Can Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph lead the Memphis Grizzlies to glory?
Last season, the Memphis Grizzlies entered the play-offs like any other of the 7 teams in their conference, as a contender. Of course, they entered as a contender in name only as nobody, not even themselves, expected them to even reach the second round.
However, they defeated the Los Angeles Clippers in a 4-2 upset and reached the second round where they defeated the fallible Westbrook-less Oklahoma City Thunder. The San Antonio Spurs however, brought their fairytale run to an abrupt and cruel end with a 4-0 win.
What was the driving force behind the Grizzlies’ fairytale run? Who ensured that they won time and time again against stronger and more favoured teams?
The answer is: Their front court. Or to be more precise, two men: Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph.
Gasol and Randolph’s relationship on the court isn’t mere professional respect. It borders on bromance. They’re both players of conflicting styles: Gasol has technique, he’s selfless and is soft at the rim. He scores through a series of intricate moves.
Randolph, on the other hand, often resembles a street brawler. He doesn’t defend the player, he grapples for the ball. He doesn’t attack the rim, he bruises any defender in his way until he reaches the rim.
Somehow, these have led the Grizzlies to the postseason 3 times in the last 4 years. That is not only the Grizzlies most successful playoff streak till now, but they also achieved the franchise record of 56 wins in a season last year.
In this article, we’ll take a look at what makes this pair click, and what their bromance holds for the future.
Offence as a pair
More often than not, the only reason Grizzlies even managed to put up whatever paltry score they did, was their front court pair. Randolph and Gasol, while having complementary styles, often blended perfectly together. Maybe because there was no overlap between them.
Gasol, being the best passing centre in the league, was always ready to dish the ball to Randolph when he (Randolph) got in to the paint. If Randoph felt trapped or smothered by the opposition’s defence, he would pass the ball to Gasol who could shoot the ball well from mid-range too. Their inside out game wrecked most defences.
Gasol on their tandem:
“Zach knows that when I get the ball in the post, my first read is him. And I know it’s the same with him. We understand the game the same way and we’re both willing passers. When you care about someone on the floor and you’ve got their back, it’s always going to give them confidence.”
Together, during the first two playoff series last year, Gasol and Randolph put up 38 PPG, 17.2 RPG and 4.8 APG before the Spurs’ smothering defence stopped the pair.
Defence as a pair
Gasol is obviously the better defender. Not just because he ranked fifth in defensive rating last season. Not just because he won the NBA defensive player of the year award, but because he improved his fellow teammate, who has always been considered a defensive liability.
Before last season, Randolph let through 109 points per 100 possessions. Last season, Gasol stopped some of the players Randolph let through and together the pair brought down Randolph’s numbers to 99.5 points per 100 possessions. A spectacular improvement.
Defence has always been the Grizzlies’ strongest asset. Their main liability was Randolph. Michael Conley, Tony Allen are all good perimeter defenders with Tayshaun Prince assisting them. Now that Gasol’s working with Randolph, their defence should probably be better than last year.