The baffling and protracted saga surrounding restricted free agent Greg Monroe appears to be coming to an end—at least for now.
USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt reports that "Monroe has informed the Detroit Pistons he will accept the qualifying offer, play for Detroit in 2014-15 and become an unrestricted free agent next summer, two people familiar with Monroe's plan told USA TODAY Sports."
Zillgitt adds, "Monroe's qualifying offer is for $5.479 million in 2014-15 and cannot be traded without his consent once he signs. He's expected to sign it before the Oct. 1 deadline."
The 24-year-old's inability to reach a long-term agreement with the organization may reflect a simple disagreement about numbers, but it could also hint at disaffection with the club in general.
As The Detroit News' Vincent Goodwill notes, "While the Pistons big man has not pursued an offer sheet from another team, he has pursued sign-and-trade possibilities."
In other words, there appears to be an itch to leave Detroit, and it should be considerably easier for Monroe to do just that as an unrestricted free agent in 2015. With the Pistons entitled to match any offer sheets he received from other teams this summer, a robust market never formed.
That could very well change a year from now.
Monroe's negotiations with the Pistons never appeared to gain sufficient traction. As Monroe himself spend much of his summer in Africa, his contractual status became something of an afterthought.
Despite a report from the Detroit Free Press' Vince Ellis suggesting Monroe had been offered a five-year deal worth $60 million, the forward later refuted the claim via Twitter. So it's not entirely clear how much the franchise valued him or how much money he wanted.
The Georgetown product averaged 15.2 points and 9.3 rebounds last season, the third consecutive year he's tallied at least 15 points and nine rebounds per game. He's been a model of consistency throughout Detroit's struggles, offering the club hope that it had found a potential All-Star around whom to build.
Selected with the seventh overall pick in 2010, Monroe ensures the Pistons have a capable low-post presence in a league where such players are increasingly rare.
Now the question turns to how much longer Monroe will remain part of the program—and more broadly, what this qualifying offer means for Monroe and the organization alike.
The qualifying-offer route is almost certainly better than making things reach a breaking point this summer. A short-term arrangement gives the Pistons another season to convince Monroe that they've gotten their act together, that new head coach and team president Stan Van Gundy is capable of refurbishing a club in disarray.
Goodwill notes, "Monroe reportedly doesn’t have anything against the Pistons or new coach/president Stan Van Gundy. In fact, the source said, Monroe 'likes Van Gundy and likes what he says,' but added that Monroe 'needs proof (of Van Gundy’s vision).'"
In other words, this season figures to be something of an audition for Van Gundy and Co.
The Pistons haven't made the playoffs since Monroe was drafted, so a quick turnaround could do wonders for selling Monroe on the future. Without that turnaround, it's hard to imagine him sticking around on a long-term basis.
Detroit needs this opportunity to make its case. By all accounts, the organization desperately wants to retain Monroe's services.
"We have tried (to recruit Monroe). Look, right off the bat he was the first person we saw," Van Gundy told reporters this summer. "Then a lot of conversation—because that’s the way he wanted it for a while—went through his agent and we hooked back up in Orlando (Summer League) and tried to make a strong case for ourselves and our organization."
Team owner Tom Gores reaffirmed the desire to keep Monroe in the fold, telling Ellis, "Stan is going to have to figure out exactly everybody’s role, but we’re believers in Greg Monroe. He’s not just a great player; he also has a good basketball character. I know it’s been a lot of the offseason stuff, but I’m a believer in Greg Monroe."
So while the Pistons didn't exactly get what they wanted this summer, they got the next best thing: a chance to prove themselves.
In turn, Monroe will also have the opportunity to make a decision in what figures to be a more open market. Without the threat of Detroit matching offers hanging over his 2015 free agency, there should actually be some teams knocking on the door.
At the moment, Monroe doesn't have many options. Accordingly, he also doesn't have much leverage—with Detroit or any other team. By waiting it out another season, Monroe should find himself in a far superior bargaining position next summer.
Though Van Gundy's Pistons certainly didn't want to lose Monroe for nothing (or for a below-value trade return), they also didn't want to go through this again next summer. While the club will have a chance to demonstrate progress, it will also have more competition from other suitors in 2015.
That doesn't bode well, especially if Detroit once again falls short of the postseason.
There's also now a greater danger that Detroit will lose Monroe without receiving anything in return. If he's determined to take his talents to greener pastures, the Pistons would have been better served by arranging a sign-and-trade that at least partially eased the pain of losing such a promising piece.
And while Monroe should have additional options (and leverage) next summer, he too would benefit from some long-term job security.
Anything can happen between now and the next offseason. Short-term deals are inherently fraught with greater risk. Monroe could get injured. His play could take a step down. There are plenty of reasons players generally pursue multiyear contracts at the first opportunity.
The good news that is Monroe has been anything but injury-ridden through his first four seasons, so his chances of remaining healthy for a fifth look pretty good.
All the same, there's little doubt he would have preferred that a long-term deal to his liking materialized this summer, even if it was a deal with the Pistons.
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