Last season the Memphis Grizzlies surprised a majority of the basketball world when they upset the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the NBA playoffs. When they took the Oklahoma City Thunder to Game 7 in the second round, NBA fans finally saw that this team was no fluke.
One player on the Grizzlies who stood out throughout their run in the Western Conference playoffs was Zach Randolph.
Randolph has long been looked at as a selfish player whose No. 1 concern at the end of the game is his statistics. He's been referred to as a black hole on offense, but that changed when he arrived in Memphis. Randolph made his first All-Star Game as a member of the Grizzlies and only improved in his second year with the team.
Although he was snubbed from the Western Conference All-Star team, Randolph's performance in the playoffs earned him a spot as third-team All-NBA. Next year Randolph will look to improve even more as the Grizzlies think of a championship.
One area of Randolph's game that, if improved, could take the team to the next level is his interior defense. Randolph has improved a lot in this area over the last couple of years, but he could still be more of a force down in the paint. He's a big, strong guy and if he could just improve his timing on jumps a little more he could be a force. Randolph being able to get his hands on a few more shots would take a lot of pressure off of Marc Gasol.
The Randolph that got the Grizzlies playing great basketball in the playoffs was a very smart passer. He was able to draw double-teams and find open cutters with ease, which was not something that fans were used to seeing him do.
The passing that he showed in the Western Conference playoffs will need to be there next year if the Grizzlies want to get to the Western Conference finals or the NBA Finals. Being a passing threat would take the extra attention off of Z-Bo as teams would no longer be able to double him.
Randolph put on a display in the playoffs that had people talking him up as a top-three power forward in the NBA. If he is able to bring the same intensity next season and slightly touch up on the points that I mentioned, the Grizzlies could be looking forward to a very, very successful year.