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MikeCheck: Grizzlies Offseason Outlook – Zach Randolph

By Michael Wallace
Grind City Media

MEMPHIS – What’s next for the Memphis Grizzlies?

Who stays? Who goes?

How will the Grit’N’Grind era continue to evolve?

Those questions and more face the Grizzlies as they embark on an offseason destined for change after their seventh consecutive playoff trip ended in a six-game series loss to the Spurs in the first round. There’s plenty of optimism moving forward. There’s also clearly something most fans, players, coaches and executives agree on: 43 wins, a No. 7 seed in the playoffs and a first-round exit aren’t good enough.

Over a stretch of 17 weekdays, we’ll dive into my ‘Offseason Outlook’ series that breaks down my personal analysis as to where each player on the Grizzlies’ roster stands, in addition to coach David Fizdale and general manager Chris Wallace, heading into a potentially pivotal offseason.

Player: Zach Randolph, 35

Measurables: 6-9, 260 – 16th NBA Season

2016-17 Stats: 14.1ppg., 8.2rpg (team-high), 44.9FG%; 24.5 mpg

Status: Unrestricted Free Agent – $10.4 million salary in 2016-17

Notable

Randolph ranks third among active players in career double-doubles behind Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol. He also passed Magic Johnson this season to become Michigan State’s all-time leading NBA scorer.

Quoting Randolph

It’s the first time for me out of my whole career to be a free agent. It’s going to be different for me, but I look forward to it. This is home for me. This is where I want to be. I’ve made that clear several times. Let’s just see if we can work it out and get things taken care of.

Upside

In my first full season in Memphis with Grind City Media, it quickly became clear that no player is more beloved on and off the court and fits the self-made, hard-scrabble identity of this town than Z-Bo. He privately and consistently rejected the notion he’s primarily a reserve at this stage of his career, but Randolph professionally accepted his role and led all NBA reserves in double-doubles this season. It resulted in one of the most efficient seasons of his Memphis tenure as the team’s third-leading scorer and top rebounder despite averaging just 24 minutes. The way I see it, in the right role (sixth man), at the right price (likely $8-10 million) and on the right contract (two years), Z-Bo can still be a great fit here.

Downside

David West. Pau Gasol. Joe Johnson. Look around the remaining NBA playoff landscape and it’s easy to find late-career veterans who walked away from sentimental attachments and their career’s best work elsewhere to fill a needed role on a contender. Randolph has played 16 NBA seasons and this is essentially the first time he’s truly on the verge of full free agency. It’s understandable why he looks forward to the process, although he strongly indicated a preference to remain in Memphis. The problem is, the Grizzlies have a logjam at power forward, where JaMychal Green is a restricted free agent, Brandan Wright is dissatisfied and 2015 first-round pick Jarell Martin remains largely unproven.

Bottom line

Randolph wants to test assumptions that no team will pay him as a starter. But there’s always a squad willing to throw a one-year, $15 million Jeff Green-type deal out there. Will Randolph chase the money, or a reduced role on a title contender, or a pseudo combination of both and stay Fifty-for-this-city? It’s difficult to see Randolph, Green, Wright and Martin all back next season. But the CBA rules do grant Memphis the financial flexibility to keep Z-Bo in tow. This next season or so could solidify Randolph’s Hall of Fame candidacy. He’s special. His jersey should be retired at FedExForum. But Randolph is also now a specialist, likely slotted financially as a key role player more than a building block.

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The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Memphis Grizzlies. All opinions expressed by Michael Wallace are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Memphis Grizzlies or its Basketball Operations staff, owners, parent companies, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Memphis Grizzlies and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.