Zach Randolph isn't the same Zach Randolph that can overpower a team on his own, but that's okay. That's not what the Grizzlies need from him.
There is no reason to believe that Randolph will improve or maintain his past production this season. He's 34 and he's slowing down. It's not that he won't be effective. It will be that he won't be as effective in a large role. The Grizzlies have to do some of the same things they did last season to keep him contributing.
The keys are the following: keeping Randolph's minutes low, giving him rest against easy opponents, and keeping his shot attempts low, but efficient.
Last season he played the fewest minutes in his Grizzlies tenure (outside of 2012-2013 when OJ Mayo took out his knee). Keeping his minutes low in the games he does play will keep him rested for the eventual big games he also plays in.
In games without Randolph last season, the Grizzlies were 4-7. That is including a 3-5 skid when the Grizzlies looked dazed and confused (Randolph was out due to a right knee injury). This season the Grizzlies need to find games they can win even with Randolph out. A good example would be the Grizzlies' stretch from December 18-22. They play the Dallas Mavericks, Indiana Pacers, and Philadelphia 76ers. Those are all winnable games that Randolph doesn't necessarily have to be a part of.
Keeping his minutes low and sitting him out every once in a while should keep him rested and healthy. There is no guarantee, but it should be Coach Dave Joerger's plan going into the season.
This past season, Randolph averaged the lowest amount of field goal attempts per game in his Grizzlies career. This kept him producing at an acceptable level. On 13.1 field goal attempts per game, Randolph shot 48.7%, which is his highest percentage since 2010-2011. The Grizzlies kept his shot attempts in places he could make them: the right block, right elbow, and some mid range jumpers.
Randolph wasn't option 1 in the offense anymore, and for good reason (besides the emergence of Aggressive Gasol).
Randolph has always had struggles against bigger players with athleticism and length, and it got worse last season. Randolph relies on power, touch, and footwork. He can't leave the floor like Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Against length and athleticism, he has to force his way into the post then use the rim to protect himself. Now, Randolph isn't able to do that as often as he was in past years.
Here's how Randolph fared against players with significant length and/or athleticism last season:
|Player Defending Randolph||Shots Randolph Attempted||Shots Randolph Made||Randolph FG%|
(stats courtesy of NBASavant)
As long as Randolph isn't taking the majority of shots and is taking shots that he can make, he'll be fine. The emergence of Aggressive Marc Gasol makes this easier. DeAndre Jordan and Steven Adams may not see as much time on Randolph with Gasol tearing them up.
The Grizzlies need Randolph to pick his spots and dominate selectively in places he can make shots. It's what he did last year and it worked.
The Grizzlies just need to help set him up for success.