With many signs pointing to Zach Randolph possibly receiving a four-year contract extension, this article could become a mute point in a matter of days.
According to the Memphis Commercial Appeal, Randolph and the team have had serious discussions over the past week regarding keeping Z-Bo in a Grizzlies uniform for at least the next four seasons.
Randolph has been the backbone of this young Memphis team and has carried them squarely on his shoulders since Rudy Gay went down with his season-ending shoulder injury.
While Randolph is clearly one of the two best players on the Grizzlies roster, the team might not be completely lost if he ended up not signing the extension for some reason.
Back-up power forward Darrell Arthur has made major strides in this third season, looking to get even better moving forward.
That brings about a big question: Should the Grizzlies invest the massive amount of money it will surely take to keep Randolph in Memphis for the next four years or should they let him go and continue developing Arthur?
Personally, while I think Arthur is an amazing role player, I don't think he will be talented enough to be a top two or three player for a winning team with intentions of making playoff runs.
Randolph is averaging 20 points and 12.5 rebounds per game with a PER (player efficiency rating) of 22.31 through 67 games this season.
On the other hand, Arthur is averaging 9.4 points and 4.3 rebounds per game with a PER of 16.16 through 70 games this season.
While Arthur's numbers may not be mind-blowing, he has had several huge games for the Grizzlies this season and has shown up in the clutch during many games.
He has had a 24-point and five board game in a win against the Washington Wizards in January, as well as a 24-point and six rebound performance in a victory over the Denver Nuggets in February.
He also had a pair of 21-point performances in March—one in a win over the San Antonio Spurs and another one in a loss against the New York Knicks.
However, Randolph has consistently been one of the best power forwards in the league this season. He was considered to be a snub in the All-Star game this season along with LaMarcus Aldridge of the Portland Trail Blazers.
Without Randolph, the Grizzlies would probably be one of the three or four worst teams in the Western Conference.
According to the Memphis Commercial Appeal, Randolph was initially demanding a three-year, $65 million dollar deal—similar to the contract that Pau Gasol of the Los Angeles Lakers is under.
While I love Z-Bo, and he does bring just as much to the Grizzlies if not more than Gasol does for the Lakers, he hasn't produced us any championships yet.
Heck, he hasn't even won Memphis a playoff game for the Grizzlies—yet.
I think a more reasonable extension for Randolph would be a four-year, $60 million contract that is laced with All-Star and playoff-based incentives that could make the deal worth as much as $75 million over its lifetime.
I also think the Grizzlies would benefit by front-loading the contract, although that may not be possible with the team trying to also retain Marc Gasol this summer, who is a restricted free agent.
If the Grizzlies somehow lose Randolph and they are unable to agree upon an extension, I think the team will be fine moving forward with Arthur as the starting power forward. Although, they likely won't enjoy the same success they have had this season right away.
They would also need to find a way to sign a veteran power forward in the offseason to come off the bench behind Arthur, as the depth at power forward would take a significant hit with Randolph's potential departure.
If the team needed to sign a power forward in the offseason, some of their possible options would include: Boris Diaw (who has a player option with the Charlotte Bobcats), Josh McRoberts, Kris Humphries, David West, Ronny Turiaf, Jeff Green (Restricted), Joey Dorsey, and Andrei Kirilenko.
Personally, I would love to see the Grizzlies make a huge push for David West if they are unable to keep Z-Bo for some reason.
West has been one of the best players on the New Orleans Hornets' roster for the past several seasons and would give the Grizzlies a solid offensive threat in the paint to replace Randolph's scoring.
McRoberts and Humphries would be two other players I would like to see the Grizzlies pursue in the case they need to rebuild the front court.
Joey Dorsey could be an interesting option the team should look at—just as a third option if they have a roster spot available. Many Memphis Tiger fans would love to see him return to where he became a college star.
Personally, I'm hoping the Grizzlies and Randolph can come to an agreement as soon as possible to keep him with the franchise for the foreseeable future.
With Randolph on the team, and assuming Gay returns to form next season and all of the teams' major role players return, Memphis should be a perennial postseason lock for the next few seasons in the Western Conference.