Zach Randolph has done Memphis proud. Now would be a poor time for regression. - Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
One would always hope that you can take someone at their word. Zach Randolph has done nothing in his Memphis career to make someone thing that he is being disingenuous. That being said, with millions and years on the line, the Grizzlies front office would be wise to allow for game play on the court to decide which road they travel as the trade deadline slowly approaches.
Zach Randolph, the past 2 seasons, has averaged roughly 13 points and 10 rebounds per game. He has started the 2013-2014 season averaging...13 points and 10 rebounds. Granted the season just started, but this may be the guy Zach is moving forward, especially considering the increased scoring role Mike Conley and Marc Gasol will likely be taking on more consistently. Having said that, those numbers are comparable to Ersan Ilyasova, Tristan Thompson and Kenneth Faried. Zach, at this point in his career, should make similar money to these players.
Faried and Thompson are on rookie deals, so I will use Ilyasova's salary of $7.9 million as a starting point. If I were the front office, a 4 year-$34 million dollar offer is my starting point, with the 4th year as a team option in descending value; $10, $9, $8, $7 million. This would correspond with assuming Zach's ability will continue to fade as he ages (as it does everyone.) This gives Zach what he asks for; financial stability over years and enabling himself to "retire a Grizzly." It also gives the front office financial flexibility and a chance to walk away in year 4. I also would support a shorter deal for a bit more money; 2 years, $22 million is as high as I would go, however. That contract is also fairly tradable; if things go south, you can ship Zach out for a shooter.
If Zach does indeed back up his words with action and is willing to re-sign for less money, so be it. I get flack for being an Ed Davis supporter, but no one can deny that Ed Davis is A) considered a key piece of the Rudy Gay deal B) more athletically gifted and more able to affect a game defensively than Zach Randolph and C) is 8 years younger than Zach. He is going to be given every opportunity to prove to Joerger, Hollinger, Levien and the rest of the Grizzlies front office that he can be "the man." What he does with that opportunity is up to him, and so far he has not risen to the challenge.
However, if Ed Davis comes along and lives up to his potential, it makes more long term sense financially and roster wise to go with Ed Davis and trade Zach before he has the option of opting in. You gain financial opportunity, youth and defensive length on the block alongside Marc.
Davis has yet to prove he can take Zach's spot. Opportunity will continue to knock at his door, but it is on him to answer.
It is certainly too early to make any decisions. As the season plays out, Davis needs to show energy and development while Zach needs to further integrate himself into Joerger's system. If things do not improve for Ed and Zach stays steady, I support tagging Ed on to a Tayshaun deal and re-signing Zach. But it cannot be a decision made with longing for yesteryear and wanting Zach to "retire a Grizzly." Allen Iverson just retired as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers. That can happen regardless. If Zach is going to stay the starter at the expense of Ed Davis, it needs to be what is best for the Grizzlies on the court going forward.
A misstep here can slam shut the Conley/Gasol title window. To borrow a line from "Breaking Bad", the Grizzlies would be wise to tread lightly and allow the cream to rise to the top through the grind of an NBA winter.
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