Will Zach Randolph play for the Memphis Grizzlies when they visit the New Orleans Pelicans Friday night? The NBA odds are on hold until we find out – that’s how important Randolph is to the Grizz.
Jason’s record as of Jan. 7: 22-22-1 ATS, 2-4 Totals
Remember how the Memphis Grizzlies were the best team in the league? Ah, those salad days. The Grizzlies are still the top team in the Southwest Division at 25-10 (17-18 ATS), but things haven’t been quite the same ever since Zach Randolph went on the injured list with a sore right knee. Memphis is 4-5 SU and 3-6 ATS without their main man at power forward.
That could all change this Friday night when the Grizzlies hit the Big Easy to face the New Orleans Pelicans (17-18 SU, 20-15 ATS). Randolph practiced with the team on Thursday and is being listed as questionable to play Friday. We probably won’t know about his status until Friday’s shootaround, though, which means the NBA odds for this matchup are on hold as we go to press. But what if Randolph plays?
Get out of Jail Free
It’s been quite a journey for Randolph since he joined the NBA in 2001 at the tender age of 20. By his third season, Randolph was a 20/10 man for the Portland Trail Blazers, but he was also a problem child on a team full of problems. Then he got shipped to the New York Knicks in 2007 – never a good career move – and one year later, it was off to the Los Angeles Clippers, back when they were still worse than the Knicks.
Once 2009 rolled around, all it took for the Grizzlies to pry Randolph from L.A. was Quentin Richardson. But surprisingly, Randolph flourished in Memphis, maturing as a player and making his first All-Star team. Pairing Randolph with Marc Gasol turned the Grizzlies from a laughing stock to legitimate second-tier contenders in the Western Conference. Now they’re making a push toward elite status.
Replacing Randolph hasn’t been easy. True, his minus-0.5 BPM doesn’t seem all that irreplaceable, but scoring is cheap. Randolph’s enhanced value is in his 13.0 rebounds per 36 minutes, including 4.2 boards at the offensive end. Offensive rebounds are like gold, especially when Randolph gets those easy put-backs and racks up all those second-chance points.
Taking Randolph out of the equation has forced Memphis to lean on Jon Leuer (12.8 PER), a definite downgrade at power forward with 13.1 points and 8.7 rebounds per 36 minutes. Leuer was unimpressive enough that the Grizz decided to give second-round rookie and Memphis native Jarnell Stokes the starting assignment last week. Stokes is more like Randolph at 6-foot-9 and a bruising 260 pounds. He’s also managed to grab 4.2 offensive boards per 36 minutes in very limited action. But Stokes has yet to play serious minutes, starting or otherwise.
We’ll Kill Him First, and Then Have Tea and Biscuits
Here’s a serious challenge for any power forward: Deal with Anthony Davis (31.3 PER). He’s one of the very best players in the league, a deserving MVP candidate with 24.0 points, 10.6 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per 36 minutes. Davis is being paired with a platoon of Omer Asik (plus-0.6 DBPM) and Ryan Anderson (plus-3.3 OBPM), which is working out quite nicely.
But it’s difficult to put too much stock in the Pelicans and their three-headed perimeter monster of Jrue Holiday (18.2 PER), Tyreke Evans (15.8 PER) and Eric Gordon (8.4 PER), who made his return to the lineup on Monday in a 92-85 loss to the Washington Wizards (+3 away). New Orleans followed that up with Wednesday’s 98-94 loss to the awful Charlotte Hornets (+4.5 at home). The Pellies don’t have much depth at all, and Gordon should be more productive after shaking off the rust, but they’re going to have to prove themselves before we feel good about recommending New Orleans for your NBA picks.
Free NBA Pick: Take the Grizzlies (if Randolph plays)