This past summer was very kind to the Memphis Grizzlies. The only players they had to worry about going to free agency were Tony Allen and Keyon Dooling and the Grizzlies were able to bring both back into the fold. This allowed the organization to focus on the players they have and get the ball rolling on the coaching change in Memphis.
Unfortunately this is not going to happen again in the summer of 2014 for Memphis. Ed Davis and Quincy Pondexter are going to be restricted free agents while the aging Mike Miller and backup point guard Jerryd Bayless will be unrestricted free agents. Davis, Pondexter and Bayless have proved to be vital pieces to the Grizzlies bench rotation last season and the Grizzlies are hoping Miller can be just as valuable this season.
While all four of these players will have some sort of priority this summer, the biggest question lies around impending unrestricted free agent Zach Randolph.
There’s no denying what Randolph brings to the table for the Grizzlies. He’s a big body who can dominate inside and on the glass. He’s a physical presence that complements Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol nicely, providing them with one of the most dominating post duos in the NBA.
Randolph is a key asset to the Grizzlies, but he’s also prone to long-term injuries.
In his 13-year career, Randolph has played in more than 50 games in a season only eight times. Missing 30 games in a season is not something Memphis can afford to have from one of its key pieces this season or anytime down the line. If he’s going to be part of the future with the Grizzlies, he’s going to have to stay healthy. At 32 years of age, Randolph’s health questions are going to come up more and more this season.
One of the key reasons the Grizzlies may have a problem with Randolph’s impending free agency is that he has a player option, meaning he can opt into the next year of his contract whether Memphis really wants him to or not. That’s a ways down the line, and it is very possible Randolph declines his player option, but that may be a risk the Grizzlies can’t take.
So where does this leave Randolph?
What this means is that Zach Randolph’s name could appear on the trading block before the trading deadline this season. Randolph is owed a whopping total of $34 million combined between this season and next, money that could be used to help the Grizzlies gain younger talent to build towards the future.
A potential trade is not in the near future it seems and moving Randolph’s contract could be hard to move, but don’t be surprised to here his name come up in trade conversations later on in the season.
There are a few trade possibilities this season, depending upon a number of variables. Chicago has been speculated to be shopping Luol Deng. This seems more unlikely as Deng, aside from Derrick Rose, is what makes the Bulls click as a team. He’s an all-around player the Bulls love to have at their arsenal.
Another big name that could appear on the market this season is Indiana Pacers forward Danny Granger. Granger’s name appears more likely to be moved this season than Deng as the Pacers have Paul George at their disposal. George had a phenomenal showing the playoffs in Granger’s absence, leading many to believe that he has made Granger expendable.
These are just a few possible suitors for a Randolph trade. Of course, it is possible no move gets made between Randolph, Deng or Granger. It will come down to how the teams feel they will fair this summer and whether or not they can move those big contracts this season.
Zach Randolph is a glue guy for the Memphis Grizzlies. He helps the team on both offense and defense. He’s a presence that can’t be easily replaced. However, in the end, it may not matter if the Grizzlies decide it is time to make a move.