With the trades of Carmelo Anthony and Deron Williams out of the Western Conference, the final playoff spots are officially wide open. With Denver and Utah seemingly poised to take a step back, teams on the verge of playoff contention, like the Memphis Grizzlies, are in prime position to return to the postseason.
But the Grizzlies are considering an offer that would send their star power forward, Zach Randolph, to the Orlando Magic for Jason Richardson and Brandon Bass. While the deal makes sense for them down the road, it would all but guarantee that they don't make the playoffs this season.
Randolph is leading Memphis in both points and rebounds per game. His ability to spread the court has clearly helped the development of young center Marc Gasol, and Randolph has developed a nice rapport with point guard Mike Conley, who's enjoying a breakout season.
On top of that, the Grizzlies are already without Rudy Gay for the next month because of a shoulder injury, meaning they need Randolph to step up. Trading him would basically mean the Grizzlies would be getting rid of nearly 40 points per game until Gay returns.
The main positive for the Grizzlies in the proposed deal is cap space. Bass is a much cheaper option (signed for $4 million next year, with a $4 million player option in 2012), and Jason Richardson has an expiring contract, with the Grizzlies saving around a million more from the pro-rated difference between his deal and Randolph's.
However, Bass is a role player at this stage of his career, not a go-to-guy. He's 6'8, and would have trouble consistently going up against some of the West's bigs night-in and night-out.
Richardson has seen his numbers take a huge hit in Orlando, and is currently averaging a career-low 13.1 points per game. He's clearly having trouble adjusting to the new system in Orlando, and the Grizzlies will have to make sure he'll be able to adjust to their own style of play before acquiring him.
With the deals by the Nuggets and Jazz, it seems likely that the Grizzlies will be able to make the playoffs, and once in, anything can happen. That said, their best chance to make the playoffs is with their best scorer and low-post presence, not without him.
Both Randolph and Gasol are free agents after the season, and it's almost impossible to think the Grizzlies could find a way to sign both, meaning they may want to trade Randolph while they can still get something back in return.
But should they do it at the risk of not making the playoffs? No.