Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

NBA Free Agency 2014: The "Mature" Zach Randolph

Not too long ago, fans of the NBA viewed Zach Randolph as a bit of a problem. A little hot under the collar, and a lot out of shape, “Z-Bo” was looked at as a bust candidate. A lot of talent but not enough work ethic to make something out of it. However, in recent years things began to click for Zach Randolph and company down in Memphis. He reached the All-Star caliber level that many predicted he would. He also became half of one of the best center/power forward duo’s in the NBA with Marc Gasol.

In 2006, as a member of the Portland Trailblazers, Randolph had his best offensive year. He averaged 23.6 points a game and 10.1 rebounds. But, Randolph turned the ball over more than he ever has in his career, close to four a game, and couldn’t stay healthy. After that year, Portland and Randolph parted ways and he found himself in NBA purgatory (the Los Angeles Clippers) and then in one of the toughest markets on Earth (New York). It didn’t seem like these teams and those fan bases took well to Z-Bo and before you know it, he was off again. But this time it seemed that he had found the home in the newly minted market of Memphis. Since 2008, Randolph has played in at least 75 games in four out of five seasons (’11-’12 was a lockout shortened season). Thought his production has dipped on the offensive end, only averaging now 17.4 points and 10.1 rebounds a game, he has become a team player and one of the best power forwards in the NBA.

Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

The last few years Memphis has been a tough out in the playoffs. They were eliminated by Oklahoma City in seven games, after beating a high powered Clipper team the post-season before. It is easy to argue that Zach Randolph’s suspension for hitting Thunder forward Steven Adams, is the reason they lost the last game. These people are probably right. But I feel that “love tap” was more about the intensity of the playoffs and less about his maturity level that has come into question in the past.

Thaddeus Young wants out of Philadelphia. Though it may not be the best move for the franchise, Young has almost earned an early leave based off of what he has done for the organization. That will leave another forward spot open with Nerlens Noel upfront. But, it won’t be as easy as luring Greg Monroe out of Detroit.

Randolph is 32 years old, with kids who go to school in Memphis. He has adopted that town as his home and both him and the organization will probably want to continue what they have going. However two things work in the 76ers favor:

1. Performance Ceiling: The reason why Jrue Holiday is in New Orleans wearing one the more interesting color schemes in pro sports, is because Sam Hinkie looked at the 2012-13 76ers and realized this team could only go but so far. Mainly just the second-round of the playoffs.. To bring Philadelphia the championship this city desperately needs, he had to tear it down and start from scratch. This could be Memphis soon. They are a great team, but lack the super star talent to take it over when it is needed. They also suffer from average guard play. Unless some decent signings happen, this team could be stuck in Atlanta Hawks territory for a while.

2. Money: The Grizzlies owe Marc Gasol 15.8 million dollars for next season, and if Randolph picks up his player option, he is owed 16.5 million. On top of that, there are a lot of young players not signed going into next season. This financical situation could be more than Memphis wants, and Randolph could be shown the door. With a team that doesn’t seem talented enough to move beyond the second-round out west, they may have to tear it down in Tennessee before they can bring down the real powers in the NBA. If thats the case I doubt Randolph will stick around. The 76ers could sign the man to a deal similar if not better than Memphis can offer. On top of that the rebuilding in Philadelphia has already begun.

Not ideal, but the option is there for Randolph. Zach Randolph has never been a free agent. Both him and Memphis are speaking as if they both want him to stay in Memphis. But if they money is out there, its hard to think Randolph won’t at least take a look on the Horizon. There he should meet a smiling Josh Harris with cliche fabric bags with giant dollar signs on the side. In a world were Salary caps rule the day, and no one minus the Lakers actually pays for the Luxury tax, the 76ers are the New York Yankees. Money shouldn’t be an issue for this club moving forward. Hopefully a player like Randolph sees that as well as the potential that this club has. The Grizzlies may have hit their ceiling, but the 76ers are looking at the sky. It may not be ideal, but Randolph could do a lot worse than coming to Philadelphia next season.

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Tags: Josh Harris Philadelphia 76ers Sam Hinkie Thaddeus Young Zach Randolph

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