The Detroit Pistons tried in vain to make it work. The believed, erroneously, that all they needed to do to improve as a team last year was to boost the level of talent on the squad.
True, the team was technically more talented last year than it was a year prior. It would have been hard not to be. But after two high-priced acquisitions (Brandon Jennings via trade and Josh Smith through free agency), the end result was not much different from 2012-2013.
It turns out it isn't just talent that is needed to build a playoff contender but rather a coherent plan for how said talent is supposed to fit together. The Pistons of a year ago were not a team in any sense of the word. They were a collection of talent that didn't work well collectively.
There are three main reasons for the disaster that was last year. Lack of floor spacing caused by three big men trying to play together, poor shot selection essentially caused by the same problem and terrible perimeter shooting that was caused, in part, by the three big men trying to play together.
Therefore the elephant in the room is the three big men trying to play together.
Since Josh Smith has a huge, nearly untradeable contract and Andre Drummond is basically the cornerstone of the franchise, that leaves Greg Monroe.
Monroe is the obvious choice to be moved. He appeared to have no interest in signing a long-term contract this summer, and he is under contract only through this year. After that he becomes an unrestricted free agent who can bolt for nothing, and he has basically reached his ceiling as a player.
Near his ceiling
OK, before the Monroe-philes call me a "hater," let's look at this rationally. What exactly does Monroe bring to the table?
Monroe is a very good low-post player. He exhibits excellent footwork, awesome passing ability and knows how to play team ball. That all lends to him being a good pick-and-roll player.
He also is slowly developing a 15-18 foot jumper that will only make him better in that situation.
Monroe plays well with his back to the hoop, which is a trait not many possess these days.
And finally, he is a very good rebounder on both sides of the court.
That's the good news.
On the flip side, he is a terrible defender. He lacks quick feet and defensive instincts, which makes him a liability against nearly everyone he plays. Quick power forwards can suck him out to the perimeter and then blow by him at will. Bigger centers can muscle through him given his passive nature.
Offensively, he still lacks the consistent perimeter shot to stretch the defense and play alongside someone like Drummond who is anchored to the post.
This isn't to say that Monroe is a bad player; in fact, he is far from it. On the right team, he could be a tremendous asset. But he has to play center. And the Pistons already have a center.
So why not just play him off the bench you may ask? Monroe is looking for a huge contract, something in line with other players of his caliber such as Roy Hibbert, Al Jefferson, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka.
Those players each make upward of $12 million per season. While Monroe may fetch that on the open market, he isn't worth that as a backup, not when this team has holes in multiple spots.
Additionally, there doesn't appear to be a strong likelihood that Monroe is eager to sign such a deal to stay in Detroit as a starter, so why in the world would he want to be a backup?
Why trade him now?
The obvious question people may ask is why do the Pistons need to trade him now? I mean, isn't the trade deadline months away?
Of course, this is true. The Pistons could try to squeeze as much talent out of Monroe, play him off the bench regardless of how he feels about it and just deal him at the deadline.
This is a feasible plan but short-sighted and detrimental. Sure, he could provide some depth and maybe even add a nice wrinkle to the offense as a super sub.
But there doesn't appear to be a long future here, and the Pistons aren't title contenders. They really are just slapping a Band-Aid on a gaping wound that is the overall construction of the team.
By trading him now, they can work on building a cohesive unit that could stick together for years to come.
Additionally, the longer they keep Monroe the less leverage they have in dealing him. Sure, they could hold out hope that a contender has a major injury that leads to an arms race at the deadline, but how often does that happen? When was the last time there was an all-out scramble at the trade deadline for a big man?
Even in 2004 when the Pistons secured Rasheed Wallace from the Atlanta Hawks, they really didn't give up much. They received Wallace, an impending free agent himself, for pennies on the dollar.
The time has come to end the three-ring circus that is the Pistons frontcourt.
Who would be interested?
There are plenty of teams that could use someone like Monroe. The Los Angeles Lakers are looking to squeeze the last two years out of Kobe Bryant and could use a talented big man. The Atlanta Hawks have long been rumored to be interested, although it seems a strange fit given that they have Al Horford and Paul Millsap down low.
Personally, my favorite landing spot for Monroe would be San Antonio. The Spurs could groom Monroe to take Tim Duncan's place and hopefully teach him some defense. Monroe is a professional and would fit well with that group. Additionally, Kawhi Leonard would work well off of Monroe acting similarly to how Kyle Singler plays off of him without the ball. Leonard has the added dimension of talent in his game that could make this a dynamic duo.
The bottom line is the Pistons are going to lose Monroe. The question is whether they get their money's worth for him.