Star or Black Hole? The Statistical Myth of Zach Randolph
When you type in "Zach Randolph" in google with "black hole" and "cancer," titles like Trading for Zach Randolph is Basketball Suicide, Back Hole Sun: Do the Grizzlies Really Not pass? ...etc. Looking through some of the discussion boards, you see things like "Zach is a retarded SOB who thinks he is god, is a black hole, doesn't defend, is overweight, has a terrible attitude, and did I mention he's a cancer?"
Let me begin this article by saying that I have never been a Zach Randolph fan. In fact, I hate his attitude on and off the court. Why am I even writing this article? Because I believe ESPN has overblown Z-bo's negatives.
Too many of today's internet writers just copy whatever ESPN churns out. These writers in turn quotes ESPN like its the bible.
Statistics. Now, I know before I even bring up his stats, you are going to think—"Oh, sure Z-bo is a statsheet stuffer, but he doesn't pass the ball." In return, I am going to show you stats that show he is a very good low post scoring threat who's deficiencies have been condemned unjustly.
First of all, I want to dispute the notion that Zach Randolph is lazy. Yes, he is a piece of fat lard but that doesn't mean he is lazy. Lets use rebounding as a measure of effort. To get rebounds, you have to do either—(1) be really tall, (2) jump really high, (3) get in a good position and box out your man. Randolph is 6'9" and he really doesn't jump very high for NBA standards.
So that means he works and gets in position for rebounds. Discounting his first two years, Randolph averaged more than 10 rebounds for five of the last seven seasons.
Lets compare that to Rasheed Wallace who is a four-time all-star and plays just a tad more minutes per game than Randolph. How many seasons has he gotten over 10 rebounds per game? 0. In fact, he has only averaged eight or more in two seasons out of his entire career.
If the rebounding averages didn't convince you, lets go into advanced statistics. Career defensive rebound pct: 'Sheed is at 18.7% percent, Z-bo is at 22.9 percent and over 25 percent for the past three seasons. Just for the heck of it, I will throw in KG's godly rebounding numbers. KG is at 25.6 percent career and had four seasons of 29.7 percent or higher during his prime.
Oh, and Z-bo doubles Rasheed's offensive rebounds averages, so don't even go there. Here is a top 10 rebounders list on Yahoo!'s Ball Don't Lie. (hint: Z-bo is on it).
Okay... so he is really not that lazy.. but he is a big black hole on offense. The simplest but inaccurate stats too look at is assists averages. RW: 1.9, ZB: 1.7. Both numbers are well within the norm for primary inside scoring options. Z-bo has actually averaged 1.9 and getting higher if his 2 seasons of riding the pine in Portland gets taken out. Dwelling further into passing, Randolph's career assist percentage is actually higher than Rasheed's. 10.6 to 9.8.
Alright, so he passes the ball just like other power forwards, but he jacks up shots and turns the ball over. Looking at turnover averages for number one inside scoring option, Randolph is again right smack down the middle.
He does not turn the ball over particularly more than others. His average is the same as Bosh. Rasheed only gets 1.6 TO per game but I would argue that he really isn't an inside force anymore and haven't been for a very long time.
Here are the shooting statistics for Rasheed and Zach respectively: FG percent .471, TS percent .539, eFG percent, .510 FG percent, .466 TS percent, .520 eFG percent .472. So the shooting percentage favors Rasheed but only slightly. I said slightly because Rasheed's 3pt shooting skews the true shooting percentage and effective field goal percentage for him.
In the past two seasons since Randolph started shooting some 3s, the numbers have been almost identical. You also have to take into consideration that Wallace has always been on good teams with better teammates. Also Rasheed takes less shots and scores way less points. That should help his shooting percent in theory.
In my humble opinion, Z-bo would be a really good fit with in Cleveland with Lebron being the undisputed leader and first option. I really believed that had Cleveland courted Randolph and offered the Clippers a similar second round pick, the Cavs would be the consensus NBA champ from day one.
Lebron's dominance on the offense end coupled with Mike Brown's emphasis on defense (with the support of Lebron) already has the Cavs as perennial contender. Add in Randolph's inside scoring and rebounding, they will be unstoappable.
There would be no argument on getting more shots as long as Lebron is in charge. Now that he is in Memphis with ballhogs Rudy Gay, O.J. Mayo and AI, Z-bo will probably nullify everything I just wrote and be a malcontent player.
I never thought I would ever say this but.. please Zach Randolph, show 'the experts' that you are a star and not a black hole.
Statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.
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