After watching the past few games of Memphis Grizzlies' basketball, you can tell that there is a distinct difference in how the starting lineup plays now that Zach Randolph is on the bench.
While it most certainly is still a small sample size, and while Memphis is 1-2 in those three games with the new starters, the flow of play is much cleaner and free-flowing. These numbers from nba.com/stats bear that out, as far as Jeff Green's performance goes. Jeff Green, as a starter without Zach Randolph on the floor, is flourishing when compared to Jeff Green alongside Z-Bo in his previous starts.
|Jeff Starts With Zach (Nov. 29th-Dec.11th)||Jeff Starts Without Zach (since Dec. 11th)|
|True Shooting %||42.3||52.8|
|Points Per Game||8.9||17.3|
November 29th is the game Zach Randolph returned from his knee injury from earlier in the season. Zach and Jeff played together as starters for seven games, whereas the most recent run of games, the start of the Z-Bo the bench player era, has lasted just three games.
Jeff is jumping up across the board, defending more effectively, scoring more efficiently, and finding ways to work the floor that simply do not exist when Zach is on the block near and next to him.
Zach missed five games during that stretch of injury. While he was out completely, was Jeff Green as successful?
|Jeff Starts Without Zach (Nov. 20th-27th)|
|True Shooting %||58.3|
|Points Per Game||12.6|
Not as good of numbers, but still for the most part much better than what he was doing as of late alongside Zach.
Of course, there are other wrinkles to this. The benching of Zach has coincided with Tony Allen's injury absence, meaning that both Matt Barnes and Courtney Lee, key bench pieces previously, are now starters. Offensively these two players fit Jeff Green's style of play much better than Z-Bo and TA do, and that creates even more opportunity for Jeff to potentially have success. Dave Joerger looks to be interested in sticking with this style of play in the long-term, meaning that a player with the slowing tendencies of a Zach Randolph or offensive issues of Tony Allen wont be returning to the starting lineup anytime soon.
So, Zach is a bench role player. So be it. Should Zach come in to the game and play alongside Jeff as he goes to the wing, then?
Green and Randolph have, far and away, the worst net rating of any two-man lineup that Memphis has trotted out for at least 250 minutes so far this season. In fact, among the five worst pairings using that criteria, Jeff Green features prominently.
|Two-Man Lineup||Minutes Played||Net Rating|
A rough assessment. Jeff Green is a part of the three worst two-man lineups that the Grizzlies have deployed. Courtney Lee makes three appearances on the list as well, while Randolph, Barnes, Allen, and Mike Conley only show up once.
Is this a showing of Green's struggles? Sure. But it also shows the fact that Green cannot play alongside players who take up room inside, whether it be on the post (Z-Bo) or as a slasher primarily at the rim (Allen). Green's issues alongside Lee are harder to explain, but part of it may be Jeff being on the wing more than at and around the rim.
Unfortunately for Allen and Randolph, Green's game is the one that fits best with the new style of play that the Grizzlies are trying to play. So Jeff will be the one who is given opportunity, while Zach and Tony (eventually) will come off the bench. Dave Joerger would be wise, particularly in the case of Randolph and Green, to make sure that they play as few minutes as possible together.
You can maximize the strengths of both men in this way. Green can play at the 4 a decent bit, creating off the dribble and in transition for himself and others alongside other players who can run and switch defensively. Mismatches will occur almost every night, including tonight as Dirk Nowitzki attempts to defend the athletic Green. Randolph, meanwhile, can be surrounded by shooters who do not necessarily need the threat of paint penetration as much as Green does. A Chalmers/Conley/Barnes/Jeff/Gasol lineup, for example, has the ability to run as well as defend and switch. On the flip side, A Conley/Lee/Carter/JaMychal Green/Z-Bo lineup gives Zach the room he needs down low while having several floor spacers who can create off the dribble and off of pick-and-pop looks with JaM.
Dave Joerger can learn from the mistakes of the past when it comes to Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay, who also were believed to not be able to co-exist. Both Jeff and Zach can help make Memphis a better team moving forward, but they must be deployed properly in order for that to occur.