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Miami Heat Could Be Dark-Horse Trade Destination for Pistons' Greg Monroe

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistDecember 17, 2014

AUBURN HILLS, MI - DECEMBER 2: Greg Monroe #10 of the Detroit Pistons gets introduced before a game against the Los Angeles Lakers on December 2, 2014 at The Palace of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills, Michigan. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Allen Einstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Allen Einstein/Getty Images

Greg Monroe might want to start thinking about how he would look in Miami Heat red and black.

Stocking up on shorts wouldn't be a bad idea either. Call it a precautionary investment.

The Detroit Pistons' big man reportedly isn't happy with his current situation and would prefer a trade, according to the Sporting News' Sean Deveney. If true, it comes as no surprise.

Neither is the Heat's apparent interest, per Bleacher Report's Ethan Skolnick:

Ethan J. Skolnick @EthanJSkolnick

Re: Greg Monroe availability first reported by Sporting News.... Heard Heat inquired. But assets light, even b4 McRoberts injury.

Assembling the necessary assets is an unavoidable obstacle. But, as of now, there's little else keeping the Heat from becoming a sneaky-good destination for the apparently disgruntled Monroe.

The Right Fit

AUBURN HILLS, MI - MARCH 28: Greg Monroe #10 of the Detroit Pistons controls the ball against the Miami Heat on March 28, 2014 at The Palace of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills, Michigan. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloadi
Allen Einstein/Getty Images

Speculation has swirled since this summer, after Monroe, a restricted free agent, elected to sign his qualifying offer worth under $5.5 million. Doing so ensured he would become an unrestricted free agent this upcoming offseason—meaning the Pistons won't have the right to retain him if he signs elsewhere—but it delayed a lucrative payday.

Such ploys have been considered taboo in the past. Waiting left Monroe's market value at the mercy of his health and this season's production. A decline in either area would cost him tens of millions of dollars.

Signing that qualifying offer, though, also made Monroe's return to Detroit beyond unlikely. If he was sold on the Pistons' roster and future, he wouldn't have positioned himself to have absolute freedom in one year's time; he would have brokered an offer sheet with another team, waited for the Pistons to match and cashed those checks for the next four years.

Opting for unrestricted free agency gives legs to this rumor—one Monroe vehemently denies.

"To say I was unhappy, losing 13 in a row, you can say that about everybody on the team," he said, per MLive.com's David Mayo. "Nobody's happy when you lose 13 games in a row. But as far as where he took it, that was completely false, and it's really, like, ridiculous to have to come in here and answer questions like this."

Even if Monroe hasn't requested a trade, that doesn't make his departure any less inevitable. Unless the Pistons find a taker for the remaining $40.5 million on Josh Smith's deal, they'll continue to have space- and cap-clogging overlaps in talent, rendering Monroe a formidable flight risk.

With no assurances that Monroe will return, team coach and president Stan Van Gundy wouldn't be unwise to field trade offers under his own volition. Receiving something for Monroe now makes more sense than losing him for nothing later ever could.

Van Gundy may have no choice other than to trade Monroe.
Van Gundy may have no choice other than to trade Monroe.USA TODAY Sports

Roster needs alone make the Heat reasonable suitors if Van Gundy makes Monroe available. Although they remain inside the Eastern Conference's playoff bubble, the Heat are on track for 38 victories, their lowest win total since 2007-08.

Talent-tinkering sage Pat Riley did a phenomenal job recovering on the heels of LeBron James' departure, reacting to the decision swiftly and decisively by retaining Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade and bringing in two-time All-Star Danny Granger, Josh McRoberts and Shawne Williams.

But the on-court product, while hampered by injuries, has been underwhelming. The Heat rank a pedestrian 14th in offensive efficiency and troubling 25th in points allowed per 100 possessions.

To make matters worse, Bosh is nursing a sore calf, Wade has already missed seven games and McRoberts may be lost for the season after suffering a meniscus tear in his right leg, according to ESPN.com's Michael Wallace.

Acquiring Monroe is depth on the most fundamental level. He's a healthy body for a Heat contingent with very few. He's also interchangeable at the 4 and 5 spots, which allows him to complement Bosh nicely.

Bosh and Monroe can share the floor together.
Bosh and Monroe can share the floor together.USA TODAY Sports

Bosh has logged nearly 90 percent of his minutes at the center position this season, which is nothing new; he's been predominantly used as a center since arriving in Miami. But while the absence of James has turned him into the Heat's offensive focal point, he's not a conventional post presence like Monroe.

Around 76 percent of Bosh's shot attempts are coming outside eight feet this season, an amount actually exceeding that of last season's, when roughly 64 percent of his shots came outside eight feet.

Chris Bosh's Shot Distrubtion
Season% FGA Inside 8FT% FGA 8-16FT% FGA 16-24FT% FGA 24+FT
2013-1436.013.527.622.9
2014-1525.820.230.623.4
NBA.com.

While Bosh is definitely more of a self-sufficient scorer—only 58.3 percent of his buckets are coming off assists, compared to 80.1 last season—he's still not an around-the-basket tower. He never has been, since he's more dangerous as a floor-spacing big who can knock down shots from mid-range and beyond the arc.

Monroe's a different animal altogether.

Nearly 92 percent of his shot attempts have come inside eight feet, and only 45 percent of his made baskets have come off assists. Landing an interior shot-creator would be huge for a Heat team without one. It's also necessary at this point.

Miami does a nice job moving the ball—the team ranks sixth in passes per game—but the Heat are thin on playmakers and remain outside the top 10 in assist percentage. Monroe is someone who doesn't need a conventional floor general to get high-percentage looks. And though he's point-blank oriented, he won't shy away from attempting mid-range jumpers, so he and Bosh can play separately or together.

There's a rebounding element to all this as well. The Heat are grabbing 46.6 percent of all available rebounds, the worst mark in the league. It's actually lower than the 47.8 percent last season's size-starved team collected.

Adding Monroe gives the Heat a strong presence on the glass. He's snagging 9.1 rebounds per game, hoarding 16.5 percent of all boards that come his way. That would instantly rank as the highest rebounding rate among anyone on the Heat seeing at least 15 minutes of action per game.

The Heat could certainly use Monroe's 15 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.
The Heat could certainly use Monroe's 15 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.Allen Einstein/Getty Images

Defense is admittedly this team's biggest pitfall, though—an area in which Monroe isn't known to excel. He's neither a premier shot-blocker nor a penetration-preventing big. His help defense can be spotty, and he's not mobile enough to guard stretch 4s off the dribble or close out on shooters.

The Heat have struggled on the inside. They rank 26th in opponent field-goal percentage at the rim as a team; Monroe, meanwhile, is allowing rival offenses to shoot 57.1 percent inside six feet.

Still, his absence of defensive acumen would be worth the risk for a Heat team that desperately needs to distinguish itself on offense and the boards. Monroe is also outperforming opposing power forwards and centers by at least two player-efficiency-rating points, per 82games.com. The Heat are giving up 2.4 PER points at center and are only outplaying power forwards by 0.3.

Shortcomings in mind, Monroe improves the team and is worth the cost of acquisition.

Provided the Heat can meet the Pistons' asking price.

Brokering a Deal

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 5: Actor Michael Douglas and Miami Heat executive Pat Riley pose for a photograph at a game between the Miami Heat against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center on February 5, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER:
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

Deveney says Detroit is looking for a first-rounder as compensation for Monroe. The Heat's 2015 selection, while top-10 protected, is owed to Philadelphia. The soonest Miami could offer first-round compensation—assuming this year's winds up with the Sixers—is 2017.

Riley will need to get creative if the Heat are to acquire Monroe. Something like this might suffice:

  • Miami Heat receive: Greg Monroe
  • Detroit Pistons receive: PG Mario Chalmers, SF James Ennis and New Orleans' 2015 first-round draft pick (via Houston)
  • Houston Rockets receive: PG Brandon Jennings and Miami's 2017 first-round draft pick

Houston and Detroit are among the most active trade-seeking franchises, according to Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski. The Rockets have a trade exception they can use to absorb Jennings' contract and need a point guard who doubles as a spot-up floor-spacer. Jennings, to his credit, is banging in 40 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes.

That his contract extends beyond this season isn't ideal, since it eats into the Rockets' highly coveted cap space this summer. But at just over $8 million annually, he's a reasonably priced scorer who can help Houston improve its floor general-less, 20th-ranked offense. General manager Daryl Morey also loves flipping expiring contracts.

This is a straight up fire sale for the Pistons. Cleaning house may not have been the plan at first, but league executives have told Bleacher Report's Howard Beck they think Detroit is ready to talk shop.

Chalmers and Ennis are two cap-friendly floor-spacers who should elevate the Pistons' 32.6 percent clip from downtown (25th). The real asset here, though, is New Orleans Pelicans' pick.

It's only protected for selection Nos. 1-3 and 20-30. With the Oklahoma City Thunder surging and Anthony Davis keeping the Pelicans on the brink of playoff contention, New Orleans is slated to fall in the stipulated sweet spot. The Pistons are looking at a high lottery pick, barring something incredible on the Pelicans' end.

Netting that kind of return for a big man likely on his way out and a notoriously inefficient guard isn't horrible. The Pistons could see if Miami's 2017 first-rounder can head their way instead of Houston's, but this is the framework of what the Heat can offer.

Certifiable Dark Horse

Feb 3, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Detroit Pistons power forward Greg Monroe (10) is pressured by Miami Heat power forward Chris Andersen (11) during the first half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports

Does Riley pull the trigger on this?

Better question: How could he not?

These Heat don't consider themselves traditional rebuilders. They're not trying scrap together draft picks and young talent in hopes of transforming into a contender years from now. They spent money over the offseason trying to wedge their relevancy window open a little while longer.

As Skolnick says:

The spirit wasn't supposed to leave, too. Not with Pat Riley quickly restructuring the roster, retaining and adding enough proven and promising talent that the prognosticators would be proved wrong and the Heat could still be "as competitive as anybody" in the Eastern Conference. Not with players re-energized by the challenge of winning without the world's preeminent active player. Not with fans rallying behind Riley and owner Micky Arison and coach Erik Spoelstra and the organization's community-building ("Heat Nation" and "Heat Lifer") campaigns. 

The squad wasn't supposed to look so lifeless, the defense wasn't supposed to be so toothless, and a shot at the Southeast Division wasn't supposed to seem so hopeless—at least, not quite so soon.

Despite an admirable effort—which is to say, the willingness to spend on a whim—the Heat have failed at remaining Eastern Conference contenders. They're pacing themselves for a first-round exit at the hands of a truly elite team, be it the Toronto Raptors, Washington Wizards, Chicago Bulls or James' Cleveland Cavaliers.

Fending off obscurity wasn't part of Miami's contingency plan. Injuries have cornered the Heat, while a suboptimal offense and defense threaten to derail their postseason chances entirely. 

Hoping the status quo morphs into something better won't do a darn thing. Lack of assets is clearly an issue, but if the Heat have an opportunity to grab a needle-nudger, they cannot walk away.

Monroe will cost a pretty penny, draining the Heat of what few assets they own. He'll cost them even more in free agency if they wish to keep him around long term. But this is the responsibility they bargained for when trying to rise above James' exit.

So yes, the Heat are most definitely a dark-horse landing spot for the supposedly antsy Monroe—if only because they have no other choice.

Stats via Basketball-Reference and NBA.com unless otherwise cited and are accurate as of games played on Dec. 15. Salary information and draft-pick commitments via ShamSports and RealGM.

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