Thursday, October 3rd, 2013 at 3:00 pm  |  54 responses

Top 50: Zach Randolph, no. 30

Appreciate Z-Bo’s crafty and hard-nosed game while you can.

by Adam Figman / @afigman

Last winter, I flew down to Memphis to write a SLAM cover story about the starting lineup of the ’12-13 Grizzlies, a group that at the time was making a name for itself in a way M-Town-repping pro basketball players had yet to, basically ever. One afternoon, following a team shoot-around, I interviewed Zach Randolph while we walked down an empty hallway somewhere in the bowels of the FedExForum. Right before we reached the locker room—Zach’s destination—we stopped, and I casually leaned up against the wall as Z-Bo answered my questions both honestly and thoughtfully. Zach, though, for some reason or another, stood about as close to me as humanly possible in that (very wide!) hallway, looking almost straight down to me as he spoke. I still have no idea why. Our conversation carried on in this manner—me, brushed up against a cement wall, launching questions directly north; him, inches away, kindly answering them directly south—for 12 entire minutes.

(Worth noting: I’m 5-9, maybe 140 pounds soaking wet. Zach is 6-9, about 260.)

It was weird and slightly uncomfortable, but I was satisfied in that I felt like I came out of it with the real Zach Randolph experience. Which is not to say one needs to have a conversation with Zach Randolph as he stands literally over and above you to undergo a real Zach Randolph experience. But it was emblematic of my favorite element of Z-Bo, a facet of his personality that he’s maintained throughout his 12-year career and will seemingly hold onto until the day he calls it quits.

It is this: Zach Randolph does not give a shit about your useless social conventions. He does things the way he wants them done, and he does them (more or less) successfully, and that is that. And in no place is this more evident than on the basketball court. Every year the League becomes increasingly athletic, with its players jumping higher and higher and running faster and faster. Zach, though, does not care about silly-ass trends. With that relatively round (at least for NBA player standards) 260-pound frame, Z-Bo basically lumbers up and down the court, catching the rock in the low- or mid-post during almost every offensive possession (a responsibility he shares with Marc Gasol), at which point the Grizzlies play off of him (or Gasol) until said possession is over. Down in the paint, Zach, with his back to the basket, barrels through skinnier, weaker big men or utilizes impeccable footwork to dance around the few who can match him pound-for-pound. It’s a pretty dead style of basketball, one that’s rarely taught to up-and-coming power forwards and centers, but Randolph has grasped onto this approach and will never, ever let it go. He is the guy in your office who still uses a PC and barks at the IT guys every time they come by his cubicle to switch it out with some snazzy-looking Apple.

Oh, and speaking of things rarely seen in hoopers navigating the high school and college ranks these days, Randolph has paired his hard-nosed style of ball with a get-the-fuck-out-of-my-way attitude that’s landed him on the Dark Alley Team of Stephen Jackson, the authority on such matters. Respect.

We’ve actually moved Randolph up on this list from his previous ranking of No. 36 to No. 30, which may be a bit of a stretch, but also, considering his game is founded on a combination of low-post finesse and smartly throwing his weight around, implies a little age shouldn’t render the Indiana native irrelevant. He averaged only 11.6 points per game in an injury-plagued ’11-12, then a steady 15.4 in ’12-13, a number down from the 20 or so he averaged during his mid- and late-20s. He also averaged 11.2 boards per game last season, the second highest yearly average of his career. Even with a new head coach, the Grizzlies will likely continue to run their offense through their two big men, so there’s little reason to imagine Randolph will receive any less touches during the upcoming campaign. (And an improved Mike Conley Jr should only better Randolph’s offensive opportunities.)

Assuming a tidal shift in the way the game of basketball is taught is not forthcoming, Zach Randolph’s style—certainly on the court, but probably off it, too—may soon be completely extinct. We must appreciate what we have while we have it. We must appreciate Zach Randolph.

Where should Zach Randolph rank in the SLAM Top 50?

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SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2013
Rank Player Team Position Pos. Rank
50 Monta Ellis Mavs SG 5
49 Luol Deng Bulls SF 10
48 Ricky Rubio TWolves PG 14
47 Greg Monroe Pistons PF 12
46 Kawhi Leonard Spurs SF 9
45 Mike Conley Grizzlies PG 13
44 Al Jefferson Bobcats C 9
43 David Lee Warriors PF 11
42 Jrue Holiday Pelicans PG 12
41 Anthony Davis Pelicans PF 10
40 Joe Johnson Nets SG 4
39 Serge Ibaka Thunder PF 9
38 Kevin Garnett Nets PF 8
37 Rudy Gay Raptors SF 8
36 Paul Pierce Nets SF 7
35 Ty Lawson Nuggets PG 11
34 Pau Gasol Lakers PF 7
33 Al Horford Hawks C 8
32 Andre Iguodala Warriors SF 6
31 Brook Lopez Nets C 7
30 Zach Randolph Grizzlies PF 6

Rankings are based on expected contribution in ’13-14—to players’ team, the League and the game.

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  • Hum


  • davidR

    horford > zbo. straight up

  • spit hot fiyah

    how on earth do i turn of the sound for the 2k14 promo once and for all????!!!!!

  • http://SLAMonline.com/ Ryne Nelson

    Sorry, we’re looking into it.

  • spit hot fiyah

    that sh#!T is really annoying if u open a few widows at the same time

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    LOL i’m not even going to start.

  • davidR

    steeppppp intooooo a worrrrrllllllddddd everytime

  • davidR


  • Dundler

    Not gunna get into the ranking, but he is a fave of mine. Old school, barrell them out the way combined with excellent footwork and finesse.
    But more than that, hes probably had a bigger mid career turnaround than anyone on this list

  • Evan Boland


  • spit hot fiyah
  • davidR

    zbo can hoop. i love that he dominates with no athleticism, proving that it’s not all about running faster, being stronger, jumping higher. if you have the skillset and the mindset, you can be a very good player.

    there was a great story about zbo maturing once he got to memphis. if i can find it i’ll link it, but i think you’d enjoy the read if you havent read it already


    here it is


  • Dundler

    Cheers send it my way. Think it obv shows that he matured. And goes to show just how much situation matters in the NBA

  • Dundler

    Its weird that we talk about how weak the SG position is (which is true) and yet there could be three in the top ten

  • shockexchange

    Zbo put the Grizzlies on his back and did damage during the playoffs. Teams game plan around Zbo. As far as Horford is concerned, THAT DOG DON’T HUNT.

  • shockexchange

    This ranking is a lil too low here. His stats reflect the Grizzlies’ half-court, grind it out style of play. Zbo got it done last year on the court. Zbo’s a hunting dog.

  • davidR
  • davidR

    i get what you’re saying. zbo is a proven killer on the court. he gets you buckets. horford still has yet to prove he’s cold blooded.

    i’m sayin tho, in the overall context of the game, i’d take horford over zbo. horford defends, holds the paint down, rebounds, and passes. he’s even playing out of position as a center, and still has a lot of room for improvement. i know i’m focusing on potential over results, but no doubt al will improve now that he’s being shifted to PF.

    zbo has the luxury of being backed up by gasol, and has a legit team. his weaknesses are hidden. horford doesn’t have that luxury

  • LakeShow

    I actually had some cool glitchy/echo vocals going haha.

  • shockexchange

    Zbo killed in Portland too, he just took that killer instinct too far and decided to bang on innocent civilians in the streets. Horford has played on better teams. His body of work is extensive. HE AIN’T NEVER CAUGHT A RABBIT. THAT DOG DON’T HUNT.

  • davidR

    yea he killed in portland, but his team didn’t do well. even when he went to ny they never made the playoffs in the weak east.

    zbo only started getting considered a cold blooded PF once he got to memphis. he always put up stats, but it never translated to success until memphis.

    trust. horford is gonna kill it this year. he’s still only 26 with room for improvement. you’ll see

  • shockexchange

    Agreed. That’s why they play the games.

  • 3Chainz

    2k14 promo is fucking spam!

  • danpowers

    hm, now i finally got why some ppl were so upset about horford’s rank… i love zach tho and guess this rank is a reward for his last years with memphis.

  • AddingVelocityDontTellMe

    you can delete ads if you are using google chrome by highlighting and deleting the coding for it.

  • AddingVelocityDontTellMe

    You can leave the ad just in your coding make sure it’s on mute rather than audio on

  • AddingVelocityDontTellMe

    that’s a logical fallacy. Even if there are 3 in the top 10 that doesn’t make the sg position strong. The drop off positional ranking wise for sg is tremendous.

    however for PG and PF the positional rankings are consistent

    Like when you rank SGs

    James Harden, Kobe, Wade, Monta Ellis (That’s a significant drop off from wade even though monta still is a strong offensive option)

    When you do PGs

    Derrick Rose, Westbrook, Deron, Rondo, Paul, Parker, Lillard and so on you can make case why their should be ranking changes

  • Dundler

    Yeah man I agree, thats what I meant to say, I worded it badly. There is a huge dropoff, but strange that 3 of the ten best players are from a position thats so shallow in talent.
    What is interesting though is that Kobe is obviously from a completely different era, and Wade almost is, and was considered a PG in the first place anyway. So I don’t know, is the SG position sort of dying out? Do we just have more Russell Westbrook types now? I dunno, I’m wondering out loud.
    For all we know, this is a dip like there was with centers for a couple of years, and soon there’ll be four or five SGs back in top 30

  • Dundler

    Excellent read, thanks

  • AddingVelocityDontTellMe

    The SF and Center positions are dying out because big men are needing to have perimeter game and point guards need to be able to score.

    The traditional game has died. It’s all about hybrids. Only tweeners are struggling because they aren’t strong, fast enough or not perimeter oriented enough

  • AddingVelocityDontTellMe

    Horford needs to sign with the spurs. That system would benefit him the most and bring out his potential.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Or you could have just watched him for the last 45 games last year

  • Dundler

    The SF position is dying out? In what way?

  • AddingVelocityDontTellMe

    I meant pg

  • King David

    sh*t is sooo annoying, F*ck lebron ! lol

  • Caboose

    …the point guard position is dying out. Really?

  • AddingVelocityDontTellMe

    typo. I meant to say SGs. Because of how point guards have been able to score. so it’s like you can have two combo guards running your backcourt w/o needing a pure 2 guard because having to combo guards gives flexibility for playmaking as well

  • Caboose

    I would say the big, 2/3 player is dying out (Vince, McGrady, etc). The SG is getting smaller.

  • AddingVelocityDontTellMe

    the big sgs are small forward and the big sf are sf or pfs.

    Its really becoming a league where all positions have to do everything excluding the specialist role (defense players).

  • AddingVelocityDontTellMe

    Horford needs to slide to the PF position permanently. I would love to seem him and lucas form a strong front court but i think the hawks aren’t bringing him over this year.

  • The Mauve Avenger

    Western Conference Finals

  • spit hot fiyah

    first time they were semi cool, then after that it is just facepalm annoying

  • Dundler

    Agreed. Ten years ago George, Granger etc would prob be sgs.

  • the man

    kobe is still so much better than harden its not evwn funny same with dwade when healthy hell put jr smith on rockets trade him 4 harden same result a sorry fg% and no defense

  • Max


  • Max

    I love me some ZBO!

  • Clos1881

    No way Z-BO is 30th

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  • Ross Fawcett

    He’s like the best pf in the league! His defence is incredible

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