Greg Monroe restricted free agency: ‘Moose’ Hunting, Part 2

With free agency looming this summer, what does the future hold for the Pistons' Greg Monroe?

Last week we began this series by highlighting the importance of the decision the Pistons must make in July about their free agent big man, Greg Monroe. Before we look at some more of the franchises that could pursue him, let’s review what he has done in Detroit.

Picked seventh in the 2010 NBA Draft, Monroe started 48 games as a rookie. Since then he has been remarkably durable, missing only one start. While his scoring and rebounding averages are down slightly from last season (16.0 points and 9.6 rebounds per game), that seems to be primarily attributable to a reduction in his usage. Yet in a recent article on Pistons.com devoted to Monroe, Keith Langlois noted:

Monroe’s numbers in 15 games under Loyer are 16.3 points and 10.8 rebounds, over his season averages of 14.7 and 9.2. He’s playing about three more minutes a game, nearly 36, than he was over the first 50 games.

Now after 19 games with John Loyer as his head coach, "Moose" is averaging 16.4 points and 10.4 boards. By comparison, his Per36 career averages are 15.9 points and 10.3 rebounds.

While he played center his first three years in Motown, this season Monroe has started at power forward. It’s apparent that he is still adjusting to this role. Some observers believe that center is his more natural position, and he has continued to play center in 2013-14 when Andre Drummond is on the bench. This ability to play both spots might appeal to other teams as much as it has to the Pistons.

The market for Monroe this summer will be influenced by the fact that there will be few other quality big men available as free agents. Among players from his draft class, Sacramento locked up DeMarcus Cousins (four years/$61 million) and Utah extended Derrick Favors (four years/$48 million) last fall. Memphis’ Ed Davis will be a Restricted Free Agent, too, but his productivity (career averages of 21.1 minutes, 7.0 points, 6.0 rebounds) will probably not command a top deal.

At age 25, and with three-point range, Cleveland’s Spencer Hawes will also attract attention. Washington’s Marcin Gortat will be an Unrestricted Free Agent, and is due for a raise. But at age 30 he does not possess the upside of the 23-year-old Monroe. So among the big men available, "Moose" should garner the most interest.


Today, we will look at five more prospective suitors for Monroe’s services:

Dallas Mavericks

Would they want Monroe? Their only big men signed through next season are Samuel Dalembert and Brandan Wright, so it would be no surprise at all if they sought after Monroe. His ability to score in the post would add a feature to their offense that they are sorely missing.

Can they afford him? Assuming they will renounce free agents Vince Carter and Shawn Marion, Dallas could be blessed with an abundance of cap space this summer. They have only $31.3 million tied up by present contracts. The major decision they face regards retaining 35-year-old Dirk Nowitzki, whose cap hold is $23.9 million. They would need to re-sign him for much less if they wanted to offer Monroe a max contract.

What can they offer? Looking at the Mavericks’ roster, it’s difficult to find any players who would appeal to Detroit for a sign-and-trade agreement. I suppose they could offer Wright (one year/ $5 million) and either Jose Calderon (three years/$22.2 million) or Monta Ellis (two years/$17.1 million), but that hardly looks like a fair return. Certainly offering a number one pick would be a necessity.

Should Detroit be interested? Wright is a worthwhile player, but it seems improbable that the Pistons would bring back Calderon or try to reunite Ellis with Brandon Jennings. The available pieces are simply not the best fit.

Will Monroe land in Dallas? Unless Nowitzki takes a sizeable pay cut, and then Detroit lets Monroe go without receiving any compensation in return, Dallas looks like an unlikely destination for him.

Los Angeles Lakers

Would they want Monroe? With center Robert Sacre the only big man currently under contract for next season, the only surprise would be if Los Angeles does not have its eyes on "Moose."

Can they afford him? Even with Kobe Bryant’s extension, the Lakers have only $36.3 million committed for 2014-15. They do have an abundance of cap holds they will need to resolve, with the chief one being for Pau Gasol (age 33). If they renounce Gasol and choose to target Monroe, expect them to offer him a max contract.

What can they offer? Not much, since Los Angeles has very few players under contract. Steve Nash (age 40) has one year/$9.7 million remaining on his deal, but he should have minimal appeal to the Pistons. But they could package Nick Young (one year/$1.2 million) with him, and then throw in an unprotected number one pick.

Should Detroit be interested? Probably not. But if they aren’t prepared for the likelihood of the Lakers pursuing Monroe with a very lucrative offer, then the Pistons’ front office has their heads buried in Lake Michigan.

Will Monroe land in Los Angeles? Assuming that Detroit will either match the Lakers’ best offer or negotiate a sign-and-trade with another team, the answer is no.

Milwaukee Bucks

Would they want Monroe? Maybe. In the post they have John Henson, Zaza Pachulia and Larry Sanders, none of whom brings comparable offensive skills to the game. As defenders and shot blockers, both Henson and Sanders would complement Monroe well.

Can they afford him? Milwaukee’s current salary cap for next season is $46 million, with Epke Udoh also needing to be renounced or signed (presumably for much less than his cap hold of $11.2 million!). So it’s possible the Bucks could present Monroe with a near-max deal.

What can they offer? For a sign-and-trade, Milwaukee could offer stretch forward Ersan Ilyasova (three years/$24.2 million) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (three years/$6.8 million), an interesting mix of immediate help and tantalizing potential.

Should Detroit be interested? If the Bucks were willing to make Antetokounmpo available, his potential to mature into a star alongside Drummond certainly deserves strong consideration. Ilyasova’s shooting range (he’s a career .367 percent three-point shooter) could also complement Drummond well.

Will Monroe land in Milwaukee? Like Cleveland, this potential destination could come back to haunt the Pistons several times each year for the next decade. That didn’t stop the Jennings trade from happening, though, so this possibility should not be ruled out.

Orlando Magic

Would they want Monroe? They currently have Nikola Vucevic, Jason Maxiell, Andrew Nicholson and Kyle O’Quinn as their big men. Vucevic rebounds well and shoots accurately out to 20 feet, so he and Monroe could form a complementary frontcourt.

Can they afford him? The Magic have a very clean cap situation with just $34.7 million on the books for next season. If they are interested in him, they can easily offer "Moose" the max.

What can they offer? For starters, Orlando could suggest Aron Afflalo (two years/$15 million), plus either Tobias Harris (one year/$2.4 million) or Maurice Harkless (two years/$4.8 million) in a sign-and-trade. If the Pistons demand a first round pick, it would only come with protections.

Should Detroit be interested? Certainly the opportunity to immediately and affordably upgrade two positions could be a powerful incentive to the management in Motown.

Will Monroe land in Orlando? If making the playoffs sooner rather than later is the Pistons’ goal, then Monroe could be heading to Disney World.

Philadelphia 76ers

Would they want Monroe? Having gutted their roster of every productive big man except Thaddeus Young, Philadelphia is primed to make a run at "Moose." He and rookie Nerlens Noel, a shot-blocking athlete who is still recovering from an ACL tear he suffered in college, could form a powerful pair in the post.

Can they afford him? With only $28.4 million committed for 2014-15, the 76ers have money to spend. They can put all the eggs they want into Monroe’s basket.

What can they offer? The pantry is pretty bare, but for a sign-and-trade we can presume that Philadelphia would suggest Young (two years/$19.4 million) and either Tony Wroten (two years/$3.4 million) or Arnett Moultrie (two years/$3.2 million). Philadelphia might even offer a protected number one pick.

Should Detroit be interested? Young (age 25) and Wroten (age 20) would offer immediate help, bolstering the Pistons’ bench if not challenging for starting jobs. Given that the 76ers could be stuck in the lottery for a few more years, the offer of a pick might tip the scales in their favor.

Will Monroe land in Philadelphia? Among the teams that can surely give Monroe a max deal, they potentially can offer the most – young talent, financial flexibility, and a draft pick.

Conclusions

Of these five teams, it’s possible that Milwaukee, Orlando and Philadelphia could each present Detroit with an attractive sign-and-trade proposal. Given that none of these teams promise to be playoff material in the near future, the parameters of any proffered picks might be the deciding ingredient if the Pistons decide not to keep Monroe. The fact that several of these franchises can present him with a max contract should disabuse Pistons’ fans of the notion that he can be retained for less.

Feel free to vote in the attached poll and then share your comments.

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