Commentary

Tentpole players to build around

Five franchise guys who bring it on both ends of the floor -- and five who don't

Updated: April 27, 2011, 2:54 PM ET
By Tom Haberstroh | ESPN Insider
Zach RandolphJoe Murphy/Getty ImagesZach Randolph has taken plenty of criticism in his career. But he's a player a team can build around.

Last week, we witnessed Zach Randolph, a perennial 20-point and 10-rebound player on a playoff team, sign a big-time, four-year extension worth an annual $17.8 million. That kind of money is only reserved for a franchise player, or what I like to call a tentpole -- a player a team can build around who is productive on both ends of the floor.

But is Randolph really a tentpole? Yes, he's a tentpole as sturdy as his frame. Considering both ends of the floor, there's substantial evidence to suggest he's a better long-term option than, say, Amare Stoudemire, who loves to score but loves to see his opponent score, too.

How can we tell? As observers of the game, our perceptions are skewed to reward offense, since that's pretty much all we can find in the box score. To curb those biases, I've created an all-in-one value metric that takes PER a step further, expanding our scope on defense. For the offensive component, we'll use offensive PER, a cousin of John Hollinger's PER, which you can find on 82games.com, that strictly looks at offensive production (no blocks or steals considered).

Defense is less straightforward, so we'll need to call in the ringers. We'll package together three of the most comprehensive defensive metrics in the public forum: opponent PER, which tells us the PER of a player's counterpart in the opposing lineup; defensive plus-minus, which tells us how the team defense improved with a player on the court; and Synergy Sports' defensive efficiency rating, which uses countless hours of scout video tracking to assess a player's defensive acumen. I combined the three ratings to come up with a rating that ranges from 1 to 100, in which 50 is average and 100 is the cream of the crop. That's the defensive component. Both are on a 100-point scale.

As you might have guessed LeBron James (100 offense, 97 defense rating) and Dwight Howard blow out the competition in this metric, but there are some other players who warrant your attention for their two-way play. Let's take a look at five players who deserve more tentpole recognition.

FRANCHISE TENTPOLE PLAYERS

Zach Randolph -- Offense 94, Defense 65

Randolph has often earned the reputation of being a temperamental stat-padder who only plays when he feels like it. But since being released from the clutches of Isiah Thomas and the New York Knicks (who gave us this amazing clip), the 29-year-old has been one of the most productive players in the NBA. Few players can match Randolph's consistency and high level of play.

Sure, he's not the best help defender out there, but while he's putting up 20 and 10 every night, all of the available defensive metrics consider him average or slightly above average on that end of the floor. The Grizzlies' defense is essentially unchanged when he leaves the court (allowing 106.6 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor and 106.5 points when he's on the bench), and when it comes to defending the post-up Synergy Sports places him in the top-third in the league in defensive efficiency. He's easily a top-20 player in the league, and now he's getting paid like it.