Detroit Pistons big man Greg Monroe is in an unenviable position as a restricted free agent. Perhaps more than any other player this offseason, Monroe has been faced with the balancing act of prioritizing team quality, market size, money and fit.
For weeks now, Monroe has come up empty on finding a destination that can provide him with everything he appears to want. The ball is definitely not in his court in this scenario, as Detroit can match any offer sheet he signs or choose not to trade him if they wish.
While restricted free agency has worked splendidly for guys like Dallas Mavericks forward Chandler Parsons and Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward, the same hasn't happened for Monroe. A big deal hasn't come, and with all the chairs filled and the music pretty much stopped, it's hard to see how Monroe gets a suitable offer and gets out of Detroit simultaneously.
But let's not confuse bad luck for bad decision-making. Monroe shouldn't feel rushed to accept any deal that's thrown his way, even if that's what Detroit might prefer at this stage.
Here's Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:
The Pistons have moved from the initial five-year, $60-million offer and an offer that’s slightly better on a per-year basis than the four-year, $54-million deal that Josh Smith signed last summer is on the table.
But the offer to make him the highest paid player on the roster hasn’t brokered an agreement. And negotiations aren’t ongoing.
The impasse could last into next month unless a sudden sign-and-trade materializes. There were discussions with the Blazers early in the process and Yahoo! Sports reported recently that brief discussions with Suns and Hawks didn’t gain traction. That’s probably because the Pistons are placing a premium on Monroe that teams so far have proven unwilling to pay.
Again, Monroe isn't in an advantageous negotiating position. While that might lead some to take whatever offer is on the table and be happy for the financial security, Monroe has options to exercise.
The first, and maybe the most likely at this point, is to accept Detroit's qualifying offer worth $5.5 million and play out this season. While that definitely invites some risk, as a major injury could dramatically alter things, Monroe would become an unrestricted free agent after the 2014-15 season, meaning he could choose exactly where he wants to be.
Here's David Mayo at Mlive.com with Pistons head coach and president Stan Van Gundy:
As free agency pushes ahead, diminished opportunities around the league could be one factor that pushes Monroe toward signing the Pistons' qualifying offer.
'Part of it is Greg and his agent, and their strategy -- if they're pursuing offers, or anything else,' Van Gundy said. 'It'll play out. I wouldn't say I'm not a little nervous about it. I am. But it's out of my control, at least at this point.
'Again, we've gone over everything, we know how we'll react in every situation. It's not going to throw us for a loop, no matter what happens.'
That freedom may be worth a large decrease in pay for one season. Even though the hiring of Van Gundy has Detroit's future looking better, the inability of the Pistons to trade away Josh Smith thus far is a little worrying.
The frontcourt of Smith, Monroe and Andre Drummond was an absolute disaster last year, and Monroe hasn't really had the positive experience of winning in Detroit quite yet. With Smith on a long-term contract and Drummond the center of a new era of basketball, it's hard to see how Monroe fits. This is a bad match in virtually every possible way.
Here's more from Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:
It’s no secret that Monroe wouldn’t mind a change of scenery and wants a max contract, but the system hasn’t worked for the restricted free agent...
Teams around the league just don’t view Monroe as worthy of a max offer sheet —— especially with the perceived notion that the Pistons would just match. Despite a productive four seasons, stretch power forwards are high valued and inside players like Monroe have become devalued.
Monroe could more easily land both a change of scenery and a max contract in unrestricted free agency next season. He'd be the highest-profile player to ever accept his qualifying offer after his rookie contract expired, but it is a way of accomplishing all of the apparent goals.
So long as that option is on the table, Monroe hasn't necessarily made a mistake by turning down any offers. While it's highly unlikely that the offer will continue to improve, Monroe could threaten a holdout if it really came to it.
Working with Detroit may make more sense, however, as a sign-and-trade could still feasibly happen at this point, even though it hasn't come yet.
Detroit has tried to help [Monroe] with some sign and trade possibilities around the league. Monroe doesn’t really have a great interest in going back and playing with the Pistons. If they’re going to move him in a sign-and-trade, they’ve got to get value for him. They’ve got to get back some significant talent to compensate for that loss. They haven’t been able to find a deal for him.
If Monroe can't find a trade partner who values his post scoring and rebounding and is willing to sacrifice stretch in order to get it, maybe there's some logic in trusting Van Gundy to handle the situation. Unlike last season, Van Gundy will have both rotation and personnel control.
Basically, Van Gundy may be able to remedy problems on the floor more easily. If Smith continues to shoot bad shots and defend poorly like last season, maybe he'll be shipped out for a three-point shooter, and a lot of the issues in Detroit will instantly be solved.
Even though Monroe hasn't played particularly well next to Drummond, his passing ability at the 4 at least provides hope that the two can work together, even if Monroe is a far cry from what Van Gundy usually wants at the power forward spot.
Signing a long-term deal at this point is placing faith in Van Gundy and Drummond. There are certainly less-talented coaches and centers out there, so perhaps Monroe will come around.
At least Drummond seems to think so, as here's what he told Vince Ellis about Monroe at USA Today:
Greg knows what it is. I've told him multiple times that he needs to come on home.
I need him there, and all the guys would love to have him back as well. At the end of the day, he's got to do what's best for him and his family.
I still have high hopes, and I'm pretty sure he is coming home, so I'm excited for this season.
The most important takeaway here is that Monroe still has options. He can sign the offered deal with Detroit and give it a good-faith effort that it will work out. He can keep pushing to find a decent sign-and-trade destination. He can accept the qualifying offer and look forward to a strong payday with a team of his choosing next offseason.
The options may not be ideal, but they are present nonetheless. Monroe may be taking a small risk by passing up the current offer on the table, but players with his combination of size and skill almost always end up on their feet financially, one way or another.