Greg Monroe, for the first time in a long time, is struggling. His defensive woes have been more pronounced than usual, his rebounding is down, his turnovers are up, his shooting percentage has dipped and he just seems all out of whack.
Or, using real numbers:
Through five games, he's shooting just 35 percent from the field - a lot of easy attempts he usually converts, averaging just 10 points and 8.6 rebounds in 29 minutes a game. It's a far cry from Monroe's November: 16.7 points, 9.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 33 minutes, on 48 percent shooting.
And after suffering through the Kuester era, full of locker-room discord, a mutiny and all-around buffoonery my ears are finely tuned to player complaints and comments like this make me take pause (emphasis mine):
"I'm not fighting anything, I'm doing what I can when I can," Monroe said after Friday night's 108-104 loss to the Bulls. "If I had an off game, it might've been one (recently). That was on me. I'm not in positions I'm normally in to be successful.
So the fundamental question is, who is responsible for the "positions" Monroe is finding himself in -- Moose himself or coach Lawrence Frank?
And frankly (no pun intended), I don't really have an answer. It's obvious the results are down but it also seems that Monroe is being used just how I would have written it up.
Monroe is serving as what Frank calls a hub on offense, meaning that he is positioned in the high post and facilitating many of the Pistons' offensive sets.
This has led to Monroe getting more touches on offense, utilizes his superior passing ability and allows him to face up and use his great first step. But the early returns have been less than stellar, especially recently.
Is this just growing pains? Should Frank change up Monroe's responsibilities?
Here is my take, which you should take with an absolute grain of salt because it is based on no actual evidence and only what I've witnessed.
My inclination is to chalk it up to natural growing pains and I don't want Monroe's role to be altered in any way. Also, I don't buy the argument that he has not been put in the "position" to succeed, and I think his recent skid is more mental than anything.
The turnovers are troublesome but I think will go down as he settles into his role as a facilitator and gets used to people trying to pick his pocket as he waits for plays to develop.
He has tried to expand his repertoire to include a 18-footer, a useful goal, but he's converting at just a 26-percent clip on long jumpers. On the one hand I don't think it is absolutely vital for him to keep this shot in his arsenal for him to be effective, but on the other hand it would aid his shift over to power forward paired with Andre Drummond. So he can keep the jumper as long as he doesn't shoot it any more than his current rate.
Also, if I could lay the blame on one overriding factor it would be that Monroe is in his own head and has seemed to let a minor dip in his offensive production affect his already subpar defense. His rebounding has gone way down and he is letting himself be pushed around further from the basket on offense. This makes me think that there is a lack of effort on Monroe's part.
And when he doesn't give his usual Moose-like effort that has enabled defenders to absolutely shred him when he's on defense, which, in turn, means that Frank has no choice but to pull him -- hence the lack of minutes the past few games.
Some parting questions I'm hoping people smarter than myself can answer in the comments:
Is time the only cure to bringing back the Bull-Moose dominance? Does Frank need to do anything specifically to get him back on track? Could the emergence of Drummond be hindering Monroe's game at all? Can we just blame Brandon Knight and Will Bynum because that would make everything much easier?