The Memphis Grizzlies have a lot of the right pieces in place to contend for years to come. One of those pieces, forward Zach Randolph, has a chance to leave this summer if he wishes.
Randolph has a player option that he can choose to opt in or out of, depending on what he wants to do. He can opt out and become a free agent and either leave the Grizzlies or sign a long-term extension, or he can opt in and choose to push off his long-term future another year.
It was reported earlier in the year that Randolph would like to finish his career in Memphis, but with so much of the league just being about how many stars can be on a team at once, the Grizzlies cannot be sure about where exactly Randolph wants to be next year and how much he would like to team up with quality players to contend for a championship.
Can he do that in Memphis? Absolutely he can. Mike Conley, Marc Gasol and Tony Allen are all pieces to a championship-caliber team, but none of those players are essentially “stars,” but instead are just really good at a few specific skills.
Regardless of what Randolph wants, however, Memphis should be focused on bringing back their All-Star quality power forward and signing him to a long-term deal.
Randolph helps to make up the grit-and-grind mentality of the Grizzlies, as he is one of the tougher players on the team and arguably one of the toughest players in the entire NBA. Randolph is physical in the post and uses his size and physicality to bully other players and get easy opportunities and rebounds on both ends of the floor. Randolph is an intimidating force on both offense and defense, and his value as far as pure production cannot be disputed.
Last season, Randolph averaged 17.4 points per game and 10.1 rebounds per game, making him one of the more productive post players in the league. When teamed up with Gasol in the front court, Randolph is free to focus more on putting up points and controlling the boards and less on having to expend a ton of energy playing defense. That is what makes the duo so formidable because they are both big bodies that know how to play to each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
Memphis has a front court combination that has built great chemistry over the years; chemistry that should not be messed with.
So how can Memphis completely convince Randolph to stay while staying competitive and bringing in other players to help the cause of contending for a championship?
Memphis needs to be aggressive during this free-agency period.
When players see that management is focused on bringing in quality players to contend for a title, those same players become much more encouraged to stay in a situation like that rather than look to bolt elsewhere. Memphis could really clear some cap space this offseason, especially if Randolph could be convinced to take less money in a long-term deal. In order to make that work, however, Randolph would have to get the vibe that Memphis would sign quality players with that money instead of just putting it back in the pockets of management.
Lucky for Randolph, there are a few veteran free agents that the Grizzlies could potentially have the money to spend on. Forwards Pau Gasol and Luol Deng could both fill areas of need that the Grizzlies need to address. Gasol could come in and provide more scoring, and he could spread the floor with his consistent mid-range jump shot that can even extend beyond the three-point line at times. Deng is a small forward who has always played great defense, and can score from anywhere on the floor, including from beyond the arc where the Grizzlies have struggled for years. Either of those players could be enough justification for Randolph to accept a pay cut and come back to the team that he has had so much success with both as a contributor and a leader.
Randolph has a decision to make about what he should do in the short and long term, but the Grizzlies must make sure that they do everything they can to keep Randolph while maintaining financial flexibility. If the team can do that, then a championship may not be too far away.