The Detroit Pistons are embarking on a new era in team history.
They have completely shifted from the championship team of 2004, all but given up on the transition strategy of the past five years and have decided to build their team around their two talented big men.
Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond were perhaps the two best draft picks of team president Joe Dumars' tenure. They have both shown that they are talented centers in the point guard era of the NBA.
Today, few teams boast true centers. The Pistons, however, have two very young and talented ones.
While it is truly premature to decide whether these two can complement one another, I am going to take a shot.
Monroe and Drummond both have very promising careers ahead of them, but they should not be paired together for the future of this franchise.
Here are a few reasons why this is the case.
Defense Is a Legitimate Concern
As mentioned earlier, today's NBA does not feature a lot of true centers.
Gone are the days of every team having a seven-foot big man anchoring the middle. In the 1980s and 90s, you had elite centers like Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson and Shaquille O'Neal. We all remember those names.
But what we don't remember was that every team had at least one guy that they could throw into a matchup with those guys.
The Dallas Mavericks had James Donaldson, the Portland Trail Blazers had Kevin Duckworth and the Cleveland Cavaliers had Brad Daugherty. These were players that were a tier below the big names, but had the ability to hold their own.
Since the game featured such strong big men, this allowed them some versatility at the other big-man position.
The Mavs had Sam Perkins, another big guy that could eat up space. The Blazers had Buck Williams, who was a rebounding machine. And the Cavs had Larry Nance, who contributed length and some athleticism.
Most importantly, these teams made sure at least one of these guys was a strong interior defender, and the other had the athleticism to cover some space.
This was during an era of heightened physicality.
There were very few super-athletic power forwards and the league was just starting to play around with the idea of stretch players.
True, the Pistons were one of the few revolutionary teams that featured a big man that could shoot from deep, but they were the exception, not the rule.
Once truly athletic big men like Shawn Kemp and Chris Webber entered the league, those twin-tower teams were exposed as antiquated at best and dinosaurs at worst.
I will never forget the image of watching Bill Laimbeer trying to play against Webber or Terry Mills trying to keep up with Kemp.
It got ugly very quickly.
If the Pistons keep Monroe alongside Drummond, you will see a second-coming of this type of ugliness.
Drummond isn't the problem in this pairing; he is an athletic freak and could be the league's next great center.
The issue here is Monroe. He lacks the quick feet to stay in front of athletic big men. A stretch four player would eat him alive.
The Pistons have two options if they run these guys out there together. Either they let Monroe get bested on a regular basis by the league's more athletic and perimeter-oriented fours, or they try to run Drummond out there.
Even if Drummond is able to play effective perimeter defense on stretch fours, they would be missing out on his supreme post defense and shot-blocking prowess.
As much as well all love to hate Charlie Villanueva, he has shown this year why he pairs best with Drummond.
Drummond is not an effective offensive weapon outside of five feet from the hoop. He is an electric dunker and has tremendously quick moves, but he does not have any offensive post game to speak of.
Sure, he will eventually develop a few moves and a baby hook is certainly going to be included in his future offensive repertoire, but he is an afterthought on offense if he isn't near the hoop.
This forces teams to shrink into the post in order to avoid being posterized by alley-oops or putbacks.
The greatest weapon for a team to utilize in opening up space down low is a stretch four.
This is where Villanueva comes into play. His ability to catch and shoot the open three-pointer forces teams to open up space in the lane.
This also allows guards like Jose Calderon, Rodney Stuckey and Brandon Knight to penetrate and find Drummond for easy hoops.
Monroe is a genuine post player. He can play either facing the hoop or with his back to it, but he doesn't have the range to consistently knock down an 18- to 20-foot jump shot. He also lacks the quickness to make defenses pay when they play up on him.
True, he works very well in the high/low game and his passing ability is tremendous. But that won't be enough to make consistent, easy hoops for Drummond appear.
At best this will slow down the offense when it should be humming. At worst it will lead to a cluttered and stagnant offense that gets bogged down by its own size.
Monroe Slows Down the Team
The Detroit Pistons have shifted from a slow, methodical, half-court team into an up-tempo squad that likes to push the ball.
Drummond certainly fits into that mold. He is faster than many guards in the league and his leaping ability makes him a constant threat to finish on the break.
Monroe, however, is not suited for the up-tempo game. He is nicknamed Moose, not Antelope, for a reason. He isn't exactly a 40-year-old Shaquille O'Neal, but he isn't a burner either.
This isn't going to get better. The Pistons, if they are committed to athleticism and up-tempo play, will always have an anchor in Monroe if he sticks around.
Monroe isn't a bad player; to the contrary, he is one of the league's most talented big men. But he is suited to the half-court game, not the full-court one.
Trade Value Will Never Be Greater
I have just diagrammed why this pairing won't work on the court. Sure, there are arguments that can be made for why these two should stay together, but they really are more about hopeful fans wanting to see it work.
Trust me, I am one of those fans. But when I truly step back and try to figure out what is best for this team, I keep coming back to the same conclusion that this won't work.
So if we reach the conclusion that this won't work, we have to look at what should be done to counter this problem.
Monroe's trade value will never be better than it is now. He is one of the last remaining offensive centers left in this league and is capable of between 16-20 points per night and 10-12 rebounds. Those types of big men are a rarity these days.
Teams also know that just a few months ago Monroe was one of the true untouchable players on the Pistons' roster.
If the Pistons pair Monroe with Drummond and it exposes weaknesses in Monroe's game, it is only going to hurt his trade value.
Right now he could fetch quite a bit in return. Heading into a draft that is loaded with guards and small forwards but not a lot of complete big men, Monroe could bring back a legit lottery pick.
An argument could be made that Monroe, if he were in this year's draft, could be the No. 1 overall pick.
If the Pistons deal Monroe ahead of the draft, he could bring back a lottery pick as well as another young talent. The Pistons then could draft an elite wing player, a strong power forward or a future point guard.
Overall, I really hope that I'm wrong about this pairing. Nothing would make me happier than to see these two succeed and bring the Pistons back to the playoffs. But the more I scout these two, the more I fear that this duo is ill-suited for today's NBA.
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