have formed a powerful bond, it would seem, just as some do with those beloved family homes. That affection for something, or someone, alters your judgment in regards to worth. Where Memphians see a beloved city figure, those outside the city see an aging dying breed of a power forward whose game flies in the face of the evolution of the Association. Zach had a good season in 2013-2014, but at what cost? Can Memphis afford to pay for the memories made with Randolph in the FedEx Forum and beyond? What exactly is all that Zach is worth to the Memphis Grizzlies?

A home appraisal finds the value of a house, without emotion involved. In that light, let's try to evaluate Zach Randolph for the house (player) he is now, compare that to other homes (players) on the market, and come to price. What is Z-Bo's value?

Analyzing the Build of the Game

Looking at Zach's production the past four seasons shows a player who, while having a more productive run in 2013-2014, is not what he once was. 2010-2011 was the peak of Z-Bo. His shot chart from that season illustrates this point well.

Zbo_2010-2011_shot_chart_medium

Impressive. 57% finishing in the lane for a big who plays as below-the-rim as Randolph is no easy feat. The next two injury-free seasons were not as friendly on Zach; we will throw 2011-2012 out on a count of his major knee problem. Here are 2012-2013 and 2013-2014, in order.

Zbo_201202013_shot_chart_medium

Zbo_2013-2014_shot_chart_medium

A steady decline in his finishing power in the lane. Other areas appear to how some development and growth, but for a big with the skill set of a Zach Randolph, a majority of his effectiveness is in the paint. "The Bully on the Block" is becoming less of a bully offensively as time goes on.

As a rebounder, Randolph is still very much a force. Over the course of those three seasons mentioned above, Zach averaged double-digit rebounds. His strength as an offensive rebounder is particularly impressive, as this video clip shows in the Clippers series from 2013.

Positioning is impeccable. Zach understands movement under the rim, uses his body well and his low center of gravity and timing can neutralize his lack of athleticism. Again, however, since Zach's awesome 2010-2011 season his rebounding has been on the decline.

  • 2010-2011- 12.2 rebounds per game, 7.8 defensive, 4.4 offensive
  • 2012-2013- 11.3 rebounds per game, 7.2 defensive, 4.1 offensive
  • 2013-2014- 10.1 rebounds per game, 6.7 defensive, 3.4 offensive
For a player whose calling card is the double double, his rebounding numbers being on the downswing year after year is troubling. Even with the growth in other areas of his game (his assist numbers went from 1.4 in 2012-2013 to 2.5 in 2013-2014), that is not what you pay Zach Randolph for. You pay him to clean the glass and score the ball in the paint. He has struggled doing that since his peak in 2010-2011.

Part of the payment of Zach Randolph is also in his ability to close out games. As an offensive force, Z-Bo is often counted on to put the ball in the basket when Memphis needs him most. Here, he is a mixed bag; Z-Bo the closer with a lead is quite solid, shooting his season average in 2013-2014 when up by five or less or tied. This number is actually better than his 2012-2013 performance during the same time. His shooting when behind, however, leaves a bit to be desired; 35.5% when down by five or less in the final five minutes. This is actually the same as his 2012-2013 campaign. So, Z-Bo will not bring you back from behind, but when closing out a win he has value.

While you give Randolph his money for offensive prowess and rebounding domination, you don't pay Zach Randolph to be a defensive stopper. That being said, his struggles on that end of the court are a sign of decline as well. The evolution of the power forward as an athletic player who can at times spread the floor from range has hurt Z-Bo's effectiveness. He does not have the lateral foot speed to play the pick-and-roll/pop as well as perhaps as he has in the past, and his lack of athleticism and length renders him helpless at times against the likes of Serge Ibaka and others like him. Marc Gasol's presence on the Grizzlies nullifies this to an extent, but still a concern nonetheless.

Production is still there, but there is evidence of decline. The Z-Bo of 2010-2011, who was worth a long term big money deal, is no more. Does that mean there is not a place for Zach moving forward if and when he opts out? Of course not. As any home owner knows however, you must make a smart investment.

Knowing the Market

Perhaps after viewing the number and visual evidence you are prepared to move on from your home, memories and all. Zach Randolph's decline has led to some Grizzlies fans leaning in that direction. As you decide whether or not to search for greener pastures for good, it is important to analyze the lay of the land in regards to options elsewhere. Memphis has greater needs on the starting wing to address via the draft/trade, so if Randolph were to opt out, who would be available to fill his big shoes?

Players who have the capability of opting out, such as Chris Bosh and Tim Duncan, likely will not so they can stay in their very positive situations or will opt out but re-sign with their teams for less to bring in needed help (as Zach will, more than likely.) Dirk Nowitzki is a free agent in name alone, as anything other than a return to the Dallas Mavericks would be stunning. Before a big drop into the Josh McRoberts and Boris Diaw range, that leaves Pau Gasol.

Pau is intriguing in that he knows Memphis well and no doubt has dreams of playing in the NBA alongside his younger brother Marc. He can play in the mid-range and the post and is a solid rebounder in his own right. Where he has Zach in size, Zach has him in youth (a year younger than Pau) and health. Both are relatively the same defensively at this point.

If one considers Pau/Z-Bo a wash, perhaps a move is not worth going through the stress actually moving. Zach's leaving Memphis would undoubtedly make waves in the community, and Pau did not leave Memphis on the best terms. Players like Josh McRoberts would not fill Zach's role as well, and players who were possibly supposed to replace Z-Bo ike Ed Davis have not shown enough to warrant such a move. While the potential is there, sometimes it is better to stick with what you know.

The grass is not always greener, as long as the length and money are right. So while Pau is tempting and Ed Davis' potential is still there, a Z-Bo return is not a terrible conclusion.

How Long is Too Long?

If you had a suspicion that the roof of your home was going to fall in, or the foundation was going to give out, would you be more likely to move out before the issue occurred? Of course you would. Same thing goes for players in any sport. You always want to get out before the decline of skill is too much to bear. One year late is worse than one year too soon.

A player like Zach Randolph is naturally going to hope for a deal in the neighborhood of three to four years. While three would not be ideal for the Grizzlies, four is most certainly treading into dangerous waters. If Zach's game is fading now, imagine a 36 year old Randolph running the floors of the FedEx Forum? Painful to imagine. Two seasons would be perfect for Memphis; see where his game takes him, how he adapts moving forward to the changes in the landscape of the post play in 2014 and beyond.

Getting to the Offer

The key point in any negotiation; the brass tax, the moolah, the cash money. If, after looking at all the numbers and film, assessing Zach's decline and the fading of his style from the NBA, you decide to offer a player such as Zach a two year deal you must be sound in your financial offer. Z-Bo will be opting out of a $16.5 million contract; at the least you must reach that number. From there, you can compare Zach's performance to that of other bigs in the league.

Last season as a scorer Zach was comparable to Thaddeus Young, Pau Gasol and Paul Millsap, all within his 17.4 points per game average. Rebounding wise he was more elite; Al Jefferson and Andrew Bogut put up similar numbers. Finally, Randolph's calling card of double-doubles puts him in the Dwight Howard and Joakim Noah realm. Players like Young, Millsap and Bogut are under contract next season and more along the skill level and/or age of Randolph at this point in his career. Bogut is due roughly $13 million next season, while Millsap and Young are due about $9.25 million combined. average the three together and you come to $10.5 million.

So, taking in to account Zach's age (3 years older than Millsap and Bogut, 7 years older than Young), skill level and place among his peers, this assessment puts Zach Randolph's value at...

2 Years, $21 Million

The Human Element

Of course, our Z-Bo is worth more than that to many. We have memories with him, taking Memphis to unprecedented heights and helping the city be better in a variety of ways. Zach is not just a house; he is a home, one that Memphians, and undoubtedly the Chris Wallace led front office, values a good bit.

As in any negotiation, there will undoubtedly be compromise. Randolph's team possibly wants four years, Memphis perhaps wants two, three may be the magic number. If Memphis sees Zach's overall value at $10.5 million but Randolph sees it at $13 million, $11 million or so may be the settling point. This would not be the perfect scenario for the Grizzlies, but rarely does that happen and Zach's value is not as simple as a house appraisal; the human element is strong.

When the two sides sit down to the table to finalize a deal, hopefully both understand the consequences of the agreement that is eventually reached. 2010-2011 Z-Bo is not walking through that door, but 2014-2015 Zach has value to be sure. It is important to not pay for the past, but for the present and future. That is how true long-term success is achieved in small-markets like Memphis, and that is how the best deals are done, whether they be for a power forward or a home.

A three year $33 million deal is worth loving Zach Randolph, both for what he has been and what he will be. If the Randolph camp wants four years, or more than $12 million a season? It may be best for Memphis to list for a new starting big alongside Marc Gasol. That would be a tough decision, but hopefully Wallace and company are up to the challenge.

There will be more great memories made with the Memphis Grizzlies, with or without Zach Randolph.

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