Tuesday, October 9th, 2012 at 2:45 pm  |  24 responses

Top 50: Zach Randolph, no. 36

The definitive ranking of the NBA’s best players.

by Eldon Khorshidi | @eldonadam

Who is Zach Randolph?

This simple question has long been the root of headaches and confusion for fans, pundits and executives around the NBA. With Zach Randolph, the common perception is that there’s no middle ground. He’s either the unstoppable mix of power and finesse—the mix that has earned him two max contracts—or he’s a lazy, destructive player who is ultimately a detriment to the health of an organization.

For me, though, this question has always had a linear, easy answer. In a League filled with enigmas, Randolph has always been one of the most transparent, you-know-what-you’re-getting players.

He’s 6-9, 260 pounds with the strength of a defensive lineman and footwork of a ballerina. A bizarrely perfect blend of fat and fluidity. Lethal back to the basket and face-up abilities, with an explosive first step and feathery touch out to 18 feet. Lefty. Unorthodox and undersized body that on the surface comes across as a disadvantage, yet he has full sovereignty on where, and how, he operates on the court. One of probably 10 or 12 NBA players who can go into Unstoppable Mode, scoring at will, and physically and mentally wearing opponents into submission. Not a franchise centerpiece, but probably can suffice as the second best player on a Championship team.

For me, it’s really that simple. Everybody has a bad day, and sometimes even a bad week(s), but with Randolph the reward easily outweighs any risk.

Roughly 18 months ago, the basketball world was in love with Randolph. He was Z-Bo, a player perceived to be among the NBA’s elite, and was celebrated as a legitimate All-Star.

And predictably, considering the myopic lens through which we view sports, roughly eight months later Randolph was, in many circles, back to being a “bum.” Skeptics said the 2011 Playoffs, when Randolph averaged 22 and 9 in the first round and 23 and 12 in the second round, was a fluke. Tim Duncan, probably the best power forward of all-time, would disagree with that sentiment. So would Kevin Durant. So does, it seems, Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace.

In an offseason filled with rumor and innuendo, Randolph ended up staying put. He wasn’t traded for Pau Gasol and wasn’t amnestied. Instead, he’s back as the starting power forward for the Memphis Grizzlies. And if history (and his right knee, which he says is fully healthy) is right, Randolph is back to continue the abuse.

Since the ’03-04 campaign—Randolph’s third year in the NBA—Randolph has averaged 19.2 points and 10.2 rebounds per season. If you exclude his shortened 46-game campaign in ’04-05 and 28-game campaign last year, Randolph’s numbers stand at 20.2 points and 10.6 rebounds per year.

That’s 20 and 10, for about a decade. That’s production. That’s coaches conceding that you can’t really stop Zach Randolph, you can only hope to contain him.

Although labeled a misfit, and sometimes even a criminal in Portland and New York, and now an indispensable talent in Memphis, Randolph has never really changed. He still takes over games, still hasn’t caused problems in the locker room (don’t know where that notion even began), still produces at a high level, still could careless what you think and is still getting max-contract money.

With Zach Randolph, maybe it’s not about digging deep and thinking hard to figure it out. Maybe you’re spending too much time obsessing with extremes to even acknowledge the middle ground. Because Randolph is right there, ready to average 20 and 10.

Where should Zach Randolph rank in the SLAMonline Top 50?

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SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2012
Rank Player Team Position Pos. Rank
50 Greg Monroe Pistons C 8
49 Tyreke Evans Kings PG 14
48 Brandon Jennings Bucks PG 13
47 Stephen Curry Warriors PG 12
46 Ricky Rubio TWolves PG 11
45 Al Jefferson Jazz PF 14
44 Anthony Davis Hornets PF 13
43 Serge Ibaka Thunder PF 12
42 Al Horford Hawks C 7
41 Ty Lawson Nuggets PG 10
40 Danny Granger Pacers SF 6
39 Tim Duncan Spurs PF 11
38 John Wall Wizards PG 9
37 Monta Ellis Bucks SG 8
36 Zach Randolph Grizzlies PF 10

• Rankings are based solely on projected ’12-13 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Jake Appleman, Maurice Bobb, Rodger Bohn, Brendan Bowers, Franklyn Calle, David Cassilo, Bryan Crawford, Adam Figman, Eldon Khorshidi, Eddie Maisonet III, Ryne Nelson, Ben Osborne, Allen Powell II, Sam Rubenstein, Jonathan Santiago, Abe Schwadron, Leo Sepkowitz, Dave Spahn, Ben Taylor, Tzvi Twersky, Peter Walsh, Tracy Weissenberg, Yaron Weitzman, DeMarco Williams and Dave Zirin.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.

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  • ctk

    no way there is 35players better than him …other than Dirk/Pau no other pf im hands down takin over him

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    this was dope Eldon.

  • Junior Taylor

    This is a good spot for him considering that last season was a down year for him given all the injuries.

  • danpowers

    i love that guy, cant rank him high enough. thats the guys i identify with coz im also a little undersized and slightly chubby for a baller. so there is nothing better in this world (besides sex) to face a taller more athletic guy who starts to get mad because he realizes that THIS GUY!? is lighting him up and he cant do nothing about it. randolph must have this feeling every day on the broadest stage and its just a pleasure to watch him do his thing. great read btw

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Kevin Love. Lamarcus Aldridge. Chris Bosh. Kevin Garnett.

  • danpowers

    they hve to consider last seasons performance too n unfortunatelly he had a weak year due to injuries. he should get back to his something close to 20-10-production this year and climb up in the ranking next yr

  • Junior Taylor

    I am hard pressed to name 9 PFs better than ZBo but here I go…….Gasol/Dirk/Bosh/Griff/Love/LA/KG/JSmith/Millsap?

  • TR

    PF is a lot like PG now days, you could ask 5 different people who the best is at the position and get 5 different answers that hold weight.

  • ctk

    Love they both mainly offensive players …Zach gets more grown man buckets …Aldridge dont effect the game enuff on D(unlike ZBo he has the tools)…Bosh is more value as a 3rd wheel but i wouldnt pick him over ZBo as my main option …KG i cant argue

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Except Love gets more buckets more efficiently (which is more than just basic FG%) and more rebounds. So he does everything Randolph does, except he does it better.
    Aldridge has measured out as a top defensive 4 for the last 2 seasons, so idk how you come up with that idea.
    Bosh’s last season in Toronto is better than any season of Randolph’s career. So that argument also doesn’t make any sense.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    they may have put Amar’e over him not Millsap.

  • Junior Taylor

    Oh shucks…how could I forget the legendary Amar’e Stoudemire.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    it took me 3 different times reading your comment to figure out who may be missing lol

  • russian guy

    Love this dude,2011 Playoffs Zach Randoph was a top 10 player,we will see how he recovers from his injuries.

  • ctk

    Love get more pts cuz of the 3pt shot…more rebs cuz he dont rotate on D…Aldridge on the eye test dont impact the game on D..the measurements dont say everything…Bosh n Toronto could just play and n the weak East at that time ZBo would of done no worst …Bosh dont beat Spurs n Dominate Thunder like ZBo

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Love gets more points more efficiently. How he does it is irrelevant as long as he does it better. And Randolph doesn’t rotate on defense either so what’s your point? Love rebounds better doing the exact same shit Randolph does.
    ZBo was actually in New York in 2008-09 (which is in the East) and he was worse than Bosh in the same season. He has literally never been better than Bosh, he has just been the best player on a more talented team ONE time. You are acting like ZBo always led winning teams….when really, he did it once. Other than that? He was the best player on some of the worst teams in the NBA. And he was only the best scorer on that Grizzlies team anyway, not better than anyone at anything else (i guess rebounding, but that was a product of not playing any help defense as much as anything) – infact, the Grizzlies win % went up 6% last year…….with Zach Randolph contributing almost nothing all year.
    Your eye test for Aldridge, considering your completely off-base opinion on everything else means absolutely nothing, especially considering it contradicts factual information.

  • Junior Taylor

    Maybe that shows just how far Amare has fallen. He used to be among the first names brought up whenever talking PFs .

  • Pve_2

    Yeah, there is no way that Roy Hibbert and/or the next 15 players on this list are having a better year than Zach Randolph barring a Z-Bo injury. Him being this low is wrong.

  • danpowers

    that guy has not rlly fallen. he just had a season battled by injuries, coaching changes, rollercoaster season for the team he was on and so on. every now and then he showed glimpses of his true potential. expect him to be back at 20ppg and 50fg% this season

  • uqk

    Griff & Love is not yet better than ZBo..

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    only you would expect that. I don’t think anyone is scoring 20PPG next to Melo unless they have the ball more often (Allen Iverson).

  • danpowers

    i just take melo by his word saying he is going to pass the ball more and score less this coming season. plus he lost so much weight and looks so sharp, that one could really believe that he is actually aproaching the game a little different.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Remember when LeBron said he was gonna stop shooting 3′s and that lasted 4 games? Same thing, they have been too successful as individuals to completely change their game

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