According to Jeff Zilgitt of USA Today, Greg Monroe has informed the Pistons that he will sign the Qualifying Offer extended to him earlier this offseason. The move seems to confirm the rift between Monroe and the Pistons front office, created in equal parts by the continued presence of Josh Smith and a difference in opinion over the value of the David Falk client. The move also eliminates the option of a sign-and-trade deal, which hurts both sides of the arrangement. Since Zilgitt's story was published, Vincent Goodwill has come out and said that the Pistons are holding out hope for a change in course up until the moment the QO is signed. I'd be shocked if that hope is for a long-term deal and not for a sign-and-trade opportunity. Assuming Monroe does follow through with his reported plan to sign the QO, he will be playing for the Pistons in 2014-15 on a one-year contract worth $5.479MM and will have the right to refuse any trade that sends him out of town. Monroe will be an Unrestricted Free Agent next off-season and be free to sign with any team without the Pistons being able to match offers.
If Monroe follows through and inks the QO, expect the Pistons to begin shopping him immediately, although he cannot be traded for 30 days after signing. The more games he can play for a prospective trade partner, the more valuable he is to said partner. While it is technically a possibility that Monroe could sign a long-term deal in Detroit next summer, this off-season's happenings make it seem unlikely. Monroe's affordable '14-'15 salary should help to cancel out the fact that he is only committed to any new team for one year. Moose could make for an attractive option for contending teams who see their window as closing, or for contenders who believe giving up assets for Monroe could put them over the top. Off the top of my head, the list of teams that fit this category include the Thunder, Spurs, Rockets and maybe even the Cavaliers. Any trade to a non-contender would likely hinge on that team's confidence in their ability to sign Monroe to a long-term deal. The return in a Monroe deal won't come close to what the Pistons could receive in a sign-and-trade, as four years of Monroe is worth way more than one. At this point, it would simply be about not losing Monroe for zero return.
If Monroe is still around at the start of the season, I wouldn't really expect his role on this year's team to dramatically change. He will likely still start at PF, and split minutes fairly evenly between PF and C, with Josh Smith playing predominantly at PF off the bench. The bright side to Monroe possibly playing on a one-year deal with Detroit is that he will have extra motivation to prove that he's worth big money on the open market. Contract years tend to force a player to sharpen their focus, arrive in excellent shape and produce in ways their team hasn't seen in prior seasons. Expect the same from Greg Monroe this season, with the added opportunity to make the Pistons look foolish for not meeting his demands, whatever those may have been. While Monroe is rumored to have demanded that Josh Smith be traded, he has ultimately been a non-issue in the locker room, and doesn't figure to change that this season. There may be hurt feelings over this summer's negotiations, but Monroe has more to lose than gain by being a distraction. Overall, I expect Monroe to make contributions above and beyond what he provided last year, which will hopefully be to the Pistons' benefit on the court and in what will likely be trade talks through the February deadline.
Assuming the report is true, this development effectively brings the Pistons off-season to an end, barring a Monroe trade. While it didn't end the way most Pistons fans would have hoped, it offers Stan Van Gundy a chance to begin crafting his vision. With a concrete plan to follow now that Monroe's future is less cloudy, we should see things take shape over the next 12 months. It also will allow Pistons fans to look forward to actual basketball instead of off-court news, as training camp opens in a less than two months! I, for one, can't wait that long.
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