Earlier in the week, Grizzly Bear Blues’ Site Manager Joe Mullinax ran a two-part piece ranking everyone on the Grizzlies in order of trade value. It’s a great piece (and you can check it out here and here), and there’s some excellent stuff in there.
One of the most intriguing parts of that article? Rankings number four and five, which put Tony Allen just ahead of Zach Randolph in terms of trade value.
That ranking got me and Austin Reynolds, of both GBB and BattleBlogs fame, discussing (read: arguing). Who really is more valuable? Would Z-Bo or TA fetch a larger return in a deal? It also led to this poll:
Me and @ReynoldsRant have been discussing this: Who has higher trade value?— Brandon C. (@BallFromGrace) December 28, 2016
First of all, I’d like to point out that the majority of people agreed with me and not Austin. This is very important. It’s also worth discussing how each of these members of the Core Four compare in terms of trade value.
(Author’s Note: Yes, trade value is also determined by which team is bidding, so one team may value Z-Bo higher than TA, but arguing over this in absolutes is more fun because you get to yell at the other person for being wrong, which is the most important part of sports.)
We’ll start with the trade piece. Joe had this to say about why he ranked Tony ahead of Zach:
I tend to agree there. Wing defenders are an incredibly valuable piece, particularly for a playoff contender. Teams that plan on competing deep into the summer need a defender capable of stopping, or at the very least, slowing, an opponent’s leading scorer. Allen offers that in spades. At his best, Allen still possesses the ability to shut down the best of the best. That talent was on full display as recently as the Grizzlies’ win over Golden State, when Allen locked down Klay Thompson, holding the Splash Brother to 8 points just three games after he’d gone for 60 against Indiana.
TA’s big question mark comes on the offensive end. With Tony on the floor, teams have often followed Steve Kerr’s blueprint, sagging off to help clog the lane and make things more difficult for the rest of Memphis’ offense. Early this season, Fizdale has combated some of the “make Tony beat you” techniques by using TA as a primary ball handler, having him bring the ball up to initiate the offense. That strategy was employed as recently as Thursday’s match-up against the Thunder, with Mike out and Fizdale still hesitant to use Wade Baldwin fresh off of his recall from Iowa.
For Zach, the questions are reversed. Z-Bo’s brand of butt-centric bully ball has proven to still be effective this season, particularly as he’s been moved to the bench. Randolph has dominated his way to a respectable 13.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, even as his minutes have been reduced, and his per-36 numbers in both categories are near career highs. There’s no questioning Zach’s offensive contribution to Memphis in his new role.
But Randolph is still a liability on the defensive end, completely unable to contain in pick-and-roll, and without the ability to protect the rim. The move to the bench has helped hide him somewhat, but Randolph still gets exposed even then.
It’s those issues with Z-Bo’s game that make Allen the better trade chip. Allen, for all his trick-or-treating and offensive deficiencies, can still be a viable starter. His ability to cut to the basket also at least provide some sort of offensive value. Occasionally making him a primary ball handler, while far from a panacea, at least forces a little more honesty from opposing defenses.
It’s much harder to envision Z-Bo as a starter. He’s not athletic enough to defend starting fours, and he doesn’t have the size or athleticism to provide rim protection as a starting center. His offensive prowess against reserve units is a great quality, but his defense, even against bench players, is lacking.
For those reasons, it’s Tony Allen whose trade value is higher. Not Z-Bo. Austin is wrong.