There has been a flood of activity among free agents after LeBron James announced his intentions last Friday. Carmelo Anthony has gone back to New York, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade returned to Miami, Lance Stephenson signed with Charlotte and a gaggle of smaller-name free agents have agreed to pacts with teams. Most of the big chips have found a home, or returned to their old one; so what's taking Greg Monroe so long? It's hard to blame Pistons fans for becoming impatient with the player who has been the face of the franchise through the darkness that has been the last four years. Monroe and the Pistons have seemingly made zero progress towards a new deal even though there's been little news of Monroe having talks with other organizations. There was an uneasy confidence among Pistons fans entering the off-season that Stan Van Gundy would re-build a burned bridge between Monroe and the Pistons organization. It never seemed like a sure thing, but it was hard to see him playing elsewhere. Now, a month after the NBA Finals ended and two weeks since the NBA opened shop on the off-season, it's getting harder to see anything regarding Monroe's future. There have been practically zero developments with Monroe in the time-frame that has seen the Pistons add six new names to the roster.
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David Mayo of MLive has reported discussions of a five-year, $60 million dollar deal between Monroe's agent David Falk and the Pistons. Those talks have gone absolutely nowhere. All we have to go off of with regards to Monroe is that the entire organization appears to be courting the young post player. Stan Van Gundy has expressed several times that he would like to see Monroe back in Detroit. Andre Drummond has taken to Twitter to recruit Monroe, stressing how much he'd like to team back up with him for the future. This leaves us to wonder about how real Monroe's supposed Josh Smith trade ultimatum is. If he's found the free agent market to be more stingy than he cares for, what's stopping him from re-upping in Detroit? Monroe denied the report the day after it came out, but there were times last season when Monroe seemed irritated by sharing the floor with Smith. Could that be the grounds for what has (not) transpired with Monroe in free agency? There's not much real information to go off of, so it's time for...
I lean towards believing that A) Monroe's trade demand is real in one form or another and B) Monroe still has no clue where he wants to play next year. Zach Lowe, who originally reported the news of Monroe's alleged trade demand, is one of the most well-connected, well-respected names in basketball. I don't think that he would run with a made-up story, especially in a time of year where there are plenty of other things going on. While he may not have all of the details, or may have been slightly misinformed, there could be a good amount of truth in the rumor that Monroe will force his way out if Smith is kept around. Monroe and his people, as well as the Pistons organization, have denied these rumors because there's nothing to be gained by attaching his name to something of this nature. In the midst of free agency, seeking a max contract, Monroe doesn't need to come across as a problem in the locker room. On the front office side of things, Stan Van Gundy would be doing himself no favors by outing what may have been a private conversation with Monroe and/or his agent. I'm not trying to say I know that the rumor of a trade demand is real, but a strong case can be made to suggest that it is.
My belief that Monroe has no clue where he wants to play the next four or five years of his career shouldn't be hard to explain. There's been practically no reports on contract negotiations with any team, Pistons or otherwise, other than the 5y, $60M deal reported by Mayo. If Monroe weren't getting bigger offers on the open market and this was his best offer, why hasn't there been an agreement? Monroe is either holding out hope that he'll be able to dredge up more money on the open market, or he has serious reservations about signing a long-term deal with the Pistons. Either way, his decision weighs heavily on the Pistons' plans for competing this coming season. So with so much of the free agent market settled, who could still sign Greg Monroe to an offer sheet and where could the Pistons send Monroe in a sign-and-trade deal?
Philadelphia: A team that drafted two players in the first round that won't see the floor this year won't be making a move on an up-and-coming post player like Greg Monroe. The 76ers have no interest in winning games this season. After missing out on Wiggins and Parker, they're an early favorite for Cliff Alexander, Jahlil Okafor or Emmanuel Mudiay. It will be another year or two before the Sixers are in on productive free agents.
Phoenix: The Suns technically have the cap space to sign Monroe, but it's assumed they'll also be bringing back electric young PG Eric Bledsoe. While Phoenix could probably do some fancy work to fit Monroe in as well, they would be a more likely sign-and-trade candidate. Nonetheless, there's been zero talk of Monroe and Phoenix discussing a deal.
Orlando: The Magic can afford Monroe, but are in a position similar to Philadelphia's. Their moves this off-season (overpaying Ben Gordon, Channing Frye and Luke Ridnour) haven't suggested that they intend to win a lot of games this year. The Magic could offer a wide variety of entertaining sign-and-trades, but don't expect anything to develop.
Los Angeles Lakers: The Lakers have whiffed on every big name this off-season and may be resigned to just let Kobe play out his contract and save their cap space for the next two off-seasons. While they could still make a play for Monroe, any offer they can afford to make would likely be matched, and the Lakers lack quality pieces for a sign-and-trade.
Atlanta Hawks: Atlanta still has cap space to play with after picking up Thabo Sefolosha, but Monroe isn't a great fit next to Al Horford, and would force Paul Millsap out. The Hawks have a lot of great sign-and-trade pieces, but I doubt they'd be willing to get involved.
Other teams, such as Portland, New Orleans and Washington had been connected to Monroe at one point or another this off-season, but have all filled the holes in their frontcourt with a different piece. To sum things up, there isn't really much of a market for Monroe, unless his agent gets creative. This should play into the Pistons' favor, so long as negotiations don't get so cheap that Monroe chooses to simply sign the $5M+ qualifying offer that would make him an unrestricted free agent next summer. At this point, that seems like more of a possibility than had been previously understood. To really sum things up, nobody has any clue what Monroe will do, but it's safe to say that his free agency hasn't gone as planned for either side of the relationship. The Monroe situation is likely the last big piece of the Pistons' free agency puzzle, and the quicker things get settled, the quicker we can move on to projecting what next year's team will look like.