All Zach Randolph does is produce. Sure he’s sort of an enigma, but no matter where he goes, and no matter what auspicious circumstances surround him, at the end of the day he puts up numbers. And this year he’s doing more than that; he’s leading an unheralded Memphis team into uncharted waters compared to most of the eighth seeds in NBA history.
Randolph entered the NBA after only playing one season at Michigan State and was drafted by the Trailblazers in the first round. After spending his first two years developing and coming off of the bench, year three was his first as a starter. He responded by averaging 20.1 ppg and 10.5 rpg when no one really expected him to produce like that. That year he won the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award and Portland rewarded him with a six year, $84 million dollar contract extension.
After a career year in 2006-07 where he averaged 23.6 ppg and 10.1 rpg that was cut short due to a hand injury Portland shipped Randolph to the Knicks due to several off the court issues (some on the court, like punching teammate Ruben Patterson in the face during practice) but all he did there was continue to produce for a lowly Knicks squad. In only 32 minutes a game he averaged 17.6 ppg and 10.3 rpg.
After little more than a season in New York, he was dealt to the Clippers where he put up 20.9 and 9.4 rpg in 39 games. Again, off the court issues (and some on the court issues like punching Phoenix’s Louis Admunson in the jaw during a game- but hey I always hated that guy’s hair too; it looked like a “bun”) prompted his departure. The Clippers had seen enough and dealt him to Memphis.
And that was supposed to be the end of Zach Randolph, we weren’t supposed to hear about him ever again in the context of the NBA. He was banished to Memphis and we were all supposed to forget about him, similar to the way Napoleon was exiled to Saint Helena. But someone forgot to tell Zach Robinson his career was done. Over the last two years in Memphis, Randolph has averaged 19.9 ppg and made himself an upper echelon rebounder, averaging 11.2 a last season and 12.1 this season, both career highs.
Few players in the game are as adept at collecting offensive rebounds, or a “Z-Bound” as known to Memphis fans, with Randolph leading the NBA in offensive rebounds last season and finishing second this season. Randolph has turned himself into the best offensive rebounder in the NBA and we saw in the first round versus the Spurs what a crippling effect that can have on an opposing team.
Randolph’s play in the playoffs has been elevated even further. He averaged 23 ppg and 10 rpg and led the Grizzlies to a victory over the Spurs, and carried his torrid play in the playoffs into game one against the Thunder, putting up 34 and 10 and leading them to victory. Game two saw the Thunder prevail, but stealing one in OKC is all the Grizzlies wanted to do. Heading back to Memphis, Zach Randolph is ready to produce and make sure no one forgets about him again. "I’ve felt like I don’t get a lot of respect I deserve. It’s nothing personal or nothing," said Randolph. “I just want to win.”