Greg Monroe is an unrestricted free agent this summer, which means he can sign anywhere he wants. But after the Detroit Pistons swung a deal for floor-stretching power forward Ersan Ilyasova on Thursday, Monroe can probably rule out a return to his former team.
The Pistons made the move official mere minutes after Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported it:
Less than two weeks before the Ilyasova deal went down, team president and head coach Stan Van Gundy was noncommittal about Monroe's future, per David Mayo of MLive.com: "We'll have to look at what comes up, where we are after the draft, possible trades, all of that, and just go from there and see what's best for both sides."
It now seems clear that the best thing for both sides, Monroe and the Pistons, is a future apart.
Independent of the Monroe situation, the deal is a good one for Detroit.
The Pistons are buying low on a 28-year-old power forward who shot 38.9 percent from long range last season, and all it cost them was a pair of players on non-guaranteed deals the Milwaukee Bucks will likely waive for cap relief, Shawne Williams and Caron Butler.
Ilyasova's injury-plagued 2013-14 campaign dented his value a bit, but it would appear the Pistons believe in his recovery—as well as his incredible 2011-12 and 2012-13 campaigns, in which he shot 45.5 and 44.4 percent from deep, respectively.
The Twitter reaction from SB Nation's Mike Prada and RealGM's Danny Leroux indicates the Pistons pulled off a shrewd move:
Now, Milwaukee had its own reasons for dealing a valuable asset. It needed to clear cap space for the max deal restricted free agent Khris Middleton may command, and shedding Ilyasova's $7.9 million salary next season will help.
The financials work out nicely for Detroit as well. If Ilyasova doesn't perform, the Pistons can buy out the final season of his deal for a measly $400,000. At worst, this is a low-risk, one-year audition.
At best, Van Gundy has found a power forward who fits his preferred mold. He engineered a ton of success with the Orlando Magic by slotting frontcourt floor-stretchers such as Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu and Ryan Anderson alongside Dwight Howard.
Ilyasova fits Van Gundy's plans in a way Monroe never could, per Grantland's Zach Lowe:
Monroe is a tricky player around which to build. An ideal roster would surround him with at least one big man who can both shoot from range and protect the basket, and there are maybe a half-dozen guys who can do both of those things at an elite level. They are expensive and very hard to get.
Because the Pistons already have Andre Drummond in the middle, and because Monroe was never going to become the kind of spacer who could pull defenses away from Drummond in the pick-and-roll, something had to give.
Bleacher Report's Dan Favale elaborated on the spacing concerns: "More than 89 percent of his total shot attempts came within eight feet of the basket in 2014-15. When he did journey to the outside, he did so to blah consequence; he converted under 35 percent of his buckets between eight and 24 feet."
Ilyasova took 34.1 percent of his shots from beyond the arc last year and over half from outside 16 feet, according to Basketball-Reference.com. Spacing problem solved.
There's another monetary component at play here, too (isn't there always?).
Signing Monroe to a market-rate deal would almost certainly cost the Pistons more than Ilyasova's affordable, short-term $7.9 million. Keeping him on a multiyear contract would tie up virtually all of Detroit's cap space, making it difficult to retain restricted free agent Reggie Jackson.
Money aside, there'd be strategic issues with a frontcourt rotation built around Monroe, Drummond and Ilyasova. We've known for years that Monroe and Drummond can't coexist as part of a functional offense, and the defensive liabilities would be profound if Ilyasova and Monroe shared the floor.
There's just not a sensible combination there, which would be an even bigger problem if Monroe were collecting a fat new salary.
More than anything, the trade for Ilyasova indicates a shift in stylistic ideology—one you could see beginning to develop with Josh Smith's midseason waiver. Detroit is going to space things out and modernize. It's going to diversify its skills in the frontcourt, hopefully maximizing the inside punch of Drummond and the outside touch of Ilyasova in the process.
There's not much room in today's NBA for a big man like Monroe, who can't space the floor and can't defend the rim. And it looks like there's none at all in Detroit now.
Monroe will find interest elsewhere.
According to various reports, the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, New York Knicks and even the Portland Trail Blazers (if they can't retain LaMarcus Aldridge) will pursue him. All could use a scoring big, and though it could change after the draft, none currently have a center under contract who'd get in Monroe's way inside.
The fit has been bad in Detroit for a while, and Monroe's decision to take the Pistons' one-year qualifying offer last summer indicated a mutual unwillingness to keep working on a fix.
This latest move shows nothing has changed.
It's time for the Moose to migrate.