Memphis Grizzlies: How A Zach Randolph Minutes Cut Works

Apr 11, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Memphis Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph (right) drives the ball as he is defended by Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan (left) during the third quarter at Staples Center. The Los Angeles Clippers won 94-86. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 11, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Memphis Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph (right) drives the ball as he is defended by Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan (left) during the third quarter at Staples Center. The Los Angeles Clippers won 94-86. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports /

Zach Randolph has been a major part of the Memphis Grizzlies‘ five straight playoff appearances, but is approaching the last few years of his career. As the end of Randolph’s days as a premier big man draw to an end, he comes to grips with the transition required as the Grizzlies work to maintain title contention.

The 6’9″, 253-pound power forward expressed an openness to getting his minutes cut in an interview the Associated Press’ Teresa Walker. Randolph said, “I think I’m still in my prime, and I’m going to let my game, the way I play, speak for itself. But I mean whatever I need to do to help this team, if it’s play less minutes, whatever, I’m with this team whatever we need to do.”

The first problem, as Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger said, is the difficulty in pulling the two-time All-Star. Joerger explained, “He’s difficult to take out. Once he gets fully lathered, he’s like ‘What? No! Not now’ especially once he gets cooking down there on the right block. He’s such a go-to guy for us. We need a bucket, he can go get you a bucket. So it’ll be interesting how we manage through the course of the year.”

However, the Grizzlies managed to tamp Randolph down to 32.5 minutes per game last year, which matched his lowest average in 11 years as a full-time starter, without much fuss.

Accepting His Decline

The second problem for Randolph, which he won’t openly admit, but surely understands, is that he’s slowing down. While he still remains one of Memphis’ most important scorers, he’s not as productive a scorer as he once was. Randolph posted 16.1 points per game, 1.3 fewer than he did in 2013-14. His 48.7 percent shooting was 1.4 percent better than his career clip, but what his body can do is a greater concern than accuracy.

Randolph, who was never stuck on the court for his athleticism, doesn’t move as quickly as he once did. He doesn’t bounce the same, crimping his ability to make plays in space and create plays outside the paint.

Hence, he focused a greater share of his shots close to the basket, with 40.5 percent taken at the rim.

% of FGA by Distance
SeasonAgeTmLgPosGMPFG%Dist.2P0-33-1010-1616 <3
6 seasonsMEMNBA41014126.4817.6.972.397.295.119.162
6 seasonsPORNBA38711179.4668.1.977.354.277.135.211
2 seasonsNYKNBA802632.4559.7.917.355.199.123.240
1 seasonLACNBA391369.48710.0.893.333.230.091.240

Provided by View Original Table
Generated 10/17/2015.

Additionally, his fading scoring ability showed in the playoffs. He amounted 15.6 points per game on 42.3 percent shooting from the field.

Nevertheless, he’ll remain one of the best rebounders in the league. For Randolph, crashing the boards is about positioning and strength.

Opening Up New Second-Unit Wrinkles

One would like to think a minutes reduction for the 34-year-old would create chances for young players like Jarnell Stokes and JaMychal Green. Stokes should get a shot at a rotation role after pulling down 9.7 rebounds per 36 minutes and shooting 56.8 percent from the field in 19 games as a rookie. He fits the Grizzlies’ psyche and addresses a need as a tough interior defender and a rebounder on a team that was 21st in rebounds last year.

Also, Stokes’ broader skill set makes him a better choice than Green, a 25-year-old energy guy, to breed as an eventual replacement of Randolph as the starting power forward.

While telling The Commercial Appeal’s Ron Tillery he’s working to expand his understanding of the game, Stokes said, “The coaches wanted me to be a physical presence. They want someone to understand what’s going on. It’s a veteran team so there’s not a lot of room for mistakes, definitely from younger guys.”

Stokes understands he won’t receive a long leash, considering how Joerger has leaned on veterans to a great degree in his first two years shepherding the Grizz.

Hence, a strong possibility exists that some of Randolph’s off time will be dedicated to Jeff Green acting as a stretch-4. Since Gasol didn’t fare well with Green on the floor, shooting four percent worse, the Grizzlies would use Brandan Wright at center.

Green would find plenty of space to create his own scoring. On the defensive end, Wright, who is extremely long and athletic, could make up for Green’s lapses and stop attackers who blow by the energetic yet ineffective 29-year-old.

This could help the Grizzlies get scoring during longer tough stretches of games, but it would cost player development.


Randolph, a cornerstone of the current run of Grizzlies success, is acknowledging his need to adjust in helping his team compete for a championship. He’s regressing slowly as a scorer, which requires Joerger to find new ways to maximize scoring for a middling offensive team.

Giving Jeff Green more minutes supports that goal, but evaluating Stokes for a longer period prepares Memphis for the post-Randolph era. This represents not only a sacrifice of young talent for a win-now team, but also another potential case of a draftee simply being stashed as an asset.

The latter feels cynical, and one hopes Stokes gets the chance to develop and prove he can succeed and extend the Grit-N-Grind era.

Next: NBA: Top 10 MVP Candidates In 2015-16

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