clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Player Grades: Zach Randolph

New, comments

The veteran’s lack of efficiency and poor defense should have caused him to fall out of the rotation.

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Grading anything as subjective as an entire NBA season is always a tough gig. Different people have different goals for an individual as well as different techniques for assessing a seven month long journey. To keep things moderately simple, I will be using the expectations we had heading into the season for each player as the barometer for how well their season went. These grades won’t necessarily tell us where they rank among their fellow NBA players or what their career trajectory may be, but rather it will help assess where we stand with that prospect today compared to where we stood in October.

Player: Zach Randolph

Grade: D

Reasoning: My expectations were not very high for Zach Randolph to start the year. Like many, I believed he would be an inefficient, volume scorer, above-average rebounder, and would show a lack of attention to the defensive end of the floor. He was theoretically brought in as a locker room mentor and Dave Joerger disciple, rather than as a key contributor, but our coaching staff’s refusal to acknowledge his negative impact on the court caused his known issues to grow from annoying to detrimental to his teammates.

Areas of Strength

Randolph was often used as an escape valve on offense when our young players were struggling with the rhythm of the game. It was not uncommon to see De’Aaron Fox dribble the ball down the floor, lob it to Zach in the post, and then settle in the corner to watch the veteran work. Randolph outpaced everyone in post-ups throughout the year, averaging 4.9 per game, translating to 501 touches on the block, 219 more times than second place Willie Cauley-Stein. His isolation work was actually quite effective. Almost 11% of his time on offense was spent in isolation, and he scored 1.02 points per possession, good enough for the 83rd percentile in the league.

Randolph’s role as the focal point of the offense caused him to lead the team in scoring at 14.5 points per game, and he was one of only two players (Garrett Temple), to eclipse the 30-point scoring mark at some point during the season. His three-pointer was much better than expected as well. Last year, he hit only 22% of those shots on 1.3 attempts per game, but managed to push that accuracy to 35% on the season, taking 2.5 per contest. While still slightly below league average, and 8th on a team full of underutilized shooters, his 3-ball fell with enough regularity to make it a legitimate threat to defenses.

Z-Bo was also second best on the team in cleaning the glass, grabbing 6.7 boards per game, and was second among rotational players in rebounds per-36 minutes, averaging 9.5 compared to Kosta Koufos’ 12.2. He also trailed only Koufos in total rebounding percentage at 15.2% and defensive rebounding at 24%.

He was often inefficient, but then again, Dave Joerger’s offensive design encourages inefficiency. He was given the role of bully on the block to soak up shot attempts on a young team and did an admirable job filling that role considering he was a 36-year old non-vertical big man who shouldn’t have been put in that position.

Areas of Opportunity

Aside from basic metrics like points and rebounds per game, most statistics are incredibly unkind to Randolph’s 2017-2018 campaign. The most damning was his net rating. As a reminder, net rating is the offensive rating (points per 100 possessions the team scores while that player is on the court) minus the defensive rating (points per 100 possessions the team allows while that player is on the court):

League Comparision

Metric Contribution League Rank Out of
Metric Contribution League Rank Out of
Offensive Rating 101 291 331
Defensive Rating 114.3 330 331
Net Rating -13.3 330 331

Randolph recording the worst rating on the team wasn’t a huge surprise, but that number falling all the way to second-worst in the entire league was shocking. As expected, his defense was non-existent, also the second-worst among all players, and his offensive rating wasn’t much better, ranking the 40th worst of 331 qualified participants.

His ineffectiveness on both ends of the floor translated to a negative impact for all of his teammates. Every single player that shared the court with Randolph showed an improvement when he left the floor:

Teammate Impact

Player Mins shared per game On-court Net Rating Off-court Net Rating Differential
Player Mins shared per game On-court Net Rating Off-court Net Rating Differential
Kosta Koufos 5.8 -28.1 -4.9 -23.2
Skal Labissiere 8.8 -13.4 -2.6 -10.8
Justin Jackson 13.9 -15.1 -4.7 -10.4
Bogdan Bogdanovic 16.3 -15.1 -4.9 -10.2
Garrett Temple 15.4 -13 -4.6 -8.4
Willie Cauley-Stein 16 -13.1 -5 -8.1
Buddy Hield 9.2 -9.7 -2 -7.7
De'Aaron Fox 17.3 -13.3 -8.6 -4.7
Frank Mason 6.5 -4.7 -1.3 -3.4
Vince Carter 5.8 -4.8 -4.1 -0.7

A player who is that detrimental to his teammates likely shouldn’t see the floor at all, much less average the fifth most minutes on the team and start 57 games.

There’s also a very real argument to be made that this version of Z-Bo is the worst defensive player in the entire league. Not only is his defensive rating at the bottom of the barrel; his field goal differential is also the worst in the pros. On average, opponents increased their field goal percentage from 48.3% all the way to 55% when guarded by Zach, a jump of 6.7%.

His lack of lateral quickness would explain a struggle on the perimeter, but his post defense was inexcusable as well. Among players who guarded at least 35% of their shots within six feet of the basket, he placed third to last, allowing his opponent to shoot 6.1% better than average. Randolph was the exact opposite of a rim protector.

Final Thoughts: My expectations for Zach Randolph were extremely low to start the season, but his performance was even worse than I imagined. He’s simply not the player he once was. His scoring ability has mostly left him. The rebounding has become average. He’s quite possibly the worst defensive player in the entire NBA. The numbers that he put up were the result of a coach who fell in love with who he used to be, not due to an actual impact on the court. As much as it pains me to say it, the Kings will be investing almost 12% of their cap space next season in a player who doesn’t deserve to be in the rotation, and who may no longer belong in the NBA.