Last season, Greg Monroe put up a monster statistical year for the lottery-bound Detroit Pistons in a display that both cemented his status as a promising up-and-comer and highlighted the all-too apparent holes in his game.
Young players in the NBA have a tendency to be defined by their limitations, and though Monroe has yet to really be burdened by his particular struggles (largely due to the fact that little has been expected of the Pistons over the last two seasons), they nonetheless stand in the way of him maximizing his amazing potential.
Monroe has the size, mobility and instinct to be a top-flight NBA big, and an appropriate centerpiece for a still-rebuilding Pistons team. But his ascent to those ranks won't come without discipline and considerable improvement—particularly in four areas of his basketball performance.
Monroe was a tremendously efficient scorer for the Pistons last season, but he doesn't yet appear to be altogether comfortable with manufacturing his own offense. His most effective scoring work—by far—came on quick slips to the basket, put-back attempts and sprints out in transition, leaving plenty of room for growth in terms of his ability to produce points as a first or second option in a half-court offense.
Some of that is mitigated by Monroe's early promise in the pick-and-roll, where he can both finish and act as a mid-play outlet for available shooters or cutters. But some improved skill work in terms of his post play would go a long way, especially considering how often the Pistons look to establish Monroe on the block. According to Synergy Sports Technology, 34.8 percent of Monroe's used possessions come in post-up situations, despite the fact that Monroe converted just 43.7 percent of his post shot attempts.
That ratio will only improve as Monroe continues to work on his footwork, lower-body strength and assortment of moves.
Post and help defense
Defense is clearly where Monroe needs the most work, making the hiring of head coach Lawrence Frank all the more important.
The mistakes that Monroe tends to make are largely those that can be chalked up to inexperience—over-committing in the wrong situations, getting caught in no-man's land on his rotations, etc.— and though he could still be a few seasons away from really putting together the kind of defensive growth necessary to actualize his potential on that end, Frank is a sharp defensive strategist capable of pushing Monroe through the necessary stages of technique and fundamentals.
There's nothing utterly distressing in the way Monroe plays D, and no reason to think that he won't someday be successful on that end. All one can really do is wait and see, keeping pace with growth along the way and refocusing based on his progress (or lack thereof).
Ball security on the move
He's hardly a turnover machine, but as Monroe has taken on a bigger role in Detroit's offense, his turnover rate—a measure that already accounts for minutes played and possessions used—has increased accordingly. That's not a great sign for a player so crucial to the Pistons' future; Monroe figures to be a key part of Detroit's sets in one way or another, making it all the more important that he maintain control of the ball as he looks to execute various offensive moves.
Can Greg Monroe become a star player?
Repetition and confidence can go a long way in that regard, especially considering that Monroe committed a turnover on 16.3 percent of his post-up possessions last season. Monroe can read the floor effectively and make terrific passes from the high post, but he has yet to really establish that sixth sense of detecting defensive pressure, leaving him very vulnerable to dig-down help defense and swipes at the ball as he goes to execute his sweeping hooks.
If those same situations could result in drawn fouls, shot attempts or successful passes out of pressure, Monroe could be a much more effective offensive option.
Monroe has no need to restrict himself to the low post, even if he does indeed look to expand his game on the block. So much of his value comes from his ability to set solid, high screens and initiate offense from the elbow, and if Monroe gets touches consistently in that range, he'll need to work on his face-up skills to better keep defenses honest. According to Hoopdata, Monroe shot just 34.7 percent on shots from 10 to 15 feet last season—a mark that doesn't at all require defensive attention.
If Monroe could either boost that shooting percentage or refine his dribble-drive abilities, he could give Detroit's offense an invaluable flexibility. Having a big who can not only swing between defensive positions but also navigate varying offensive roles makes the team building process much easier; he may never be enough of a true perimeter player to warrant investment in another low-post big, but at worst, some reinforcement of Monroe's high-post work would give Joe Dumars options in terms of the players the team pursues going forward.