Monday, March 24, 2014

Looking Ahead to Next Year: Greg Monroe

*Follow Six Championship Drive on Twitter, @Kevin6CD

The future of Greg Monroe has been one of this season's main sub-plots, which was only intensified with the signing of Josh Smith last summer.  Monroe has been a part of the Pistons' jammed up middle of the floor, suffering slight decreases in his raw statistics, but still looking good from an efficiency standpoint.  Monroe is posting a 17.9 PER this season, the lowest mark of his career; but that can be misleading for a few reasons.  First off, Monroe's rebounding numbers have taken a hit due to the fact that he plays with one of the NBA's best rebounders (Andre Drummond) as well as sharing the floor with one of the better rebounding SFs in the league (Josh Smith).  Another reason Monroe's PER has taken a hit is because of a decrease in usage.  With a decrease in Usage Rate from 24.8% down to 20.6%, Monroe's PER suffers slightly due to the way the statistic is calculated.  Despite the decrease in PER, PPG, RPG and APG there are still a lot of reasons to look at Monroe as a go-to post scorer.

Monroe posted a higher TS%, eFG% and Free Throw Rate this season as compared to last.  While his increased shooting efficiency can probably be attributed (at least a little) to fewer shots (which would equate, in theory, to more calculated looks) he deserves credit for managing to thrive in the efficiency vacuum that is this year's Pistons offense.  This season Monroe has posted an Offensive Rating similar to those of LaMarcus Aldridge and David Lee.  It hasn't been his best work, but there's obvious reasons Monroe's production has fallen, and it has nothing to do with his game.  With Joe Dumars on his way out, it looks very likely that Monroe won't be playing alongside Josh Smith next season.  It's just a matter of who is on their way out and who's staying.  Let's take a look at what might happen with Greg Monroe this offseason.

CONTRACT

*I haven't read the CBA front to back, so any cap numbers are a rough estimation

Greg Monroe is a Restricted Free Agent this summer, meaning that if the Pistons extend him a Qualifying Offer (QO) between the end of the NBA Finals and the end of June, they'll have the right to match any offer sheet he agrees to with another team.  Monroe's QO, which is computed based off his rookie deal, will equal $5,479,933 according to hoopshype.com.  If there's one thing that's almost certain about Greg Monroe going into this offseason, it's that he will be making more than what his QO is worth.  There are already rumored to be at least a handful of teams that have interest in Monroe, including Eastern Conference foes Washington and Charlotte.  If Monroe were to sign a  maximum salary contract with any team, he would be set to make 25% of the league's salary cap.  This year's cap is $58,679,000 and last year's was $58,044,000, a 1.1% increase.  An increase of 1.1% again would set the cap at $59,266,000 roughly speaking.  This would make a Greg Monroe max contract worth $14.8M per season.  Along with the right to match any offer, the Pistons' other asset with Monroe is that they can offer him a five year deal, whereas other teams can only offer four.

POTENTIAL SUITORS

Washington Wizards - It's been pretty widely reported that the Wizards would love to match Greg Monroe with John Wall and Bradley Beal.  Washington would provide Monroe with a better chance to make the playoffs for the first time in his career than the Pistons, although I'm not sure they can afford a max deal without jeopardizing their chances to extend Beal.  That being said, if a max contract isn't an option for Monroe, why not go somewhere where he could be the main post option AND have a chance to win a playoff series?

Sign-and-Trade Targets: Otto Porter Jr., Martell Webster, Trevor Booker, Kevin Seraphin

In the best-case scenario for the Pistons, Bradley Beal factors into this sign-and-trade list.  However, it would seem to defeat the purpose for the Wizards to deal away their second leading scorer to sign Monroe.  Porter's an unknown commodity, Webster is overpaid and the last two are decent bench bigs.  Not many attractive options here.

Charlotte Bobcats - I'm not sure Monroe is the best fit alongside Al Jefferson, but the rest of the Bobcats' defense is so good it might not matter if the frontcourt is swiss cheese.  Charlotte can probably afford to offer Monroe a max contract if they so choose.  They will owe Kemba Wallker a contract extension next offseason, but their cap situation is clean enough that they can fit Big Al, Kemba and Moose.  Jefferson and Monroe are both skilled passers for their position, so that tandem might be pretty fun to watch, and successful to boot.

Sign-and-Trade Targets: Cody Zeller, Bismack Biymobo, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Josh McRoberts

The S-T options here are an assortment of quality backup big men, and a SF who plays no offense, but has given up multiple 60 point games this season.  I'll pass on MKG, but if it comes to losing Monroe for nothing or making a deal, give me Zeller and Biyombo.

Atlanta Hawks - Atlanta would definitely have to make a sign-and-trade happen if they wanted to sign Monroe, max or not.  After their first round pick cap hold is taken into account, they'll have roughly $10 millino in cap space.  Monroe and Horford would make for a fun pairing.  It has approximately the offensive upside of Jefferson-Moose in Charlotte, but with the added bonus that Horford is a pretty good defender.  Horford also has an effective mid-range game, so he could help pull the interior defense off of Monroe.  This would probably be a lethal pairing assuming Horford is healthy.  The Hawks' backcourt, as composed right now, would likely keep them from having a top four team in the East.

Sign-and-Trade Targets: Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver, Jeff Teague, Lou Williams

Millsap has suddenly become a 37% three point shooter on 180 attempts after never shooting more than 39 in any season prior.  He'd be a better fit if the Pistons wanted to play a big three, but it's clear that a PF playing SF just doesn't work.  If Smith can be moved, I'd have no complaints about a Millsap-Drummond frontcourt.  Korver would be nice to have too, for obvious reasons.  Teague and Williams just don't fit if Jennings is around, although Lou Williams is a little more doable.  If Monroe is going in a S-T deal, this is the one to hope for.

New Orleans Pelicans - Anthony Davis and Greg Monroe playing together on the same team with Jrue Holiday for the next three or four years would be fun to watch, no doubt.  The Pelicans don't have much cap space to play around with this summer without making a move or two, so this would likely also have to be a sign-and-trade transaction.  Davis is the perfect type of player to pair with Monroe, as his obvious defensive skills would mask Monroe's putrid defense.  Their offensive games would mesh well together too as Davis is more of a face-up scorer when he has the ball in his hands, assuming he isn't snatching an alley-oop from another zip code.

Sign-and-Trade Targets: Ryan Anderson, Austin Rivers

 Not a long list here, but acquiring Ryan Anderson might make playing Josh Smith as the de-facto SF work.  Anderson's shooting (career 39 3P%) would allow Smith to play more on the block where he is more efficient and less likely to make me want to hurt someone.  Rivers has sucked a little bit less this year; it doesn't look like he'll ever be more than a bench player.

Phoenix Suns - Phoenix is setting up for a potentially huge offseason this summer.  Armed with as many as four first round picks and as much as $14M in cap space even after Bledsoe is re-signed, they can really improve an already solid roster.  Monroe could possibly be their marquee acquisition, and make a good core with Bledsoe and Dragic.  The Suns' up-tempo pace and use of a stretch-four (Morris twins, Frye) would put Monroe as the C on most nights.  Monroe's offense would give Phoenix a go-to option in the halfcourt on nights when teams slow their fast break down.  In my opinion, Phoenix is a dark-horse to sign Monroe, because they have a good base of young talent and can afford signing him to a max deal.

Sign-and-Trade Targets: Alex Len, Miles Plumlee, Archie Goodwin, Assortment of 2014 picks

One or both of the Morris twins might make sense too, but I'm not sure if Phoenix would really want to part with them.  Len hasn't seen the floor much this year, but hasn't been good when he has.  Plumlee would be a good option to have off the bench; he's a good defender and good enough at the other end.  Goodwin had a really good Summer League showing before this season, but has only played sporadic minutes.  He's 4-33 from behind the arc, so he'd fit right in on the Pistons roster!

SIGNING WITH THE PISTONS

If the Pistons do bring Monroe back, it would be in the Pistons' best interest if it were for a few million per year less than the max.  Serge Ibaka got a four year, $49 million deal, so I don't think Monroe's agent would allow anything less than that.  I could see Monroe back in Detroit for four years and $52 million, ironically less than the $56 million that Detroit gave Josh Smith.  If Monroe is back, Smith has to go; there's no way around it.  The paint just isn't big enough for the both of them (and Andre) and the last thing the organization needs is another year of Josh Smith launching threes.  Finding a taker for the three years left on Smith's deal won't be easy, but it won't be impossible either.  Any of the teams listed as suitors for Monroe, with the exception of Atlanta and New Orleans, could possibly be talked into giving Smith a shot.  I doubt Detroit would be forced into a one-way deal as they were with Charlotte in the Ben Gordon trade, seeing as Smith was effective for so many years in Atlanta as a PF.

Bringing Monroe back to play the next four or five years with Andre Drummond would give the Pistons fanbase something to look forward to again too.  Fans seem to like Monroe's personality and game, and hitting the reset button on the young pairing might be Detroit's best long-term option.  Surrounded with enough shooting, I think Monroe and Drummond could bring Detroit back to the playoffs in 2014-15.  However, I don't think Monroe is worth a max salary.  If it came down to it, I would prefer keeping Smith to signing Monroe for a max deal.  Not because I necessarily think Smith is better than Monroe, but because I think Monroe would fetch a good enough return to allow the Pistons to add solid wings around Smith and Drummond.  It's going to be an interesting summer for the Pistons, and the Greg Monroe situation will be taking center stage in late June and early July.  Buckle up, and just be thankful that Joe Dumars won't be calling the shots this go round.

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