Zach Randolph: slow, Jailblazers holdover or bright face of the Trail Blazers' future?
That's the question as the Blazers' offseason begins this week: Do they keep their high-priced star or try to deal him to move up in the draft? Randolph, coming off his best season, has improved in virtually every category, but how much he gels with his younger, faster teammates remains a question. So, here's a little stay-or-go analysis.
STAY!! Randolph is getting better. He's young: 25. And after six seasons, he finally appears willing to play team ball, as witnessed by his assist numbers, reaching a season-high 3.7 in March.
GO!! Randolph still can't run (or jump). He's also injury-prone and slows an athletic front line with LaMarcus Aldridge and a Brandon Roy-Jarrett Jack backcourt. Why drive a minivan if you can trade it in?
STAY!! He wants to win. The other Blazers look up to him as the closest thing to a veteran, and he's learning to be a vocal leader in return. His late-season players-only meeting about not giving up is proof.
GO!! Veteran? If Zach Randolph is the veteran young players look up to, the Blazers are in trouble. He's an off-court timebomb (with numerous legal run-ins) and an on-court defensive liability.
STAY!! The numbers. Look at his averages: 23.6 points; 10.1 rebounds; 82 percent free-throw shooting! Where are you going to get another guy like that?
GO!! The other numbers. The Blazers have a winning record (7-6) without Randolph heading into the finale Wednesday, April 18, of their losing season.
STAY!! There's no choice. The Blazers have $42 million left on his contract. Very few teams have a player with the needed fat contract to make a deal, and fewer still will trade anybody worthwhile.
GO!! The choice is clear. There are teams with expiring contracts that would love his low-post energy. The Blazers might not get an All-Star, but they could get some wiggle room for signing free agents.
I like Randolph. He fights for every basket and really wants to be an All-Star. Unless a trade gets the Blazers into the top two spots to draft top college prospects Greg Oden or Kevin Durant, they should sit on a deal until the '07-'08 trade deadline and see how next year's team plays with Z-Bo.