Though he responded from an abysmal season opener with a double-double in Game 2 against Detroit, the man known as Z-Bo has struggled to adapt to new head coach David Joerger's offense.
As a result, the Grizzlies have struggled on both ends of the floor with Randolph in the game. According to NBA.com, the Grizzlies have scored an anemic 87.8 points per 100 possessions with Z-Bo on the court, while also allowing an un-Grizzlies-like 108.8 points per 100 possessions.
Obviously, Randolph won't continue to be such a black hole on offense. This is Z-Bo we're talking about. He has his Z-Bo ups and Z-Bo downs, but in the end he's always gonna Z-Bo.
But as he ages, the situation becomes a little more complicated.
Randolph is 32 years old and entering his 13th NBA season. And while his floor-bound game figures to age well since he's not terribly reliant on athleticism, the Grizzlies might be looking to reduce his minutes.
There Is Competition
Enter backup forward Ed Davis.
David didn't get much burn under former coach Lionel Hollins, but he averaged 9.7 points and 6.9 rebounds in his last half-season in Toronto before coming to Memphis, and he looked solid in the preseason. So far, in limited minutes, the Grizzlies have been better with Davis on the floor, scoring 96.3 and allowing 89.4 points per 100 possessions.
Before the season, ESPN's Marc Stein picked Davis as a player who might receive a contract extension from the Grizzlies:
...Davis is regarded in some corners as the heir to Zach Randolph's frontcourt spot alongside Marc Gasol, with Z-Bo down to this season and next season's $16.9 million option left on his contract at 32.
Can Ed Davis Replace Z-Bo?
Under the old Lionel Hollins system, certainly not.
Under Hollins, the Grizzlies ran an old-school offense which revolved around isolation and post play. And Randolph—a decidedly old-school player—was the key cog in the offense. Randolph's job was twofold: Don't hurt the stellar Memphis defense, and single-handedly drag the Memphis offense toward respectability.
Here are his on-off numbers for the past four full seasons in Memphis, courtesy of basketball-reference.com:
Until last season, Randolph was a transforming presence in the Grizzlies' offense. Last season, however, his impact fell off significantly.
This season, the Grizzlies are hoping to run an offense based more around free-flowing ball movement and less around post play. Davis will never be the kind of offensive player Randolph is—his game based more on defense and rebounding—but he's the kind of high-energy role player who can be effective in any system.
If Randolph cannot adapt his highly specialized game to the new system, he might be in trouble.
There's Still Plenty of Playing Time to Go Around
Randolph still has a player option for next season, but it might serve the Grizzlies well to give some of his minutes to Davis. If the front office is thinking about extending Davis, then they need to give him more minutes this season, if only to test his effectiveness with this roster.
Most importantly, if the Grizzlies see themselves as a championship contender, they need to learn from their 2013 playoff vanquishers, the San Antonio Spurs, and start managing the minutes of their veteran players. Z-Bo can still be a force in the playoffs, when the tempo slows and points are hard to come by.
He's a well-established veteran, and he won't lose much by sacrificing some regular-season minutes to Davis. Fully integrating Davis into this lineup and managing Randolph's minutes will pay dividends, both in the playoffs and over the next few seasons.
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