Ranking the Best Free-Agent Landing Spots for Greg Monroe in 2015 Offseason
On July 1, Monroe will become an unrestricted free agent: He can sign with any team he chooses, as long as it has the cap space to afford him. He will command a maximum contract, or something close, on the open market. That would start at $15.6 million with yearly increases of 4.5 percent for any team signing him. Except for the Pistons, who could offer him 7.5 percent yearly raises.
The team that brings Monroe on board will get one of the best 25-and-under big men in the NBA. He averaged a double-double at 15.9 points and 10.2 rebounds per game, and he was just one of 10 double-digit rebounders during the 2014-15 season. He is also a skilled passer, averaging two-plus assists for the fourth consecutive season.
Monroe is not without his faults. He is a slow, low-post scorer in an increasingly perimeter-oriented NBA. He is also neither a prototypical center nor power forward. He is 6'11" and 250 pounds but doesn't protect the rim (he has never averaged one block per game in five seasons). And his size makes him a liability when forced to chase around athletic 4s on the perimeter.
To make up for the holes in Monroe's game, his ideal post partner is someone who can block shots on defense and space the court on the other end to open up the paint for him. Since there are only a handful of those players around the league, Monroe may end up somewhere that is less than a perfect fit.
Honorable Mention: Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers won just 21 games in 2014-15 and are desperate to climb the Western Conference standings quickly. And there are rumblings that Monroe is "willing to meet with the Lakers this summer," according to Steve Kyler of Basketball-Insiders.com."
Carlos Boozer, Jordan Hill, Ryan Kelly and Ed Davis were the Lakers' best options down low this season, and it is nearly impossible to win NBA games with that motley crew. But 2014 No. 7 overall pick Julius Randle will return from a broken leg and immediately boost their frontcourt talent. And after getting the No. 2 pick in the lottery, the Lakers possibly will add a second young big.
The top two prospects in the draft are widely considered to be Kentucky's Karl-Anthony Towns and Duke's Jahlil Okafor—both centers. Towns is a shot-blocker and could theoretically play next to Monroe, but both ESPN and NBADraft.net mock drafts have him off the board first. Okafor is a post scorer who struggled to protect the rim in college; he would be too similar of a player to Monroe.
If the Lakers select Okafor, then staying away from Monroe and spending their money on perimeter help would be the way to go. If Towns is on the board, signing Monroe would become more tempting, but the presence of Randle still makes Monroe redundant.
As long as the Lakers draft a big man at No. 2 and hold onto Randle, they have little reason to pursue Monroe.
5. Portland Trail Blazers
The Portland Trail Blazers are at a crossroads, and regardless of which path they take, Monroe could fit into their future.
The majority of their roster has an expiring contract or some sort of option for the 2015-16 season, and the team could hypothetically get $40 million under the salary cap. That would mean losing LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews, Arron Afflalo and Robin Lopez, among others, and the Blazers would like to keep several of those guys.
But they could theoretically re-sign Aldridge and Matthews or Afflalo and still have room to make a run at Monroe. A core of Damian Lillard, Matthews or Afflalo, Nicolas Batum, Aldridge and Monroe could be quite the offensive juggernaut. However, Portland would lack the rim protection that Lopez provided, and there would be serious defensive issues with Lillard and Monroe sharing the court.
Aldridge could easily choose to leave Portland for another contender—possibly one of the Texas teams (he's a native of the state and played for the Longhorns). In that case, Monroe could be a replacement for the All-Star.
Monroe and Lopez wouldn't have the same rim-protection issues that Monroe and Aldridge would have, but neither is equipped to defend athletic 4s, and the spacing offensively would be rough. Unless Monroe can begin to consistently knock down mid-range jumpers at Aldridge-like levels, then the fit would be far from ideal.
The Blazers have the potential opening the Lakers can't offer, but they don't have a big who complements Monroe.
4. Detroit Pistons
Monroe and his agent, David Falk, continue to say that staying with the Pistons is a realistic option, but from a basketball standpoint he just has not fit in Detroit.
"There's been a lot of change throughout my time here, but I can see myself staying," Monroe said to Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press.
The additional money the Pistons can offer is a draw, and so, too, is staying somewhere he has called home for five years. Coach and team president Stan Van Gundy has stated publicly that he would like Monroe back.
"We're going to try to keep Greg," Van Gundy said to the Free Press. "There's no question about that. Obviously Greg has a lot to say with that, so we'll just see where it goes."
As long as center Andre Drummond is on the roster, Monroe has no place. Neither can defend power forwards on the perimeter or is effective offensively away from the basket. Individually, they have been arguably the Pistons' best two players since the start of the 2013-14 season. But they just don't complement each other when together.
That's a big part of why Detroit has been unable to find consistency in the three years they have been teammates. And it is why the Pistons should not tie themselves down by giving a max contract to Monroe.
3. Boston Celtics
If Monroe leaves Detroit, a number of other Eastern Conference teams could use a low-post scorer, and that list begins with the Boston Celtics.
The young Celtics overachieved in 2014-15, winning 40 games and sneaking into the playoffs seemingly ahead of schedule for their rebuilding plan. They had success playing pace-and-space basketball and going small. Their best players all were perimeter-oriented: Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, Isaiah Thomas, Evan Turner and Jae Crowder.
What Boston lacked was a traditional skilled big.
Boston has interesting pieces it could pair with Monroe. Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk can both pop outside and hit threes, which would free up space in the paint. Unfortunately, neither can defend the basket well. Tyler Zeller does a solid job of protecting the rim, but his offensive game is limited. But a big-man rotation of those four players could be fairly versatile.
The Celtics have been tied to Monroe well before the start of free agency. Sporting News' Sean Deveney said that their "realistic high-end target is Greg Monroe." CSN Northeast's A. Sherrod Blakely wrote, "Boston is expected to make a run at...Detroit's Greg Monroe."
Where there is smoke, there is often fire, and the Celtics are an up-and-coming team with more than $20 million in cap space this summer. Monroe would be a significant upgrade at either the 4 or 5, and his passing ability would be an asset. But the C's lack a single player who perfectly complements him, and the speed in which they play (No. 5 pace in the NBA, per NBA.com) doesn't exactly fit Monroe's plodding style.
2. New York Knicks
No team outside of Detroit has been connected to Monroe more than the New York Knicks.
After a dismal 17-win season, Knicks president Phil Jackson is anxious to upgrade the talent level—Andrea Bargnani and Cole Aldrich just won't cut it down low. And the New York Daily News' Frank Isola reported that a Monroe-to-New York deal will happen.
"Maybe the worst-kept secret in the NBA is that Phil Jackson plans to pursue Detroit Pistons forward Greg Monroe in free agency this summer," Isola wrote. "In fact, one league executive called it 'about as close to a done deal as you can get.'"
Monroe refuted those reports, but the partnership makes sense on many levels. Plenty of big contracts are coming off the Knicks' books, and they'll have more than $30 million in cap space to bring in free agents.
Jackson and coach Derek Fisher want to use the triangle offense, and Monroe's passing would make him a good fit on paper. And the Knicks played at the NBA's third-slowest pace last season—right in Monroe's wheelhouse.
But the current Knicks roster construction makes the fit questionable. Carmelo Anthony and Cleanthony Early are the only two guys with guaranteed contracts who can play down low at all, and they are both expected to play primarily at small forward next season. The team could bring back Cole Aldrich to protect the basket next to Monroe, but neither can stretch the floor at all offensively.
The Knicks dropping to No. 4 in the NBA draft makes it likely they select a perimeter player and address their holes in the post during free agency. If they can find a defensive-minded player with some shooting ability to play next to Monroe, then he would make more basketball sense for New York.
Until then, the idea of opponents scoring at will on Anthony and Monroe won't get anyone excited for New York's championship potential.
1. Toronto Raptors
After flaming out in the first round of the playoffs for the second straight season, the Toronto Raptors are in need of a move to shake things up.
The Washington Wizards' big men had their way against the Raptors in the playoffs, and adding an offensive threat like Monroe could offer them a way to fight back. With DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, they were perimeter-oriented offensively in 2014-15—almost to a fault. Adding Monroe's scoring on the block would add a completely new dimension to their offense.
The Raptors play at a slow pace—No. 20 in the NBA—which would suit Monroe. And Jonas Valanciunas could be an interesting fit alongside him. Though Valanciunas did most of his damage near the basket, he shot at least 40 percent from every five-foot range out to 19 feet, per NBA.com. Though he's not an elite rim-protector at 1.6 blocks per 36 minutes, he can help cover for Monroe's deficiencies.
In 2014, Thomas Johnson of the Washington Post wrote that the Raptors could be a good home for Monroe, and the logic still holds today. "Monroe has the ability to score in the low post and create his own shot, a glaring weakness for the Raptors," Johnson said.
If the Raptors renounce their own free agents, they would have more than enough money to offer Monroe a max contract. That would give Toronto a lineup of Lowry, DeRozan, Terrence Ross or James Johnson, Monroe and Valanciunas, with Greivis Vasquez and Patrick Peterson coming off the bench. That group is more interesting than the 2014-15 Raptors, and they would have enough youth to grow into a potential contender.
Jakub Rudnik covers the Detroit Pistons as a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @jakubrudnik