In April 2011, Zach Randolph received a four year, $66 million extension that will pay him through the 2015 season. Notwithstanding the very valid arguments that a man who doesn't have any athleticism in the first place is going to decline slower than most, and that Memphis have to pay particularly big dollars in order to retain quality their quality players, it is unmistakably a big contract.
The contract called for a $15.2 million salary in 2011/12, a $16.5 million salary in 2012/13, a $17.8 million salary in 2013/14, and a $16.5 million salary in 2014/15, which is also a player option year. The vast majority of contracts around the league increase in their every year, yet, aside from a couple of particular instances (contracts signed with either rookie scale exception or the minimum salary exception), this doesn't have to be the case. Contracts can go up, down, stay flat, or some combination thereof, as freely as the signing parties so choose and if done in accordance with the acceptable parameters. (The maximum increase percentages are the same as the maximum decrease percentages.)
Zach's contract structure makes sense. The Grizzlies, clearly, are trying to reconcile their hefty salary bill in the coming few seasons with the fact that Zach's play will decline towards the back end of the deal, facts that the staggered contract structure seeks to partially alleviate. However, in doing so, they seem to have accidentally violated a CBA rule.
[...] The Grizzlies's roster is fairly young overall, but not the rotation, which is fairly old. Gasol is about to turn 29 and, when healthy, is at his career apex. Randolph is 32 and starting to slowly decline (although being so unreliant upon athleticism may make said decline a mercifully slow one). Allen is about to turn 32, while Prince is about to turn 34 and has lost his athleticism, jump shot and effectiveness. Mike Miller, the bench leader in minutes, is to turn 34 in a few weeks and is limited now to a one dimensional shooting specialist. The only rotation players to still be short of their primes are Conley (26), Bayless (25), Davis (24) and the sneaky-good Jon Leuer (24).
At the end of the season, Randolph has a player option he may use. Should he do so, and leave in free agency, that is likely the end of the Grizzlies' conference title competitiveness for the foreseeable future. At that point, the Grizzlies have an in-his-prime Gasol and an apexing Mike Conley, flanked only with a couple of decent role players and a host of rotation and offensive questions. But should Randolph opt out, but re-sign, Memphis is capped out in commitment to a declining team built to win in the short term without ever doing so.
Note: Non-US teams that the player
has played for are, unless stated otherwise, from the top division in
that nation. If a league or division name is expressly stated, it's not
the top division. The only exceptions to this are the rare occasions where
no one league is said to be above the other, such as with the JBL/BJ League
split in Japan.