The Detroit Pistons are in the midst of a dismal season. Despite a recent two-game win streak against Milwaukee and New Orleans, their record stands at 6-20. Any hopes for a playoff birth they might've had for this lockout-shortened season have all but vanished.
That's not to say there aren't silver linings to be found. Brandon Knight has performed admirably. He's shown glimpses of the electrifying playmaker the Pistons drafted him to be. It's Greg Monroe that has given Pistons fans something to truly be proud of though.
Monroe not only improved this year, he's taken his game to a new level. While it's too early to call him a dominating center, it's time to recognize Monroe for what he is: One of the best all-around centers in the NBA.
When you look at his numbers it's easy to see why. Among centers, Monroe is third in the NBA and second in the Eastern Conference with 16.3 points per game. He also ranks third in the East with 9.9 rebounds per game.
In total rebounds he falls behind Dwight Howard and Tyson Chandler, but specific to offensive boards Monroe has no equal. He ranks first in the NBA with 3.9 per game.
He's also first, or tied for first, in the East in assists and steals per game.
There is one player, regardless of category, that is always ahead of Monroe. Not surprisingly, that player is Dwight Howard. That's why I'm not prepared to call Monroe dominant yet. Having said that, there is something he does well that Howard doesn't. He can shoot free throws at a high percentage (.817).
Monroe can actually do it all, and that's why I believe he should easily be voted onto the 2012 NBA All-Star Team as a reserve center.
Not everyone agrees with me.
ESPN's Marc Stein wrote an article last week in which he named who he thought should be All-Star reserves. He argued that Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat deserves to make it over Monroe (and Roy Hibbert).
Stein's argument basically boils down to this. Bosh is a more marquee name and because he's having a great year with Dwayne Wade injured, he should make the team.
Keep in mind Bosh is a power forward and Stein wants to make him an all-star reserve as a center. Here are his thoughts on that.
"So I'm asking Bosh to go to Orlando masquerading as a 5, taking advantage of the loophole that the league extends to the coaches by encouraging them not to force-feed a traditional center into this spot if they want to get more marquee names on the roster."
I disagree with Stein's argument on many different levels. First, I don't agree that the All-Star game should simply be filled with "marquee names." I admit that's a big part of it though. NBA fans turn in to see Kobe, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin and all the other superstars put on a show.
But if we went by name recognition entirely we'd miss the mark. For example, Amare Stoudemire and Dirk Nowitzki are perennial All-Stars. They're both marquee names, but neither one deserves to make the team this year. Stoudemire's numbers pale in comparison to his norm and Nowitzki was injured.
If these two were voted in on their names alone, it would be a travesty. There are far more deserving players.
Secondly, I understand the loophole that Stein references, but I don't agree that it applies here. It should only be used when there are no other worthy candidates. For example, I could see voting Bosh in at center if the only alternatives were Byron Mullens and Zaza Pachulia.
There are worthy candidates this year. There's no need to reach for Bosh.
Third, Stein selects Atlanta's Josh Smith and Chicago's Luol Deng as all-star reserve forwards. Both players deserve mention, but if he thinks Bosh is so deserving then why not insert him here? Bosh is listed as a power forward after all, and he has better numbers than both of those guys. Not to mention Deng missed the last seven games with a wrist injury.
Perhaps the best argument for Monroe is simply this: He is statistically better and he is more valuable to his team than Bosh.
While Bosh scores at a slightly higher clip, Monroe is outperforming him in every other significant category including field goal percentage, rebounds, assists and steals.
Bosh is excelling on a championship-caliber team alongside the best player in the league, LeBron James. He's also greatly benefited from life without Dwayne Wade.
Monroe has done his work on a last-place team with less talent around him. He doesn't have the luxury of a LeBron James-type player to carry the load. Monroe is the man for Detroit—he leads them in points, rebounds and steals per game—and that's a huge responsibility for only a second-year player.
Keep in mind he does all this out of position. Like Bosh, he is a better fit at power forward, but Detroit has no other option. So, Monroe goes to work night after night against bigger and stronger competition and continues to excel.
Bosh is in an ideal situation for him to succeed and Monroe is not. Yet, Monroe is outperforming him on almost every level.
The choice is clear. There's no need to look at Bosh or anyone else to sneak into the all-star game as a center. Monroe might not be a marquee name yet, but his game is worthy of all-star attention.
He should be in Orlando on February 26th backing up Dwight Howard as an NBA all-star.