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Wednesday, September 25th, 2013 at 12:00 pm  |  49 responses

Top 50: Greg Monroe, no. 47

The versatile big man balances Detroit’s frontcourt.

by Tracy Weissenberg / @basketballista

Greg Monroe had a season in ’12-13 that was as quiet as it was solid.

The 23-year-old big man started every game for the Pistons, flourishing into the versatile player reminiscent of his college career. In fact, last season’s production of 16.0 ppg, 9.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists are a mirror image of his sophomore season at Georgetown (16.1 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 3.8 apg), after which he was drafted seventh overall in 2010.

Monroe’s averages of 16 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists were matched by only two other players in the NBA last season: David Lee and Al Horford—both two-time All-Stars. While Monroe has shown nothing but improvement and a high ceiling during his first three seasons, his team was far less consistent.

After eight straight playoff appearances, including a title in 2004, the Pistons have been on the outside looking in for four straight years. Monroe has had two coaches in his three seasons in Detroit, with the franchise averaging 28 wins during his tenure.

The Pistons look poised to end their playoff drought in ’13-14. With underrated hire Mo Cheeks at the helm, and a revamped starting lineup, Detroit will see how good the sum of their off-season pieces can be.

The Pistons look promising, but change also breeds uncertainty. For Monroe, it will be his role. The fourth-year center’s rookie deal is up for a contract extension. Andre Drummond, the ninth pick in 2012—also a center—is developing as a best-case scenario, dominating Summer League after a productive rookie season. And Josh Smith, the versatile free-agent acquisition, is expected to spend time at the 3-spot in the Pistons’ potent frontcourt. If Smith thrives at the 3, then the frontcourt could be one of the best in the East. But since Smith is most effective while patrolling the paint, his presence could cause a bit of congestion if all three end up starting or sharing a lot of floor time.

The most intriguing aspect of the frontcourt may be the combination of skilled big men and finishers. Last season in Atlanta, Smith and Al Horford formed one of the best frontcourt passing duos, averaging 7.4 combined assists. With Monroe and Smith both willing facilitators, there should be plenty of scoring options for a team that ranked second in paint points last season.

Entering ’13-14, the formerly identity-less offense should start to take shape, even with often-scrutinized Brandon Jennings holding the reins. Jennings has experience playing with quality bigs like Andrew Bogut and Larry Sanders, and has started in the Playoffs twice during his four-year career. A more structured offense with set facilitators is likely to help Monroe, who only tallied 50 percent of his made field goals off assists. In contrast, 61 percent of Brook Lopez’s field goals were assisted, while Dwight Howard reached 69 percent despite an inconsistent lineup last season.

While Monroe averaged 16 points in ’12-13, his efficiency deteriorated beyond the rim. He shot 33 percent from 10-15 feet, and 30 percent from 16-23 feet. He finished the season with a healthy shooting percentage of 49 percent, since the majority of his shots were attempted by the basket. It should be noted his shooting percentage has gone down steadily each year, from a career-best 55 percent his rookie season. Factors such as the amount of double teams commanded by his teammates contributed to how many high-quality looks he saw per game, which has the potential to change this season.

Monroe’s offensive shortcomings were largely unnoticeable on a non-contending team, but his range will be tested once more is expected. If Drummond sees more playing time, Monroe would be wise to work on his mid-range game. With the addition of Smith—widely regarded as one of the NBA’s most emphatic finishers—Monroe’s ability to stretch the floor could pay great dividends to the entire frontcourt.

While Drummond also takes nearly all his shots at the rim, he is only in the second year of his rookie deal. The addition of Smith may be a turning point for Monroe and the Pistons, due to overlapping skill sets and a lack of frontcourt shooters. While Monroe and the rest of the frontcourt definitely have great potential, they also have the potential to expose each other’s weaknesses.

Smith, who has never played with true centers, may be able to fine tune different facets of his game with the freedom that comes from not having to anchor a team defensively 100 percent of the time. What this has to do with Monroe, is that some of the big man’s value lies in what his presence enables his teammates to do.

In Monroe’s short career, the Pistons haven’t put the right combination of pieces on the floor. With a re-tooled roster, he will draw the tough assignment of simultaneously fitting in and standing out. It is an extension year, a low-key position battle, and his first real shot at winning. Monroe is considered a top-50 player in this League. It is up to him how far he will climb.


Where should Greg Monroe rank in the SLAM Top 50?

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SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2013
Rank Player Team Position Pos. Rank
50 Monta Ellis Mavs SG 5
49 Luol Deng Bulls SF 10
48 Ricky Rubio TWolves PG 14
47 Greg Monroe Pistons PF 12

Rankings are based on expected contribution in ’13-14—to players’ team, the League and the game.

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  • BugEyes

    One of my favorite players, love big men who can move the rock.
    Big fella needs a nickname.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    I had him much much higher

  • Saleem Rainman

    how high is much higher?

  • shockexchange

    Highly skilled big man with “a killer instinct” away from being considered elite. With Smith, Drummond, Monroe and Jennings the Pistons should be fun to watch this year.

  • Max

    I’d put him higher, somewhere in the 30′s.

  • spit hot fiyah

    all-league pass team

  • spit hot fiyah

    i think we will see a lot of him in the high post, his passing skills are extremely good. the pistons will be one of the most interesting teams to watch for me. he really needs to cut down on his complaining to the refs, that stuff kills me.

  • spit hot fiyah

    the assumption might be that his impact will decline slightly if drummond takes a big step and josh smith comes in produces.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    i had him at 32

  • shockexchange

    Sometimes he passes too much and needs to be more selfish. He can be very predictable at times. Once he puts fear into the hearts of defenders … that he may give ‘em fiddy on the regular, his passing angles and assists will increase.

  • Mike Gilbert

    He’s getting traded for a wing or a stretch 4 at the deadline

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    no he isn’t.

  • shockexchange

    “The Big Deferential” – he defers too much to teammates who don’t have his skill set.

  • LLC#12

    Never seen you use so many names without using a nickname. Kinda disappointed in you, Shock…you’re right about the Pistons being fun to watch though

  • shockexchange

    From the dunkfest provided by Monroe, Drummond and Smith to the crazy shot selection from Jennings to watching Monroe come into his own, the Pistons are gonna be SE’s favorite team this year. SE is cised up just thinking about it.

  • LakeShow

    There’s going to be allot of “isn’t better than”s going on with some of the upcoming guys.

    Monroe is better than #47

    I had him at #36

    Larry Sanders isn’t in the top 50??

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    no. Larry Sanders is not helpful on offense. And still hasn’t proven to be able to even stay on the court for more than 30 minutes.

  • ChosenOne

    Yeah, I think 47 is about right for him. He needs to get more aggressive in the post, and fight for more offensive rebounds to be useful in that Pistons team.
    Side note – can’t believe only 5 SG’s made the top 50!

  • LakeShow

    I look at it this way. . .

    Warriors and Bucks do a straight trade: Lee for Sanders.

    The Warriors stand ground or get better. The Buck’s get worse (IMO).

    You can say that’s more personnel oriented than a indication of who is the better player, but I think it’s a bit of both.

    I think Sanders will be a 13-10-3 in 32+mins guy next year and that is top 50 to me. I think he’s better than Al Jefferson(who will be on this list i’m sure) too.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    i agree in principal. but i’m still worried that Sanders is too unreliable in terms of his attitude and personality. as a player, i’d say top 50 for sure, as a human with a brain, i’m not so confident.

  • Dundler

    I also had him higher. Monroe has been top of my ‘please get traded to a semi watchable team’ list for a while now

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    his team became very watchable this summer. probably just as frustrating to watch as they are “fun” — but it will be entertaining in the least.

  • LakeShow

    Can’t disagree with that.

  • Dundler

    I cant stand Smith or Jennings, I dont want to be watching either of them. However, if the experiment does work and nothing is taken away from Monroe or Drummond then that pairing could win me over

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    ok, let’s just put this out there.
    .
    It’s going to be hard for anyone to “take away” from Andre Drummond. He’s not playing 35mpg. He only played 20 last season. In all likelihood, The Pistons bring him along slowly. Smith will finally get to play a PF/SF hybrid with a real C protecting the rim. He should have his best season.
    .
    Jennings, hopefully tries to redeem himself this season. If he tries to prove he’s a top 10 PG like he thinks he is, I will quickly lose interest in watching them as well.

  • Dundler

    Sanders strikes me as another player who just needs the situation to be right. On a fringe crappy playoff team like the Bucks hes a bit meh. On like the Spurs or Bulls or one of those type teams his value would be a bit more evident

  • Irfan

    I guess he should be higher, but not by much, maybe around 43-44

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    oh, his on court value is very evident in Milwaukee.
    .
    That teams defense was 6 points better per 48 minutes with Sanders on the court. He was so good on defense that Epke Udoh actually hurt the team while on the court (comparatively). If you know much about Udoh, he himself is one of the best defensive bigs we have in the league. And that’s how good Sanders was.

  • Dundler

    I meant Monroe more than Drummond, although I wouldnt be surprised if Pistons do throw major increase in mins his way just to appease the fans abit. Especially if they get a slow start.

    I can see why Smith would improve, and why he has his fans, im just not one of them.

    I’ve never seen evidence of Jennings not just wanting to be the guy, so im just assuming he puts up shots again

  • Dundler

    Whats quite cool is the first 4 have all been different positions, lets get a centre next!

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Monroe will play a ton of minutes. He’s perfect for this situation. He can play the 5 with Smith at PF. He can play the 4 with Smith/Drummond on the court. And you can run the offense through him in the high post, as he’s probably the best passer on the team.

  • Dundler

    Easily best passer on the team. Should be a lot of high low oppotunities. Of course if Jennings has just launched a three then it doesn’t matter much.

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  • spit hot fiyah

    i meant league pass as in getting to watch all the games and picking a team lol. pistons would be one of my top choices.

  • Mike Gilbert

    oh you’ll see

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    No I won’t. If/when he gets traded it will be after this season at the earliest. Andre Drummond is not ready for full time Center duties. And he has back concerns. You don’t take a flyer on him unless you have to. And right now? The Pistons don’t have to.

  • shockexchange

    LOL

  • davidR

    damn, pretty big jump. you think drummond and smith will relieve monroe from a lot of defensive pressure, and jennings will be able to get that team going?

    i really like monroe. just wanna see your rationale for getting him that high

  • Max

    Probably, but he doesn’t need the ball a whole lot to be as good as he is.
    And JSmoove will also get him at least 2 easy baskets a game like with Horford and some more offensive rebounds with all those long 2′s and 3′s.

  • Max

    Thumbs up.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    well i think Monroe is no longer being asked to do too much. And he will be relieved of pressure just by nature of having threats around him. Jennings is inefficient, but he shot 37% from 3 last year on a ton of attempts, you gotta guard a guy like that. And with Smith/Drummond on the court, you can’t really double team without giving up a dunk. I expect his efficiency to go up, maybe not his scoring.

  • danpowers

    thats how drummond will get his points tho: off putbacks ;)

  • KBM

    Gregulatorrrrrrrr!!!

  • Feez_22

    Nice.

    As a pistons fan i am glad Monroe made this list. There are a few parts of his game that need to improve but all in all, he is a quality player who will have every opportunity to succeed this upcoming season.

    I believe that for monroe to get to the next level, he needs to increase his strength. Too many times have i seen him complete a very good post move and then just front/side rim miss a contact hookshot or contact lay in. He also isn’t that athletic but we have seen players who are deficient in that department succeed at the PF/C spot (kevin love, zach randolph dirk nowitzki, marc gasol, etc). It’s mainly strength (core, base and upper… pretty much all facets) that will truly excel him to a 20-10 type of player. I agree that he also needs to be more fiery but i believe him improving strength will vastly improve him as a player.

    I’m pretty enthused about this upcoming season. We may not make the playoffs but at least there has been an upgrade in the talent department. GO PISTONS!

    *** BTW, i can understand why monroe was this low on this list. He didn’t have an eye popping standout 3rd year and it was very painful to watch the pistons this year. However, to be a 16-10 type of player with no legitimate point guard is a pretty big accomplishment.

  • Anthony Darnello Taylor Jr.

    Imagine a bench front court of Tony Mitchell and Drummond lol this team really can be Lob City East. I hope a video leaks of them all at practice.

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