You probably didn't notice this, but Zach Randolph came off the bench for the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday. It was an exhibition game against the Orlando Magic, and Memphis started JaMychal Green at power forward. Grizzlies coach David Fizdale told reporters on Wednesday that this arrangement would continue, adding that Randolph took the news well.
Fizdale announces Zach Randolph will come off bench this season full-time. "Let's not beat around the bush. He can be 6th man of the year."— Michael Wallace (@MyMikeCheck) October 5, 2016
Zach went to the locker room to Marc Gasol and said "I'll anchor the bench for us, don't worry about it, I've got that part," per Fizdale.— Alexis Morgan (@alexiskmorgan) October 5, 2016
It's worth noting that Memphis tried this last year, with Randolph coming off the bench for 15 games under former coach Dave Joerger. When the team was banged-up, though, it needed Randolph to return to the starting lineup.
Fizdale clearly wants things to be different in Memphis this coming season. The grit-and-grind era might not be officially over, but he has talked about playing faster and giving Mike Conley and Chandler Parsons more playmaking responsibility than they've had in their careers. Over Joerger's three seasons in charge, he tried to get them to embrace a more modern style of basketball with more ball movement, but usually ended up reverting to what was most comfortable.
The argument for this move is simple: the Grizzlies badly need scoring off the bench, and Randolph should be able to bully opposing reserves. Other post-up players who struggle to protect the rim, like Milwaukee's Greg Monroe and Indiana's Al Jefferson, will also be playing this role this season. If all goes right, Randolph will help the second unit have an identity and Green will better complement the starters because of his defensive versatility and range on his jumper.
The argument against it is also simple: Starting Randolph next to Conley, Parsons and Marc Gasol gives Memphis a lot of weapons for defenses to worry about. Maximizing his minutes next to Gasol will limit the damage done by his lack of rim protection. Also, maybe it would have been best to save this adjustment in case the Grizzlies get off to a slow start -- if they struggle doing things this way, what move is there to make?
Regardless of whether or not you're in favor of this, it's significant that Randolph is apparently embracing this role. The 35-year-old could be competing with recently demoted Phoenix Suns guard Brandon Knight for the Sixth Man of the Year award.