Many remember the 2010-11 season as Randolph's best season as a Memphis Grizzly. During that famous run, he averaged 20.1 PPG (50.3% shooting on the field) and 12.2 rebounds during the regular season. For sure, he was in his prime.
And while he may not be averaging those stats of his younger years, Zach Randolph is discreetly having one of his best seasons ever in Memphis. With 47.6% shooting from the field, he's averaging 16.3 points per game. Plus, he has a PER of 20.6.
After being given an extension over the summer by Memphis for what many considered a "hometown discount", Zach has proven that just because he is aging doesn't mean he can't still can perform at a consistent, extremely productive level. At age 33, this contract will probably be his last long term deal. Z-Bo has always been a Memphis favorite, as he embodies many of the blue collar town aspects. This season, he's sticking to his roots with rainbow jumpers, crashing put backs, and hardcore rebounding. He's a bulldozer that few opponents can stop.
Something that has surprised many is his obvious improvement on the defensive end. Visibly, he is defending his opponents better. He has an astounding defensive rating, allowing just 97 points per 100 possessions. Plus, he's averaging 1.2 steals per game, which ties his career high. He's not athletic, but his grit n' grind mentality on the offensive and defensive ends make up for it.
His rebounding is as good as ever. He continues to play that gritty style of basketball Memphians love, and he's doing it at an efficient rate. In an estimate of defensive rebounds he grabs while on the floor, Randolph has grabbed 28.1% of those rebounds, which is his highest percentage as a Memphis Grizzly. On the offensive end, Zach is grabbing 13.5% of the available rebounds. This is his 4th best percentage in his career. He's averaging 11.7 rebounds every game, and that ties his second best ever in his career (his best being 12.5 rebounds in the 2008-9 season, but that was only during his 11 game tenure with the Knicks). Randolph has already had nine double-doubles this season. Rebounding doesn't depend on age or athleticism. Rather, a strong rebounder relies on a tough mentality, which Randolph has always had and will always have.
Here are some highlights of Z-Bo so far this season:
His game is classic and ageless. As he grows older, his game stays consistent via adaptation. Offensively, his game continues to be solid. Now, let's take a look at his shot chart:
Predictably, most of his shots are around the rim, but he has a decent free throw line jumper, too. His soft touch often results in many crazy put backs that have me wondering "how did that go in?" or "how did he manage to do that?" But this is Randolph's specialty. If the Grizz need a bucket or rebound late in the game, Randolph is one of the reliable options. He's averaging only 1.5 assists per game, but he's had four games with 4 assists already this year. And though Marc and Mike are more prominent on the masthead of the offense, Z-Bo is still a key part of it.
Although Randolph may not be quite what he was back in 2011, he's undoubtedly still a double-double machine. He and Marc Gasol are "brothers from another mother", and one can hardly imagine one big man without the other by his side. In fact, Z-Bo is a key factor to Gasol staying in Memphis. According to Randolph's remarks, it seems to hardly be a question. And though other teams can present tantalizing offers, they can't give him an offer which includes Randolph, as he's locked in with the Grizzlies. And those teams can't guarantee another big man that would work as perfectly with Gasol. These two big men have played together now for multiple years, and chemistry comes with that experience together. Gasol is having a career year, and I can't help but think that is positively affects the other big fella with his own game.
Also, a new sense of security that comes with a new contract might be part of the explanation of his great year so far, too. Memphis appears to be the place Zach will retire, and I expect he wants to win Memphis a ring before his jersey is inevitably hung up in the rafters.
And if Zach continues to dominate the way he has through the first 17 games of the season, the Grizzlies will continue to find success in their climb to the Finals.