Top 50: Greg Monroe, no. 50

Often imitated. Never duplicated. The SLAMonline Top 50 is back! Players returned to work this morning, and there’s no better time to lead off what has undoubtedly become the definitive ranking of the NBA’s best players. We’ve been doing this for a minute, so we went visual with the metadata—each post includes a line graph and Top-50 table, depicting each player’s rank this season and over the years. And, of course, we need your feedback. For the first time, we’ve included polls so you can care to agree or disagree. There’s exactly four weeks ’til tip-off, so there’s no time to waste. Come through seven days a week as we shine the spotlight directly on the NBA’s brightest stars. Let’s go!—Ed.

by Leo Sepkowitz | @LeoSepkowitz

Greg Monroe is the best player you’ve never thought twice about. The baddest big man you’ve never watched play. The right player on the wrong team. The near 7-footer who, last season, averaged 15.5 points on 52 percent shooting to go along with 10 boards. The guy who led all centers in steals. The guy who ranked second in assists and fifth in free throws made among that group. The guy who did it all in a certain-to-increase 31.5 minutes per game.

So who is Greg Monroe? Only one of the best young talents we have in a League full of amazing young talent. The 22-year-old was picked seventh in 2010, but is looking like a top-three talent in that Draft, as his production so far has crushed that of Evan Turner, Derrick Favors, Wes Johnson and Ekpe Udoh, all of whom were taken ahead of him. John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins are Monroe’s fellow standouts from the ’10 Draft.

Monroe won’t dominate too many games—Detroit would have been better than 21-45 last season if he did. But he brings it every single night, an impressive feat for such a young player. He scored double-digit points in 52 of the 66 games last season and pulled down double-digit boards 34 times. He’s rapidly developed into a prototypically reliable big man, something that people often shrug off. Yes, scoring 18 hard-earned points in the paint isn’t as flashy as doing it by draining six threes. But come Playoff time, when buckets get tougher and tougher to come by, you’d be glad to have a scorer like Monroe down low.

He’s grown into the Pistons’ focal point, and he and Brandon Knight are well on their way to becoming one of the League’s best guard-big duos. Plus, Monroe’s job should be a little easier this season.

The Pistons selected Andre Drummond ninth overall in the Draft, and, considering they’re unlikely to be in Playoff contention this year, he ought to see a lot of minutes in his rookie season. The Pistons hope Drummond will be a brick wall defensively and somebody who can help on the glass immediately. He’ll allow Monroe to shift to power forward, where he’ll likely have an easier time scoring in the paint and grabbing his own rebounds.

On top of that, Drummond probably won’t get many touches, nor will he get in Monroe’s way in the paint. If everything goes according to plan, Drummond should complement Monroe beautifully, allowing the third-year man’s game to continue to mature across the board.

The sky is the limit for Monroe in his third season, and it would be tough to imagine him being much worse than a 20/10 guy. He has a chance to really take his game to the next level, as he is already one of the best passing big men in the game. If Drummond can contribute right away and he and Monroe click, both Monroe and the Pistons could surprise some people this season.

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SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2012
Rank Player Team Position Pos. Rank
50 Greg Monroe Pistons C 8

• Rankings are based solely on projected ’12-13 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Jake Appleman, Maurice Bobb, Rodger Bohn, Brendan Bowers, Franklyn Calle, David Cassilo, Bryan Crawford, Adam Figman, Eldon Khorshidi, Eddie Maisonet III, Ryne Nelson, Ben Osborne, Allen Powell II, Sam Rubenstein, Jonathan Santiago, Abe Schwadron, Leo Sepkowitz, Dave Spahn, Ben Taylor, Tzvi Twersky, Peter Walsh, Tracy Weissenberg, Yaron Weitzman, DeMarco Williams and Dave Zirin.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.