Quick, name the top four scoring centers in the Eastern Conference. Now name the top six rebounding centers.
On both of those lists should stand a 6'11" big man from Detroit.
In just three years, Greg Monroe has cemented himself as one of the top young men in the game.
Sadly, few people outside of the metro Detroit area are privy to that information. Few players with Monroe's skill set go so incredibly unnoticed by the national media.
There are a few reasons for this.
First off, the Detroit Pistons are a terrible team. They have a lot of young talent and recently have had a nice string of wins, but they are a long way from contention, let alone the playoffs.
Second, the Pistons are a small-market team. They aren't small like Oklahoma City or Green Bay, but they are a lot smaller than New York or Los Angeles, which is generally where the media focus their attention.
Third, Monroe isn't exactly the flashiest of players. He doesn't finish plays with rim-rattling dunks. He doesn't send shots deep into the stands. And he doesn't have a patented fade-away jumper.
If Monroe were an ice cream flavor, he would be vanilla. Actually, he would be soy ice cream that was kale-flavored.
Let's face it, Monroe is an acquired taste that only real basketball connoisseurs can appreciate.
Monroe plays the game the right way. He has quick hands that make him a pest for big and little guys alike. He is a great passer, who can anticipate cuts and lead his teammates to the hoop. And while he still has far to go before he is a good interior defender, he is already a competitive rebounder on both sides of the ball.
And then there is his scoring ability. Monroe has developed a nice low post game, including a spin move that nearly always draws a foul. He has a solid 15-foot jumper and is effective up to 18 feet on a good day. He needs to continue to improve the range on his jumper in order to really become a prime pick-and-roll option, but that part of his game is still improving.
The case for an All-Star berth
Okay, so let's take a look at the field of centers in the Eastern Conference.
The likely top vote-getter among centers—and hence the starter at the position—will be Kevin Garnett.
Garnett is a worthy selection, as he is averaging over 14 points to go along with seven boards per game. Not the best numbers, but you can't blame the fans for voting for him.
Next come the likely reserves.
True, the All-Star balloting no longer includes a center, focusing instead on frontcourt players, but the reserves will likely be selected on a position-by-position basis.
Anderson Varejao is having a beast of a season at the center position. He is leading the NBA in rebounding, with 14 per game, and is averaging 14 points as well.
He has been playing fantastic defense, and his ability to grab offensive rebounds calls to mind Dennis Rodman.
With two big men down, we now have to figure out how many more centers will be included. Last year there were three centers on the Eastern Conference roster, but in the previous two years there were four. For argument's sake, let's say there will be four.
Al Horford is a legitimate choice for the third spot. He is averaging close to 16 points per game to go along with nearly 10 rebounds. He is also averaging over three assists and playing some fantastic interior defense.
Now is where the real debate comes into play.
If we are including Chris Bosh as a center, we now have a four-way battle for the last spot between Bosh, Tyson Chandler, Nikola Vucevic and Monroe.
Bosh and Chandler have similar arguments going for them: They play on teams with good records, and they are crucial parts of those teams' successes.
Statistically, Bosh is having a very good year. He is averaging over 17 points to go along with more than seven boards per game.
Chandler's numbers are a little less impressive, scoring just over 12 points and 10 boards. His block numbers are way down, sitting at a less-than-impressive 0.9 per game.
Vucevic has a weaker resume. He plays for a bad team and is averaging the fewest points among those he is competing against (11 per game), although his rebounding numbers are impressive (close to 11).
But here is where Monroe should be selected.
Bosh leads the group in scoring, but Monroe is averaging more points (15 per game) than Chandler and Vucevic, and although his rebounding numbers are lower than both (nine per game), they are still much higher than Bosh's.
Bosh leads the group in blocks per game, but it is very close, as Chandler, Vucevic and Monroe are separated by a combined total of 1.5 total blocks.
When it comes to assist numbers, Monroe blows the other three out of the water. His 3.2 assists per game is twice as many as Vucevic, nearly twice as many as Bosh and over three times as many as Chandler.
Monroe also leads the group in steals per game with a guard-like 1.3 per game.
From an overall game standpoint, Monroe is light-years ahead of Vucevic and Chandler and certainly in the same conversation as Bosh. He has a genuine offensive game, including post moves that few Eastern Conference centers can boast. He can pass like few big men can, and he has put up these types of numbers two years in a row.
The likely result
Knowing that Varejao is a shoo-in for the first bench spot and Horford a likely choice for the second spot, it all comes down to the battle between Bosh, Chandler and Monroe.
Bosh and Chandler both play in much larger—and sexier—markets for teams that have better records, so one of those two is a likelier choice than Monroe.
In fact, I wouldn't be shocked to see both make the team, but Bosh certainly will be included.
Those aren't necessarily the wrong choices.
But when Monroe gets the snub yet again, he can know that he was a bigger part of his team's success, and from an overall statistical standpoint, he belongs on this team.
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