Zach Randolph's Staying in Memphis, and the Grizzlies Keep Grinding
But while the drama shrouds the impending signings from the free agency big three, the Memphis Grizzlies have locked up their staple at power forward, Zach Randolph, for two years and $20 million. He also opted in to his 2014-15 player option worth $16.5 million, meaning Randolph has three more seasons on the payroll for the Grizz.
While Memphis isn't the ideal landing spot for most of the free agents available this off-season, the Grizzlies are a fantastic organization right now and are best suited keeping a good thing going with minor tweaks. It's the Memphis way, really.
After all, they may have been a Mike Conley injury and Randolph and Nick Calathes suspensions away from besting the Oklahoma City Thunder in seven games in the first round of the playoffs. That they even reached the playoffs is promising, considering how tough the Western Conference was, and especially after their slow start. The resilient Grizzlies outlasted a Marc Gasol injury and went from the outside looking in to a tough out in the first round.
Why Memphis Can Hang Around
If following the Grizzlies' ebbs and flows wasn't exactly your thing last year, just know that they're a serious contender. They reached the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year and posted their second consecutive 50-plus-win season.
The Grizz finished last year 50-32 and ranked 13th in nERD. nERD is numberFire's predictive measurement for win percentage. Their nERD of 54.7 wasn't much over the league average (which is always 50.0), but they had the extreme misfortune of playing in the NBA's Western Conference. Only three teams ahead of them in nERD were from the Eastern Conference, tough sledding for Memphis.
But toughness is what defines the Grizzlies. Few things evidence this quite like their stifling defense, which ranked seventh in our defensive efficiency metric. Their 95.2 points allowed per game ranked third in the NBA. For as much of a cornerstone as Z-Bo is, his presence isn't what anchors the defense.
It's all about his offense.
A Closer Look at Randolph
Randolph continued his double-double production and averaged 17.4 points and 10.1 rebounds per game this year, his seventh straight season averaging a double-double (excluding 2011-12 when he played just 28 games). His 10.1 rebounds per game were the ninth-most in the NBA, and his 47 double-doubles were tied for fourth in the league.
Points and rebounds tend to tell a good story, particularly if you're a basketball traditionalist, but looking into the advanced stats help differentiate the truly great from the ostensibly great.
The Grizzlies as a unit, as mentioned previously, ranked 13th in nERD. Randolph, individually, had a nERD score of 1.1. nERD is comparable to win shares and gauges how many wins above .500 a team is likely to earn with a given player as a starter. I know what you're thinking: 1.1 wins above .500 isn't very much. And you'd be right. Randolph ranked eighth on his team in nERD and 10th in efficiency. That's not very good to be honest.
Randolph's nERD and nF efficiency has plummeted recently, and his adjusted shooting metrics have dropped, too, since his first season with the Grizzlies in 2008-09. (The chart omits his 28-game 2011-12 season, and the stats are from Basketball-Reference.com.)
|Season||nERD||nF Eff.||PER||TS%||eFG%||Usage %|
Randolph's overall impact on the Grizzlies this year, evidenced by his nERD score, was lower this year than in any other since coming to Memphis. His nF efficiency was also the lowest. His true shooting percentages (which includes all field goal attempts as well as free throws) leveled off in the past two years, as has his effective field goal percentage (which adjusts shooting percentages for the point disparagement between two-pointers and three-pointers).
His usage rate, though, was its highest, and he led the Grizzlies in usage for the third time in this four-year subset. Randolph continues to be the centerpiece of the offense even at 32 years old. Though Memphis ranked only 15th in offensive efficiency per our rankings, they posted their best Offensive Rating in the past three years (per Basketball-Reference.com) under new head coach Dave Joerger.
On the Periphery
Randolph doesn't have much of a reputation for doing much outside of being a dominant rebounder and low-post scorer, but this season indicated a dip in rebounds, which is bad news for Randolph.
However, a significant statistic piqued this year, something that may indicate a new wrinkle in Randolph's offensive repertoire.
|Season||Off Reb%||Def Reb%||Total Reb%||Ast%||Stl%||Blk%|
Overall, there was a decline in Randolph's rebounding percentages, a measure of how many attainable rebounds a player snared while on the floor, but it didn't cause him to drop into the single-digits per game.
Perhaps a more significant trend is his increased assist percentage. His 12.7% clip was his second-highest ever (behind a 12.8% rate in 2006-07 with the Portland Trail Blazers). If this is a sign to come, if it indicates that Randolph can be a distributing asset from the forward position, then the Grizzlies offense should be able to experience an uptick in productivity and efficiency to go along with their defensive excellence.
Simply put, Randolph still has the ability to impact games and affect defenses, and his elevated assist rate indicates he may be morphing into the type of player who can impact the game in other ways. It's a significant leap, but a promising one.
To the Bank
Randolph embodies the Grizzlies persona, and he's been vocal that he wants to stick around in Memphis for good. Three more years means he'll be under contract until he's 35, but his playing style is such that he can keep up his consistently effective production. His $16.5 million salary in 2014-15 gives the Grizzlies currently the sixth-highest payroll entering next year, per HoopsHype.com.
His $10.0 million for the next two years places Memphis around $35 million in salary for 2015-16 (before extending Gasol that is), which is enough space for some significant role players to add on the wings with Conley and first-round draft pick Jordan Adams.
The signing of a below-the-rim 32-year-old whose numbers show that he still has most of his game won't be the most remembered signing of the 2014 free agency season by a long shot, but it gives the Grizzlies the flexibility to continue to build around a stable core of talent and continue making playoff opponents quake.