Are Detroit Pistons Quietly Pushing Greg Monroe out the Door?

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Are Detroit Pistons Quietly Pushing Greg Monroe out the Door?
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Detroit Pistons head coach and team president Stan Van Gundy wasted no time revamping the roster with a variety of free-agent signings. If reports are any indication, those moves could merely be the tip of the iceberg in Motown.

In fact, interestingly enough, even restricted free-agent Greg Monroe may not be safe.

According to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, the Pistons resumed trade talks with the Sacramento Kings regarding 28-year-old forward Josh Smith, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.

After signing a four-year, $54 million deal last summer, J-Smoove proved to be a poor fit in Detroit’s system. While playing primarily at the small forward spot beside Monroe and Andre Drummond in the frontcourt, the former Atlanta Hawk hoisted up a career-high 3.4 three-point attempts per game, cashing in on just 26.4 percent of them.

It makes sense to move Smith and his hefty contract if possible.

Meanwhile, SVG has steadfastly maintained throughout the offseason that a different left-hander is part of the big picture.

"Greg Monroe is a very important piece of the puzzle in Detroit and we want him back very, very much," the Pistons headman said, per NBA.com.

Contrary to Van Gundy’s stance, Stein reported the following:

Sources said the Pistons also seriously discussed various sign-and-trade scenarios this month that would have landed restricted free agent Greg Monroe in Portland, but the Blazers ultimately pulled themselves out of the race for Monroe by signing free-agent big man Chris Kaman to join Robin Lopez in the Blazers’ center rotation.

Has SVG been putting up a smokescreen while secretly shopping Monroe to potential suitors?

At the very least, a variety of circumstances have hinted the Georgetown product could be suiting up elsewhere next season.

 

Collection of Signings

USA TODAY Sports

Due to Smith’s trigger-happy attitude from beyond the arc, the Pistons ranked 29th in the Association by making 32.1 percent of their three-point attempts, according to NBA.com. Only the Philadelphia 76ers (31.2 percent) were worse statistically.

Van Gundy’s Orlando Magic teams of old loved to shoot the rock from downtown, so he didn’t hesitate addressing that need in a big way by bringing in a handful of qualified three-point snipers.

Three-Point Percentage of Pistons' Signees (2013-14)
Player 3P% 3PM 3PA
Jodie Meeks 40.1 2.1 5.2
D.J. Augustin 40.1 1.9 4.7
Caron Butler 39.4 1.8 4.4
Cartier Martin 39.1 1.0 2.6

Basketball-Reference.com

All four shooters SVG brought in via free agency would have ranked second on the Pistons in terms of three-point percentage behind Jonas Jerebko’s 41.9 percent clip.

Jodie Meeks was one of only 10 NBA players who shot at least 40 percent from long range while also attempting a minimum of five shots from downtown per contest.

How is this relevant to Monroe’s future?

Well, by paying Meeks $6 million per season, Caron Butler $4.5 million per season, D.J. Augustin $3 million per season and Cartier Martin the veteran’s minimum (approximately $1.2 million), per Basketball-Reference.com, there isn’t much room left for the 24-year-old.

Detroit still has cap space available, but it has to be thinking about the long-term ramifications of retaining Monroe.

Drummond is younger (20) and has already shown far more promise by comparison. He’s not an asset the Pistons can afford to let get away under any circumstance.

USA TODAY Sports

Unless Detroit can trade Smith to Sacramento in exchange for spare parts and cap relief, an extension with Drummond will likely be put on the back burner.

Of course, the money isn’t the biggest reason why Monroe’s stay in Detroit could be coming to an end.

 

Interior Fit

USA TODAY Sports

Quite frankly, Monroe isn’t a power forward. Playing him at the 4 beside Drummond at center is doing the four-year pro a disservice.

According to 82games.com, Monroe surrendered a per-48-minute player efficiency rating of 21.2 when matched up with opposing power forwards. For a frame of reference, Tim Duncan’s PER throughout 2013-14 was 21.3, according to Basketball-Reference.

In essence, Monroe—and Detroit’s defense in general—allowed opposing power forwards to be as efficient statistically as a 14-time All-Star night in and night out.

Placing all the blame on Monroe isn’t entirely fair because opponent PER doesn’t account for switches in pick-and-roll scenarios. But consider the following statistic:

The assist percentage (an estimate of the percentage of field goals coming courtesy of an assist) of Pistons opponents with Monroe on the court was 64.9 percent. With Monroe on the bench, that number dipped to 56.7 percent, per Basketball-Reference.

Opposing offenses were able to pick apart Detroit’s defense with better spacing and passing when Monroe was out there—primarily playing a position that doesn’t suit his game.

The overarching theme here is that Monroe functions far better at the 5, but that’s a position he’s never going to play with regularity unless Drummond (knock on wood) gets injured.

So what’s the answer?

 

Possible Outcomes

USA TODAY Sports

If the Pistons aren’t able to move Smith via trade, sliding him down to the power forward spot makes the most sense. He averaged 24.7 points, 11.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists per 48 minutes at that position. His per-48-minute PER at power forward was 17.8 versus 11.5 at small forward, according to 82games, so it’s not as if he’s a lost cause. He just needs to stop shooting three-pointers.

Seriously, SVG should make him do 20 push-ups every time he hoists a brick from deep.

If Detroit opts to move Smith to power forward with Drummond at center, the odd man out is Monroe. Van Gundy has said publicly he wants to keep the 6’11” youngster, but Stein’s sources say the Pistons have already dangled Monroe as trade bait.

At this juncture, the only conceivable plan in place is to surround Drummond with three-point gunners. SVG has already done so via free agency, but Monroe’s name is still available.

David Mayo of MLive.com wrote the following of Monroe’s status in a recent mailbag:

Monroe is the top available free agent on the market and the fact he hasn’t signed an offer sheet should tell your something. If you’re not entertaining offers, you don’t sign an offer sheet. If you’re trying to orchestrate a sign and trade and get out of Detroit, you don’t sign an offer sheet. Is Monroe overrated? Depends how you rate him. He’s a 24-year-old, offensively skilled big man who can play in the post and rebound, but doesn’t protect the rim much.

Are the Pistons tranquilly looking to move Monroe and fully embrace the youth and upside of Drummond? Is Monroe trying to push his own way out by waiting for sign-and-trade options to surface? Is he waiting patiently for a max contract that isn't coming his way?

Any of those scenarios are feasible.

A move may not happen in the immediate future, but it certainly seems as if big changes are on the horizon for the Pistons' new regime.

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