The Poison of 20 and 10
Nothing I am about to say here is all that new, but I keep seeing comments that seem to belie this point, so I figured it would be worthwhile to bring it up.
The focal point of this piece is why the Knicks are better off dumping Zach Randolph as soon as possible, even if it means trading him for players who are not nearly as talented as him (and why I would even consider it if the offer was Kenyon Martin, who is signed long-term to an awful contract, and has had surgery on BOTH of his legs).
The problem comes from the poisonous aspect of averaging twenty points and ten rebounds. In his second year in the league, at the tender age of 21, Zach Randolph averaged 8.4 points per game and 4.5 rebounds. In his third year, the 22-year-old Randolph averaged 20.1 points per game and 10.5 rebounds. For this impressive improvement, Randolph was awarded the 2004 NBA Most Improved Player Award.
However, did Randolph really improve much?
Note that, in 2002-03 (his second season), Randolph played 17 minutes a game. The next year? 38 minutes a game.
His per-36-minute averages in 2002-03? 18 and 9.5
His per-36-minute averages in 2003-04? 19.1 and 10
Sure looks like Randolph didn’t really improve much, right? He was just given more minutes. It is certainly significant that he was able to keep up his same level of production even with the improved playing time, but as has been shown in the past, that is usually how these things go.
So, without really changing as a player, Zach Randolph got himself a nice award. Oh wait…he also got something else. Before the beginning of the next NBA season, Zach Randolph got himself a 6-year, $84 million dollar contract extension. And that is why 20/10 is so poisonous.
In Zach Randolph’s mind, he is making insanely large sums of money for one thing – the fact that he can produce impressive counting stats. His financial future rests (in his mind) upon his ability to put up 20 points and 10 rebounds. How can you possibly convince him that it is better for the team if he doesn’t try to score 20 points each time out?
Zach Randolph is a massively talented player. Make no mistake about it. He is a great low post presence, and the man can rebound better than 90% (maybe more) of the NBA. But this is not a man who will ever be taught to do anything than to try to score 20 points and net 10 rebounds, because that stock of being the “20/10″ guy got him this contract, and he is not going to change his game now, or any time soon.
Since the Knicks are being actively hurt by Zach Randolph (whose True Shooting Percentage is 207th in the NBA among qualified players, while his usage rate is 15th — Think about that for a second!), and since he has been poisoned by “20/10,” the Knicks are best off just divesting themselves of the guy, even if it means taking back near-scrubs like Dan Gadzuric and Bobby Simmons.
Apropos of nothing, the same day Zach Randolph signed his extension, Eddie Robinson had his last two years of his contract with the Bulls bought out for $10.5 million. I just remember Robinson as a sorta useful player for the Hornets his first couple of years, I totally forgot he was given a FIVE-year deal by the Bulls! That almost makes Jared Jeffries look like a good signing!