Zach Randolph approaches his fifth year with the Memphis Grizzlies—the 13th of his career with a decent reserve in his tank and good positional depth behind him. Randolph should scratch out another good season. Ed Davis and Jon Leuer should make up for any loss.
The Grizzlies have a capable trio at the 4 spot. Randolph retains some shooting ability while remaining a great rebounder. Davis and Leuer can shoot and rebound fairly well.
Rounding out the current list of Grizz power forwards is Willie Reed. As The Commercial Appeal reported (subscription required), Memphis may not keep any players who don't have non-guaranteed contracts.
With the amount of depth going three-deep, the Grizz may not have room for him.
Here's a look at how each player looks entering the season and whether Reed can impress Dave Joerger enough to claim a roster spot.
While Randolph is past the point where he's one of the top five players at his position, he remains one of the toughest.
His defense has improved continuously in the last few seasons. His defensive rating dropped for the fourth straight year, settling at 99.5 points allowed per 100 possessions, good for 13th in the league.
While Marc Gasol helps his frontcourt mate sometimes, Randolph has found ways to work on his own. He positions himself better and shows better defensive awareness.
That he placed eighth with 4.7 defensive win shares validated his increasing commitment on that end of the floor.
At that, he had more win shares on defense than offense.
Indeed, that speaks to his decline as a shooter. After completing the first two months of 2012-13 with a 49.4 percent field-goal percentage, Randolph shot 43.9 percent the rest of the year. He recovered his aim in the first two rounds of the playoffs, hitting 51.2 percent from the field.
He never was a terrific shooter, having shot better than 49 percent twice.
Now, expecting 48 percent shooting is pushing it for the two-time All-Star. He won't have as many shot opportunities as in years past with greater focus placed on Gasol, Mike Conley and complementary perimeter shooters.
Also, as the Three Shades of Blue blog mentioned, Dave Joerger is interested in swinging Randolph to the high post to get Gasol inside more often. If those situations end with Randolph taking shots, he won't fare well. He shot worse than 39 percent from mid-range the past three seasons.
One aspect of his game that may never wane is rebounding. He's been in the top four in rebounds per game in his last three full seasons.
He will stay dominant on the offensive glass after leading the league in offensive rebounds and placing fourth in offensive rebounding percentage with the second-best rate of his career. He has tremendous strength and positioning. That strength should allow him to fight for rebounds even when he plays away from the low block.
Entering his fourth NBA season, Davis is not only expected to demonstrate his ability to succeed Randolph, but also his pro potential. The 24-year-old is sleight of frame and hasn't established consistency as a shooter.
His percentages were up and down in his first three years—he shot 57.6 percent as a rookie and 51.3 percent the next year. Last season, he shot 54.9 percent for the Toronto Raptors and 51.7 percent with Memphis. That includes 50.6 percent in March and 45.9 percent in April, when Lionel Hollins gave him more minutes than his first month.
Still, Davis is at least a decent inside shooter. Keeping him at the rim is a safe bet for his shooting value, as his jump shot is questionable.
Rebounding is the most certain area in which Davis could capably replace Randolph. He averages 10.3 rebounds per 36 minutes for his career and cleans the glass at a 16.9 percent rate, 0.5 percent below Randolph's career mark.
His defensive rebounding percentage (22.8 percent) was 2.3 percent lower than Randolph's.
His strength remains an issue. The numbers seem impressive, but one must consider that he's posting them against second-unit big men.
Improving production off the bench shouldn't be a problem, but playing in the lineup could be a challenge. As Chris Sheridan of Sheridanhoops.com pointed out, Davis could struggle against premier power forwards.
Leuer runs the risk of becoming a beloved player for whom coaches can't find minutes. He's played for three teams in two years without catching at least 13 minutes per contest with any of them.
The 24-year-old should see more than the 5.1 per game he had after arriving in Memphis in January. Besides, he's under a more pliable coach who is likely more willing to acquiesce to the wishes of a front office man who, as Chris Vernon tweeted, was high on entering his draft.
On the other hand, his potential gain is limited due to the expected minutes for Randolph and Davis. The starter should receive around 32 minutes per game, with his primary backup seeing between 17 and 19 minutes per game.
That leaves Leuer hard-pressed to find double-digit minutes per game if Randolph remains healthy and stays on the team the entire year.
Having said that, the Wisconsin product can post impressive performances in short minutes. Leuer averaged nine rebounds per 36 minutes. He keyed a win against the Charlotte Bobcats with 11 points and five rebounds in 13 minutes.
Leuer is capable of shooting well, hitting 62.5 percent in 19 appearances for the Grizzlies.
If Leuer needs an injury to get significant minutes, then Reed needs a prayer to crack the roster. Not only does Reed have three capable players in front of him, but the Grizz also have two dynamic centers who were both full-time starters last season.
Also, as the aforementioned Commercial Appeal article noted, Memphis may choose to use Mike Miller at the 4 spot in smaller lineups. That leaves little reason to hang on to the St. Louis product.
Reed caught fire late in the NBDL season to finish with 14.8 points per game on 55.7 percent shooting and 7.8 rebounds per game.
Joerger didn't give him much thought in the preseason opener, playing the 23-year-old for only eight minutes.
Reed's opportunities may not improve. He would need outstanding practices in order to earn more exhibition minutes. With roughly eight practice days left before the last preseason game, Reed must make quick work to impress Joerger.
The first three are strong. Randolph won't take a steep fall at his age with reasonable health while playing a smarter game than those who rely more on athleticism. Davis can dump the ball from close range and pull down rebounds. Leuer will pick up scraps in less meaningful moments.
This amount of depth puts Reed on the outside, likely destined for a second tour in the NBDL.
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