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Memphis a Particularly Bad Spot for Z-Bo Deal

A Daily Babble Production

There is no hiding the fact that Zach Randolph isn't a favorite in this space.  We've spent plenty of time over the past year bemoaning Randolph's many flaws on a basketball court and in the huddle and locker room.  This isn't a guy you want on your team.

But if it's at all possible for there to be some sort of gradient of Z-Bo's lack of appeal, it bears noting then that the ongoing Randolph-to-Memphis rumor sounds especially unfortunate for the would-be recipient of the power forward.  If there's a spot where it somehow makes even less sense than normal to bring in a player of Randolph's style, it's Memphis.

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If there's something to be excited about in Memphis right now, it's the hoard of young talent the Grizzlies have put together.  How all the pieces will fit is yet to be determined, but the 1-2-3 combination of Mike Conley Jr., O.J. Mayo and Rudy Gay gives the team no shortage of athleticism and possible potency on both ends of the floor for years to come.  Marc Gasol will come aboard in the pivot this year as well.  Watching these players grow should be pleasurable for Grizz fans to some extent no matter the win totals for now.

A player like Randolph, however, is exactly the sort who could stunt that growth.  All of the Memphis youngsters are players who are going to need touches.  Rudy Gay was this team's leading scorer last year and loves to put the ball up.  Conley needs to have the freedom to run the offense, and Mayo will likely take his share of shots in addition to having some ball-handling duties as well.  Getting these players to mesh together will be a tough enough task for second-year coach Marc Iavaroni without having to worry about a guy whose main function offensively is stagnating team play. 

Once the ball gets into Randolph's hands, it dies.  He is going to make one of his three moves (jab-step plus right wing jumper, drive right baseline for lay-up or reverse, drive to the lane for lefty baby hook) and either score or come up empty-handed.  He is a poor passer who kills ball movement and prevents his teammates from getting open looks off the double teams he draws and really from getting into the flow of the offense at all.  With Conley, Mayo and Gay, the Grizz may already have enough concerns about playing with just one ball.  A player like Randolph will only breed more selfishness and prevent that offense from coming anywhere near reaching its potential.

Perhaps even more critical is the preventative measure a trade for Randolph would be toward improving team defense.  Iavaroni came to town as a reputed defensive maven who had worked under Pat Riley in Miami before taking a spot on Mike D'Antoni's staff in Phoenix.  In his inaugural head coaching season, the Grizz finished 28th in defensive efficiency.  The expectation is that with a new coach and a lot of youngsters, it will take some time for the team to master Iavaroni's system concepts and that they will get better over the next couple of seasons.  Randolph is the sort of player who could short-circuit that all by his lonesome.  He can't be bothered to get up and down the floor, doesn't ever play a pick-and-roll successfully, hasn't closed out a shooter in years and spends more time talking to the referees than paying attention to his man.  If this guy is supposed to be an interior defensive presence, pack it in.  Calling him putrid at that end of the floor is far too complimentary.

Further, the main cog that would be going to New York is a player that could prove crucial defensively for the Grizzlies.  While Darko Milicic was disappointing in his first season in Memphis, he is someone who has shown brief flashes of brilliance both as a shot-blocker and rebounder at this level, and he can be at the very least a more malleable part of the offense than Randolph is.  Though Milicic has spent five largely unimpressive seasons in the league, he's also only 22 years old.  Seems a bit of a rush to give up on him already in favor of a potential team killer in Randolph.

Their record-to-be in the coming season notwithstanding, there's a lot to be excited about in Memphis.  A move for Zach Randolph could do a lot toward dampening that intrigue and this team's future.