Friday, September 15th, 2006 at 12:30 pm  |  54 responses

44. Zach Randolph

With summer dragging on and on and on before the NBA tips off, we’ve decided to initiate a multipart series that will be the definitive look at the best players in the NBA today. Over the next month or so we’ll run down the 50 guys that we think are the 50 best players, right here, right now.

Today, Henry Abbott from TrueHoop.com takes a look at Zach Randolph…

With summer dragging on and on and on before the NBA tips off, we’ve decided to initiate a multipart series that will be the definitive look at the best players in the NBA today.

Over lunch at the Outback Steakhouse (word to Steve Irwin), your crack SLAMonline.com staff sat down and ranked the 50 best players in the NBA today. We realize that’s kind of ambiguous, but that’s how basketball is and that’s how we like it. Basically, though, we tried to list the 50 guys we think have the most value to their teams, right now, at this moment. This doesn’t mean they’ll never be traded, and it doesn’t mean they’re due tremendous contract extensions, but it does mean — since value is king in the NBA — that over the next month or so we’ll run down the 50 guys that we think are the 50 best players, right here, right now.

Before long it’ll be time for our annual NBA team previews. Right now it’s time for some law and order…

44. Zach Randolph, Portland Trailblazers
by Henry Abbott of TrueHoop.com

Scottie Pippen has a very deep voice, and he can use it, at times, to make things sound profound. When I spent a couple of hours interviewing him back in his Portland years, in a swanky hotel bar, Pippen said many memorable things. But the most memorable thing he said? The moment when his voice was gravelly bassiest? That’s when looked me square in the eye and pronounced “Zach Randolph works HARD.” He meant HARD. He said Randolph worked as hard as any teammate he had ever had, and well, I think we all know who Scottie played with.

So, look, Randolph deserves some knocks for how he handles his off-court business. Yeah, fine, whatever. No one’s proud of that mess. But please, let’s not confuse poor judgment with poor work ethic. The Blazer training staff confirms it: This man works.

And what does he work on? Conditioning. Weightlifting. Back to the basket stuff. Jumpers. Drop steps. Jab steps. Hooks. Step-backs. Fadeaways. (And, as the joke goes, if there are a few minutes left at the end of all that, he might work occasionally on passing out of the double team.) He gets 18 points per game out of all that, mostly working in the paint against bigger, taller, more athletic players. He’s a bona fide low-post scoring threat, and if your big doesn’t feel like playing tough defense, Zach’s going to make life miserable. He can get to the line, too, having made free throws by the baker’s dozen in more than one game.

These days, he does a lot of that without a lot of jumping. He’s essentially ground bound at the age of 26. Last year, he never even scrounged two blocks in a single game, because he’s still on the long tail of recovery after the devastation of microfracture knee surgery. (Ask Chris Webber, Jason Kidd, or Amare Stoudemire: that knee injury and surgery is like a time machine — it makes you play like you’re 50 hanging around the Y, touting the benefits of “half-court” and zone defense.) But even though at 6-9 Randolph’s shorter than a lot of big men, and he is stapled to the floor nearly all the time, even in his first season recovering from the surgery he was a top-20 rebounder.

How does he do that? The dog that’s in him simply has a strong nose for that ball. His hands just seem too end up where the ball is more than their fair share of the time. Part of that is long arms. Part of that is reading the ball. Part of that is good hands. But a lot of it? It’s just work.

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  • http://www.theforce.net blake “bakers’ dozen” wright

    I can accept Zach Randolph at 44. Heck, he’s the only real thing the Blazers have left!

  • Ryan

    Randolph, sure. But then Brandon Roy and Eddy Curry had better be on this list as well. And let’s be straight, with this criteria there is no way Starbury can legitimately be on this list.

  • matt the jazz fan

    that’s not true – the blazers also have
    * a heck of a sports section columnist
    (refering to the obituary of dallasnews.com that lang linked a little while back) and
    * a mad rich (emphasis on “mad”) owner who, in scoop’s (i think) memorable phrase from SLAM back in the nineties “picks up the tab when he goes out to have drinks with bill gates”
    * a good reason to hate the lakers (robbed in 2000 (?) against the lakers)
    that’s a start…

  • D Tox

    I remember him being a mediocre player at mich state and I couldn’t see him doing much in the L becuase for some reason he looked “soft.” He soon proved that wasn’t the case a couple years in. He’s like the big man version of Steve Nash because he is so crafty around the basket with all the drop steps, up and unders, baby hooks and etc. He literally “puts in work” night in and night out and it has to help when you got Pippen vauching for you. That alone moves him up two or three slots in my book.

  • http://www.winstonandthetelescreen.com winston and the telescreen

    I love this list
    I just thought the slamstaff should know
    I may not agree with everything
    but I love it just the same
    whoever thought of it should get a raise

  • Rome

    I asked Splinter and he said all his Ninja Turtles work hard. Except for Antione Walker.

  • Chief

    Zach Randolph! Are u for real! I’d rather see some gross player like Ilglauskas on this than Zach. If he’s so good how come the blazers haven’t done anything since Pippen left?

  • Michel

    Just so you know, Kidd doesn’t easily fit into the category of microfracture casualties. His rehab was considered a “medical miracle” by his doctors.

  • Myung

    i’m diggin’ the photo. i’m thinking brandon roy (my pick for rookie of the year) or lamarcus aldridge are the future of this team (martell webster and travis outlaw are nice too)…but i definitely think zach randolph is the best and most important player on the blazers for the time being. i wrote out my top 50 (and got insulted by some dude for doing so) on the “bargnani” entry and remarked that picking portland’s “franchise player” was the hardest of the 30 nba teams. i don’t know if zach randolph will ever be an all star but he’s a hard working player and is a beast down low. he sort of reminds me a little of how elton brand plays. no offense to blazer fans out there, but this squad makes me feel better about my hawks by basis of comparison. :) have a good weekend, slamonline readers and writers.

  • albie1kenobi

    speaking of working hard and blazers…

    “Both teams played hard.”

    can someone find this clip online?

  • Rami

    Ryan…Eddy Curry on the list as well?
    I’d rather have that big greek guy.

  • Ang

    I’m aight with Zach here. At this point, Olowakandi and Tim Thomas better not be on this list.

  • http://www.sactownroyalty.com TZ

    Shareef Abdur-Rahim will not sleep until Z-Bo’s nose gets broken in retribution. Fear the Reefer.

  • Aaron

    Zach is a punk and Izzo should be embarassed to have this kid represent Michigan State. With Aldridge coming in now, I don’t think Zach is as important and Portland has been trying to push him out the door forever now. Of course noone will touch him with his attitude, contract and bad knee.

  • Aaron

    Oh yeah, he looks like Eddie Winslow…

  • http://www.truehoop.com Ben

    Nice work as always Henry. Albie1Kenobi, you can find the “both teams” played hard clip at needforsheed.com, or probably at detroitbadboys.com. . . As for Z-Bo, he’s pretty good, he may work hard, but he’s mouthy.

    Everytime I see him play he has quite a bit to say to the ref and often wears a sour expression. In my opinion, not a good combination.

    One or the other is fine, really. But both is too much.

  • Myung

    i heard phoenix just traded for him this afternoon, aaron. :) jk, bro. i agree with the eddie winslow thing…and if tracy mcgrady threw on glasses and some suspenders, he’d be urkel.

  • 1ozzy

    I’m still too hung up on the two previous “no experience” selections to even comment! I will say though that I can see Zach Thomas making this list. By the way, will Slam revisit this list after. . .hmmm, lets say the All star game? That should be enough time to make a proper decision on morrison and the cat from Toronto.

  • Myung

    jason taylor and ronnie brown too. just messin’ with you, 1ozzy.

  • albie1kenobi

    from what i remember from the show, urkel was a decent baller. i’d love for mcgrady to put on those nerd glasses and suspenders and dunking on everyone. that’d be freaking hilarious.

  • Rome

    every time I see him or Antoine walker, I can faintly hear Vannila Ice:
    t-u-r-t-l-e power t-u-r-t-l-e power

  • Dudley Bradley

    Eddie Winslow!!! HAHAHA… or the fat kid in the Annapolis, Vicellous Reon Shannon


  • Ryan

    Hey Rami, Curry seems to be a much more effective offensive player than “Baby Shaq” Sofoklis Schortsiantis, who had the Mike Sweetney look going on before this summer. Anyway, about Pippen supporting Randolph, the thing is Pippen said Bruce Bowen’s “not a defensive player” (http://www.nba.com/blog/blog30.html, Pip Awards) and even Kobe says Bowen’s the toughest defender (http://msn.foxsports.com/nba/story/5674782, bottom), so I think he might just have been pulling a Barkley.

  • Ryan

    Although I do remember Lang posting something a while back about Randolph mountain biking while rehabbing his knee. Guys, you should have used this picture instead: http://www.oregonlive.com/galleries/blazers/gallery.ssf?/cgi-bin/slide-show.cgi/olive/slide_show_wcard.ata?index=1&g_id=4182

  • http://thehype.wordpress.com Hype

    It’s all about the ‘za and Master Splinter.
    Completely off topic, but this is the first time in the week I’m in front of the comp in time to have a (semi-useless) comment in the top 30 for one of these “choice debates”
    1ozzy: that’s gatto from Toronto (thank you google translator!)

  • Jackie D

    Yeah. Zack may be top 60-material. And maybe Diaw is also. But when this list is finished, you people have some serious explaining to do.

  • http://www.theforce.net blake “bakers dozen” wright

    From the intro:

    Basically, though, we tried to list the 50 guys we think have the most value to their teams, right now, at this moment.

    No explaining needed. Most value to THEIR teams, AT THIS MOMENT! While Brandon Roy may end up being their next big thing, RIGHT NOW their most valuable ASSET is Zach Randolph, rather on the court or in a trade.

    Come on people, this isn’t saying who the best player in the league is or anything.

    We all know THAT answer is easily Dermar Johnson. :)

  • scott

    Zach Randolph bad knee, bloated contract, seems to have personal issues. #44 maybe too high for Randolph. I would still take Diaw, Kaman, or Smith over Eddie. Portland worst team in 2007.

  • Boing Dynasty

    If Antwaun Walker is a ninja turtle,
    then Lamond Murray is master splinter

  • Lindsey Hobson

    hes a good player. grounded,
    but hey thats what injuries can do to yah!

  • http://www.nba.com serbia23

    hes good

  • Tim Dogg

    I almost threw up. I hate Zach “pouty baby/no D” Randolph. I am a huge Blazer fan, and I loved him during his first couple years, when he did work HARD. He was an offensive rebounding machine. Now it seems like you can’t get him to go in the paint to save the life of a drugged-out hooker. He settles for 18-ft jumpers, over and over. Yes, he makes some, but is this really the high percentage shot we need? The Blazers are in the process of building an extremely athletic team (Roy, Outlaw, Jack, Webster, etc.) Not sure where a terra-bound, overweight, can’t get up the court PF who possesses a contract more bloated than his ego fits in. Luckily, we’ve got him for I believe three more years. Three more years with no free agents or trade capability.

  • Paniscus

    If McMillan has balls, and I’m pretty sure he does, he’ll just stop calling plays for Randolph. I think that Zach’s a hungry player, as is evidenced by those first couple of breakout seasons. It’s just that he’s not suited to be a franchise guy. He’s like, god forbid the comparison, Shawn Marion, in that he can thrive without being the center of attention. Also worth mentioning is that he was hot sh*t during those breakout seaons because he had Sheed to command a lot of the attention. He is Portland’s most important player right now, I just want to see him utilized in a way that helps the team.

    And yeah, I love this list. I don’t care that it’s not definitive, I just like having a daily dose of NBA reading and commentary. Keep it up.

  • simon

    yeah i love the list too! I don’t care if it don’t make sense it is good just to read about some players you dont normally read about, not to mention the anticipation of seeing who’s going to be next on this crazy ass list. I like Z-Bo though, liked him in his college days, but being from Australia don’t really see him play at all. Actually come to think of it i don’t think i’ve ever seen him play a pro game! Only highlights… But whatevers. Great list slam. “Grate” (from the LA Stars) better be on the list. Dude shoots %80 from beyond the arc! Thats whats up!

  • A_B

    Man Z-bo he just big, can’t jump can hardly run. He’s just realy crafty around the rim. If he just boxes out he can get 10boards a game becaus he’s big. Ey y’all should’ve posted that pic of him cycling. Now I know what I’d look like on a mountainbike. And diaw isn’t that much of a facto for his team. If he’s gone someone else on that roster’ll get his 11 points some other players will grab those 6 extra rebs and another player will hand out 6 assists. As they said on tnt and everywhere else everyone who plays next to steve nash looks good. And even better if they’re winning

  • Harlem World

    Is this list ‘the best 50′ or ‘the most important to their team’? Because if its the best – you already done did yourself in with the Italian Stallion. I can live with Randolph though. He needs to get back to ‘breakout Randolph’ or he’s in danger of becoming Zach Walker (Toine’s lil brother), who, for the record is probably the most irritating player in the league since Rick Fox.

  • http://slamonline.com Sam Rubenstein

    that picture of Zach on the bike is great. He’s wearing a helmet! Ben Toothlessberger could learn something from him.

  • http://www.slamonline.com carlo

    z-bo looks a lot like the marshmallow man,doesn’t he?

  • K the Die Hard Blazers Fan

    Zach better ship up his attitude and stop paying strippers to perform sex acts in downtown hotel rooms while his babies momma is at home worried about, whatever it is that rich women worry about. Maybe hiding the pool boy.

  • cantgetneerme

    can’t wait to see number one i predict either Mike dunleavy jnr or Michael Doleac the way you guys are going about it

  • Teddy-the-bear

    this list is ok. I’m not complaining except for the fac that I couldn’t stand reading about Darko at 49. Ugh!

  • Coach Nate

    If this is the Top 50 Malcontents and Top 50 most uncoachable players, this is a good pick.

  • Paolo

    Atleast Z-Bo has played in the NBA already. Numbers-wise, he might be an acceptable pick. He just has a heavy baggage, no pun intended. If he got his head on-straight, he might actually be ranked higher. He has proven that already. If only every year was a contract year.

  • http://slamonline.com jologs

    I think Kwame’s next..43!

  • http://cnnsi.com kwame

    Go Kwame! #43!

  • Tim Dogg

    My pick for next on the list — either Speedy Claxton or Marvin Williams. Or Ike Diogu. Or Quentin Richardson…. Or……

  • Paolo

    With the way this list is going, Jologs might be right. Kwame is next. Then it’s Shawn Kemp because he used to dunk like thunder, slam like rain, then he ate the Gund Arena, then the Rose Garden. Where he found pot and a one-way ticket to Expendableville. But he is one of the top players because he used to dominate high school. After Kemp? It’s Olowokandi. Dermarr Johnson. Dajuan Wagner. Darius Miles, Nate Robinson. And somewhere, somehow, when we’re all sedated with this ridiculous list, Stephon Marbury, Jamal Crawford and Jalen Rose will crack the top ten. God help us all.

  • Andy

    Damn it, people! Read the intro! Most important to their team, not the best players in the league!

  • Gord

    drama on slamonline…I love the top 50

  • Paolo

    How can you be valuable if you keep on punching your teammates? Ah. The drama.

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  • http://slamonline.com Justin H

    I’d Like Zach too if he could block shots from someone his size.

  • http://aol.com Luis C

    he suck he aint that good

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