Zach Randolph, 29, is averaging 14.8 points and 11.8 rebounds and had a 23-20 game on Monday against Phoenix. (Getty Images)
Portland, Ore.— Could Memphis' Zach Randolph be in the Pistons' sights? Randolph, who spent one season at Michigan State before turning pro, is said to have Detroit at the top of his preferred destination list, according to SI.com. Randolph is in the final year of his deal, where he's due $17.6 million.
While a source said there have been no conversations between the teams, it's not unrealistic to think the Pistons would have interest. Not only would Randolph give them a legit 20-point, 10-rebound performer, but his money coming completely off the books would give them some flexibility for next summer, if they would decide to let him walk.
Randolph, 29, is averaging 14.8 points and 11.8 rebounds and had a 23-20 game on Monday against Phoenix. The Grizzlies gave forward Rudy Gay a max extension this summer (five years/$80 million) and days ago, gave Mike Conley a new deal (five years/$45 million). The Grizzlies have not had any serious conversations with Randolph.
The Grizzlies already have promising Marc Gasol in the fold. They could want to clear room to give last year's No. 2 pick, Hasheem Thabeet, more time.
Numbers-wise, the expiring deals of Pistons Tayshaun Prince and Chris Wilcox could work, if the two sides were to talk. Last season Randolph averaged 20.8 points and 11.7 rebounds for the Grizzlies, and quieted a league-wide belief he was a problem child.
Even if he was, the Pistons haven't been averse to dealing for talented players with issues. They traded for Rasheed Wallace at the height of his volatility. With all the questions surrounding DeMarcus Cousins before last June's draft, the Pistons were said to be high on him.
Cousins and Randolph's games are similar. They're both bulky, can play with their backs to the basket and are good rebounders. Randolph led the league in offensive rebounding last season.
At 6-foot-9, he could play next to improving rookie Greg Monroe, or Ben Wallace. A player of Randolph's caliber could also allow Austin Daye to play small forward, a more natural position.
The Pistons have been competitive in every game except for last Tuesday in Boston, and the biggest reason for their late-game collapses has been a lack of low-post scoring. They've struggled to get easy shots and too often settled for 20-footers.
With the recent issues surrounding the team and coach John Kuester, it would give management pause about bringing Randolph into the locker room. However, as this past summer has shown, there aren't many talents like Randolph who will become available in a given year.
Monroe is starting to earn Kuester's trust after a shaky start that had many questioning both sides.
His motor has improved, which is presumably why Kuester didn't play him early on. However, instead of going with Wallace in crunch time against Golden State, Monroe started the fourth as the Pistons made their run and was taken out because the Warriors went small.
"I relish any opportunity," Monroe said Sunday. "I'm feeling good that Coach trusts me to be in crunch time. I'm just trying to keep that trust and do whatever I can to produce."
He's averaging six rebounds in 18 minutes per game, and his comfort level on offense is increasing. While he's making only 35 percent of his free throws, including a painful 1-for-7 stint Sunday, his teammates are sticking with him. Every time he's open, they don't hesitate to give him the ball, even if he has had trouble finishing inside so far. They believe it'll pay off in due time.
By the numbers
2 — Times Rodney Stuckey has had at least 19 points and nine assists this season (through six games).
2 — Times Stuckey had at least 19 points and nine assists last season (73 games).
34 — Points the Pistons have been outscored by in the third quarter of the last five games.
Charlie Villanueva has had three double-digit scoring and rebounding games as a Piston:
Nov. 15, 2009: vs. Dallas, 13 points and 10 rebounds
Jan. 16, 2010: vs. New York, 19 and 10
Sunday: vs. Golden State, 16 and 10
The Pistons have had mixed results in their last few trips out west:
Nov. 17-22 — 0-4
Feb 23-27 — 1-3
Nov. 11-16 — 3-1
Jan. 4-10 — 2-2
Nov. 11-18 — 2-3
Feb. 24-March 1 — 3-1