Zach Randolph has not only integrated himself with the Memphis Grizzlies from a basketball perspective, but he has also created a legacy in the community. Randolph has helped create the culture of grit n’ grind, alongside teammate Tony Allen and others. Z-Bo embodies what it means to be tough in the game of basketball. He bullies his way in the paint and makes up for his lack of athleticism with pure strength and grit. Years ago, he arrived in Memphis with a bit of a sketchy reputation. Now, he’s an icon in Memphis both on and off the court.
Over the seasons, Randolph has been a blunt but effective force on offense as a double-double machine. And while his game has evolved over the years as he has aged, his will and desire to score in the paint hasn’t changed. This past year, Randolph has really had to undergo some changes. Instead of being reluctant about his new role off the bench, Z-Bo embraced his new job and thrived as a sixth man. In my eyes, he should’ve been a serious candidate for Sixth Man of the Year. On the season, he averaged 14.1 points, 1.7 assists, and 8.2 rebounds per game in 24.5 minutes per game. He also had a PER (Player Efficiency Rating) of 18.58. Every night, Randolph has been willing to do the dirty work in the paint, whether it’s in the starting line up or off the bench.
However, despite Randolph’s consistent production, his numbers are slightly declining as he’s aging. Now, the Grizzlies are faced with the burning question of whether to let Randolph finish his career in Memphis or let one of the founders of grit n’ grind walk. Some might argue that Memphis has to drift away from its roots to go all the way. Others say to ride it out the “Core Four” in this Warriors/Cavaliers world.
However, it’s not like Coach David Fizdale’s new system has eliminated the Grizzlies’ gritty style of play of the past. Rather, he has implemented an evolved form of it that plays at a slightly faster pace. Randolph has shown that he’s perfectly capable of playing in Fizdale’s system off the bench. His numbers show that.
As the Grizzlies, you must look at this from several angles. Truthfully, in today’s NBA, guards and wings that spread the floor and shoot threes are most valuable, and that’s where the league is headed. From big men, teams now expect rim protectors who can spread the floor and knock down threes somewhat consistently.
Well, Zach Randolph doesn’t really provide any of those things.
On the other hand, the Grizzlies probably aren’t going to pick up an equal value player on the market this summer by letting Zach Randolph walk. He guarantees production off the bench, offers veteran leadership, and provides consistent rebounding. He fits well in Memphis’ system, and he is an important part of the current roster from multiple perspectives.
This isn’t just a sentimental thing. On the business side, keeping Randolph in many ways makes sense. It’s not necessarily the best thing for Memphis to keep the entire “Core Four” together, but it is in their best interest to sign Randolph at least to a hometown discount deal and take the guarantee of production that Randolph offers unless a golden opportunity with another player comes waltzing through the Grizzlies’ door.
Now, what would a hometown discount look like? More than likely, it would be around a 2 year, $26 million deal. The number may sound a little big, but the TV deal has hiked the cap up around 35%, so this deal seems reasonable, if Z-Bo is willing to take a bit of a pay cut to ride out his career with Memphis. On the open market, he might get paid only $5-$10 million a year in a two year deal, but a young team in desperate need for some veteran leadership would likely overpay him. And what could the Grizzlies get to replace him, realistically, if they let Randolph walk? That’s pretty up in the air.
Unless the perfect opportunity came along to replace Randolph with an equal level or better level player, then Memphis should let Z-Bo continue his career in Memphis and sign him to a two year deal. At age 35, Randolph isn’t going to get any better, but he’s proven that as he ages, his game has changed but remains reliable and productive offensively. He was extremely efficient from the bench last season, and he continues to make up for his lack of athleticism and speed with hard-nosed rebounding and scoring.
It’s time for Randolph to make his last stand of his career, and he should be in Memphis to finish it off.