Friday, October 23, 2009

Season Preview: Zach Randolph's Shot Selection

Posted By on Fri, Oct 23, 2009 at 11:44 PM

The more time Randolph spends in the paint — and not around the three-point line — the better it will be for the Grizzlies.
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • The more time Randolph spends in the paint — and not around the three-point line — the better it will be for the Grizzlies.
It's advisable not to take preseason numbers too seriously, especially for veteran players, but as we all try to figure out just how Zach Randolph might work out for the Grizzlies, there are a couple of elements of his preseason performance that I think are worth pointing out.

On the court, Randolph is well known for two primary problems: Listless defense and selfish shot selection.

Based on the preseason games I've seen, the defense has been the same as ever — I can still see Randolph getting burned on consecutive possessions by the Hawks' D-Leaguer Courtney Sims. And I can certainly remember a couple of ill-advised fade-away jumpers against double teams.

But there have been a couple of very encouraging signs with Randolph's game.

One is his three-point shooting, or the lack thereof. Last season, Randolph fell in love with his outside shot, averaging a ridiculous 1.9 three-point attempts per game. His percentage (33%) wasn't deplorable, but it still isn't a shot you want Randolph taking with any regularity. This preseason, he's taken 3 three-pointers in 8 games, or roughly .4 attempts a game. Factor in his reduced preseason minutes, and it's more in line with his career average of .6 attempts per game. This is still too many as far as I'm concerned, but it's a number the team can live with. Hopefully, this is a sign that Randolph has come to his senses regarding three-point shooting or that the coaching staff has reined in this inclination.

The more significant development is Randolph's work on the offensive boards. For his career, Randolph has averaged an offensive rebound every 11.8 minutes. Last season, he was slightly better, with one every 11.2 minutes. This preseason? An offensive rebound every 7.1 minutes.

Observationally (play-by-play accounts not available for all preseason games), it's seemed to me that most of these offensive rebounds have lead to follow-up shots, and the relationship between Randolph's offensive rebounds and field-goal attempts seems suggest this. For his career, Randolph has averaged an offensive rebound for every 5.6 field-goal attempts, which was also his ratio last season. This preseason, it was an offensive rebound for every 2.9 field-goal attempts.

If this pattern holds — Randolph eschewing three-point attempts, playing closer to the basket, being aggressive on the offensive boards, and being willing to let offensive rebounds supply a significant percentage of his shot attempts — then it will not only make him a much more efficient scorer, it will help him blend into a lineup filled with players who need touches and shots.

About the defense, well, I don't harbor much optimism there.

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