Can the Memphis Grizzlies Afford to Keep Zach Randolph?

By Greg Sulik
Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Zach Randolph has been an outstanding player for the Memphis Grizzles over the course of the last four years, but he enters his fifth season with the team as potentially his last. Randolph has a player option for next season at $16.5 million, and he stated recently that he has yet to decide whether to pick up the option or become a free agent.

If he does pick up the option, he would take up a very significant amount Memphis’ cap space, which is vital for a team that will not go into the luxury tax. In such a situation, the Grizzlies could try to trade Randolph’s expiring contract, but it is unlikely that they would get anything of overwhelming value for an aging power forward who is paid that highly. The Grizzlies could also amnesty Randolph, but the odds of a team with their financial restrictions paying Randolph $16.5 million to play for someone else are extremely slim.

The Grizzlies only have Marc Gasol under contract through the end of next season, and they must save cap space to extend his deal. They also will likely try to sign Jerryd Bayless and Ed Davis to extensions, though neither should command a salary that is particularly large. Despite that, Memphis still has to be careful with the potential of approaching the luxury tax threshold.

However, Randolph said that he was willing to make sacrifices to stay in Memphis, a city and community that he has made his home and is deeply connected to. One would assume that those sacrifices would include taking less money on a longer deal, which could be an option that works out well for both sides.

The Grizzlies have to think long term, and they may decide that Randolph is not the right fit for those plans. He will be 33 at the start of next season, and he is no longer a guy who can average 20 points a game. That being said, he is still very valuable, and the Grizzlies will be hard pressed to find a viable replacement in a similar price range. A contract in the range of 3 years, $24 million could be a fair agreement, and it would allow the Grizzlies to continue to make a title push with their current core.

Everything will come down to the annual cap hit for Randolph, and whether or not he stays in Memphis will depend on just how big of a pay cut he is willing to take. The Grizzlies cannot afford to overpay players, and they don’t want to get stuck with any expensive long term deals other than Gasol’s. It is difficult to predict whether or not Randolph will be willing to take a major pay cut, but if he isn’t, don’t expect to see him back in Memphis.

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