SLAM Top 50: Zach Randolph, no. 44

What can I say about Zach Randolph that you don’t already know? He’s dominated with the same two post moves forever—jab step, jab step, high-arcing 12-footer; post up, dribble, dribble, lefty hook. He’s one of the League’s best rebounders despite being, by all accounts, unable to jump. He’s never been much of a shot-blocker (again, the jumping), and yet he’s among the most bruising defenders we have.

But you already knew all of that. After all, you’ve been watching it since ’01. So how about this:

Between 2007 and 2009, Z-Bo was dealt three times for, in all, the following players: Steve Francis (’07 vintage), Channing Frye, Tim Thomas (’08 edition), Cuttino Mobley (same) and Quentin Richardson (’09). He was tossed into the mishmash of overpaid has-beens eight years ago. But he’s just continued to truck forward with that singularly dominant style.

Two years back, our own Adam Figman wrote of Randolph (No. 30 back in ’13):

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.

In the two years since that was written, silly-ass trends have only gotten sillier. We’ve seen the power forward position turn into a slot for beefed-up wings and three-point launchers—you know, since it’s dumb to shoot twos now. Dudes like Marvin Williams and Ersan Ilyasova are getting paid because they are decent three-point shooters who are also tall.

Zach, though, does not care about silly-ass trends. Throw a stretch-4 on him at your own risk—he’s wise and strong enough to attack him all night. If you do get Randolph scrambling toward the perimeter on the other end, you can be sure that another member of the League’s best defense—the only one to rank in the top three in points allowed in each of the last three seasons—will have his back.

That last part might be the best thing about Randolph’s resurgence (or is it just continued domination) in Memphis. Z-Bo was cast aside by some truly awful teams—the Knicks won 33 games in the season before they acquired him, 23 with him, 32 after they moved him—but has stumbled into the perfect environment. Grit n’ Grind is everything we love about Z-Bo, everything he’s been doing with the same F U smirk for 14 years, even if some of those years were lost on grit-n-grind-less teams.

Over a four-year stretch, the Grizzlies added Mike Conley (2007), Marc Gasol (2008), Randolph (2009) and Tony Allen (2010). They had won 68 games, total, in the three seasons before Randolph showed up. These powerful Grizzlies have come together deliberately—slow and steady, no wasted motion, no bull shit, ever. Wonder who they got that style from.


SLAM Top 50 Players 2015
Rank Player Team Position Pos. Rank
50 Rajon Rondo Kings PG 14
49 Giannis Antetokounmpo Bucks SF 9
48 Rudy Gobert Jazz C 9
47 Al Jefferson Hornets C 8
46 DeMar DeRozan Raptors SG 7
45 Goran Dragic Heat PG 13
44 Zach Randolph Grizzlies PF 11

Rankings are based on expected contribution in 2015-16—to players’ team, the NBA and the game.