What’s Up With Zach Randolph Trade Rumors?


May 25, 2013; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies power forward Zach Randolph (50) dives after the loose ball in game three of the Western Conference finals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs against the San Antonio Spurs at FedEx Forum. San Antonio Spurs defeat the Memphis Grizzlies 104-93, and lead the series 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

In the last year, Zach Randolph trade rumors have absolutely abounded. Prior to the trade deadline last season, Randolph was reportedly on the trade block, at the expense of the chemistry of the team. When the Grizzlies were 2 games down to the Clippers in the first round, and when the Grizzlies were ultimately swept by the Spurs, the Grizzlies’ rough performance led to reports that ZBo was probably on his way out this offseason.

And yet, here Randolph stays. Always tentatively on the roster, yet always a hallmark. He’s the face of the Grizzlies — along with Gasol — and yet he’s always expendable. He’s a paradox in team commitment.

Now, late in the offseason, Randolph trade rumors are surfacing again.

It’s not unreasonable, either, for the Grizzlies to entertain deals for Randolph. When ZBo came to Memphis, he was literally an immediate All-Star. He was worth every penny of the roughly $17 million per year that the Grizzlies spent on him.

And then he injured his knee. Everyone expected that he would rebound last season from the injury, but he didn’t. Randolph’s TS% dropped from 55.2% pre-injury (respectable) to just 50% post injury (very not good). Pre-injury, he scored a blistering 115 points per 100 possessions for a team that didn’t score too well. Post-injury? 106, which is only a little above average. On top of all of that, he’s still a flat footed, slow defender whose numbers are helped a lot by having the FEARSOME LOW BLOCK MONSTER Marc Gasol behind him.

That said, he’s still a well above average PF. His rebound numbers are still pretty high for the position, even with Gasol on the court with him to clean the glass. His 106 points per 100 possessions would be attractive for a lot of teams…but at $17 million per year? It’s hard to justify his production for the cost, unless he rebounds into form next season (pun intended).

So the Grizzlies aren’t totally insane to be shopping him around…if they’re actually shopping him around.

It’s a little frustrating, admittedly, to continually have to deal with these Randolph trade rumors, just because they never stop. Presumably, Randolph isn’t being moved this offseason. It’s pretty late in, and it seems ridiculous for the Grizzlies to move a major part of their core when the Grizzlies have turned themselves into title contenders already. Why not ride it out, at first?

Nonetheless, we’ll probably see Randolph’s name come up again at this next season’s trade deadline.

Is there any validity to the rumors, and when will they end? Maybe they’ll legitimately try to move ZBo at the next trade deadline, if Randolph’s production still doesn’t pick up, but Randolph’s contract is huge and front offices around the league are getting smarter about asset management.

I think Randolph’s impact is bigger than he’s getting credit for, though. Independent of his numbers, the Grizzlies probably had the best mid-range offense in the NBA last season after the Rudy trade, and it was thanks almost entirely to plays like this:

You need two hyper-aware, smart, post-presences to be able to make plays like this work. Given his spacing, his offensive movement, and his passing (11% asst. percentage last year, well above average for traditional big men), he actually has very high value. However, all of those “intangible assets” that he brings are particularly valuable — even borderline necessary — for the Grizzlies, and not so much for other teams. I’d be willing to bet that, at the very least, John Hollinger knows this too.

So I don’t expect Randolph to be moved any time soon, unless a surprisingly fantastic deal gets offered, or unless there’s an offer that would change the Grizzlies’ offense drastically enough to render Randolph less valuable (i.e. a stretch-four type who can still defend, ala Chris Bosh).

Randolph trade rumors are coming, and will keep coming, but he’s not only valuable to the Grizzlies as a pure asset and the face of the team, but as a guy who brings the requisite spacing and smarts to keep the Grizzlies’ threadbare offense moving at a decent clip. Until those things stop being true, don’t expect him to be traded any time soon.