He's known by many names around Memphis. Some call him Z-Bo, but when announced at home games he's referred to as "Number 50 For the City". And this season, one could even describe him as "Timeless".
Every year, Zach Randolph has adapted and developed his game as he progresses in age. Father Time has made his jabs, this is true. In comparison to past years, Randolph's stats are on a slight decline. This season, he averaged 15.3 PPG and 7.8 rebounds in 68 games. Last year, he was averaging 16.1 PPG and 10.5 rebounds.
But let's take into account the various roles he's had to play. He's had to be the lead man, at times. During other times, he's had to taken a step back in order for others to shine. At the beginning of this season, Zach was in theory the third option on offense. But when Marc Gasol and Mike Conley went down with injuries, he had to resume the lead role. And he stepped up. In the month of February, he averaged 18 PPG. In March, he averaged an impressive 19.1 PPG. So when Memphis needed him to take the reins, Z-Bo filled the role. In March, he recorded his first triple double of his career (28 points, 10 assists, and 11 rebounds) against the Los Angeles Clippers:
At age 34, everyone keeps saying Randolph has to decline eventually. But so far, he's proved the critics wrong. His bully ball style of play is still excelling in the evolving NBA, and his age is barely showing. In fact, many times this season it hasn't shown at all:
On the other hand, he was out for a handful of games due to a couple of different injuries. As he's gotten older, Randolph has had knee soreness issues in particular. However, when he's been healthy, Randolph has shown that he can produce night-in and night-out, even with the league gravitating away from his style of play.
Zach Randolph came to Memphis looking for a fresh start, and he revitalized his career here. He's been one of the most consistent players for the Grizzlies, especially this season. Something that has been particularly interesting to watch develop is Randolph's improvement in the assist area. As his role on this team has changed, he has been able to settle into that third-option role by finding open teammates and delivering timely passes. But when Conley and Gasol went down, Randolph quickly switched his mindset and has taken over more on the offensive end.
The epitome of Zach Randolph's career was perhaps the 2011 playoffs, in which he averaged 22.2 PPG. Against the number one seeded San Antonio Spurs in 6 games, he averaged 21.5 PPG. But overall, Z-Bo has always shown up big in the postseason. Well, now is another chance for him to shine with players like Mike Conley and Marc Gasol on the sidelines due to injuries. And, just like in the 2011 NBA playoffs, he's facing the Spurs again...and the Grizzlies are massive underdogs, again.
Perhaps, for the last time in his career, Zach Randolph has a chance to be the front man for the Memphis Grizzlies. Undoubtedly, he'll be the first option on offense...and the number one target of the opposing team. But this is the chance for Z-Bo to shine once again like he did in the 2011 playoffs. And although the narrative does differ this year from 2011 with all of Memphis' injuries, the bottom line is the same: Zach Randolph has to lead the Grizzlies this postseason for Memphis to stand a chance.
The future of Zach Randolph will probably be returning to being the third option on offense and standing in the shadows of Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. But for this 2016 postseason, he'll be the Grizzlies' star veteran leading a group of misfits into the lair of the San Antonio Spurs. The question is, will Zach Randolph once again be up to the challenge?