Greg Monroe restricted free agency: ‘Moose’ Hunting, Part 3

Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE

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

For the past two weeks we have looked at nine other NBA franchises that could have Detroit’s Greg Monroe on their radar this offseason. Today we will look closely at five more that might be interested in him.

In discussions about him, the biggest issue for many observers is whether Monroe deserves the largest contract in Pistons’ history. Yet even those who question his defense, athleticism, upside and ideal position still must admit that a big man who can consistently give his team 16 points and 10 rebounds per game is a valuable commodity. "Moose" is in the top 20 among big men as both a scorer and rebounder this season, and only 11 exceed him in both categories. And just two of them – DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis – are younger. With 33 double-doubles, Monroe is tied for 14th with David Lee, Marcin Gortat and Tristan Thompson.

How much compensation is appropriate for a player with this level of production? If we exclude Davis (still on his rookie deal) and Duncan (on the downside of his career), the only one of the top 11 who is making less than the max is Al Jefferson. And Charlotte is paying him $13.5 million per year.

Among players who have most recently signed extensions for less than the max, we can compare Monroe to Derrick Favors and Nikola Pekovic. Favors was also drafted in 2010, and he signed a 4-year/$48 million extension last fall. Finally in the Jazz starting line-up this year, he has averaged 12.9 points and 8.7 rebounds per game in 30.1 minutes. Pekovic signed a 5-year/$60 million contract last fall. In 31.5 minutes he has posted 17.7 ppg and 9.0 rpg.

Is Monroe worth more than Favors or Pekovic? Certainly that is a judgment call. But it is hard to imagine him signing for any less than they did. Surely the Pistons would be happy to retain "Moose" with a deal in the neighborhood of $12 million per year for four years. The critical question is whether the free agent market will permit them to keep him for that price. It will only take one team offering him the max to make this hope unrealistic. Then the question is whether or not Detroit will "pony up" to match that offer.

Since a max contract for Monroe would probably average out to pay him about $15 million per season (these deals have built-in annual raises), the obvious issue is how important saving $3 million per year is to the franchise. That money alone will not buy much. So it would make little sense for the Pistons to let Monroe go just in order to save a few million dollars per year.

But if they don’t believe he is worth what the market will bear, or conclude that he is not the ideal fit for their future, then expect Detroit to actively entertain sign-and-trade offers. While a trade may not be of any particular financial benefit to Monroe, it will allow the Pistons to at least garner a return for a very valuable asset they have developed. What the franchise must first decide is whether any proposed trade will put them in a stronger position to make the playoffs and contend for titles once again.

Now here are five more franchises that could target Monroe this summer:

New Orleans Pelicans

Would they want Monroe? If the prospect of a Davis/Monroe frontline appeals to them, then the answer is yes. It’s hard to envision a more complementary pair, and they could quickly give the Pelicans the league’s most dominant frontline.

Can they afford him? New Orleans has $56 million tied up for 2014-15, so their only option is to make Detroit an attractive trade proposal.

What can they offer? While they would no doubt love to unload Eric Gordon (two years/$30.4 million) or Tyreke Evans (three years/$32.2 million), neither player should interest the Pistons. Ryan Anderson (two years/$17 million) and Austin Rivers (two years/$5.5 million) would be a more equitable return.

Should Detroit be interested? Anderson (age 25) will be returning from back surgery, but as a career .386 percent three-point shooter he would give them a true floor-stretching big man to complement Andre Drummond. They could hope that Rivers still has unrealized potential.

Will Monroe land in New Orleans? Since he originally hails from "The Big Easy," this city might appeal the most to him. But with Anderson coming off back surgery, the Pistons should probably seek greater security in any exchange for their most durable player.

Phoenix Suns

Would they want Monroe? They have a bevy of bigs in Channing Frye, Alex Len, Markieff Morris and Miles Plumlee, but Monroe would bring them unique skills as a scorer and rebounder. He would be more likely to play center for the Suns.

Can they afford him? With just $31.5 million committed for 2014-15, they nevertheless must resolve cap holds for Eric Bledsoe, Frye, Emeka Okafor and P.J. Tucker. But if they want to pursue Monroe, Phoenix could offer him a max deal by first renouncing everyone but Bledsoe, whose cap hold is only $6.6 million.

What can they offer? The Suns have lots of cheap, young talent on their roster. Frye has a player option for $6.8 million for next year. Currently their highest salary is for Goran Dragic (two years/$15 million). Detroit could hope to take its pick among Gerald Green, Archie Goodwin, and the Morris brothers (Marcus or Markieff). Frye and Green (one year/$3.5 million) might be an intriguing offer, especially if a first round pick is included.

Should Detroit be interested? Probably not. Frye is 30 and Green is 28, so they offer no upside potential. Neither Morris brother represents a fair return, either. Unless Phoenix was willing to include Dragic, it’s difficult to see how they would be a good trade partner for the Pistons.

Will Monroe land in Phoenix? Most likely, he will not.

San Antonio Spurs

Would they want Monroe? With Tim Duncan (age 37) and Boris Diaw (age 31) logging most of their frontcourt minutes, the Spurs need an infusion of young talent. Matt Bonner is 33 and Tiago Splitter is the "youngster" at age 29.

Can they afford him? San Antonio has significant cap holds for Bonner and Diaw to resolve and Duncan has a player option. Currently they have $52.4 million committed, so they are in no position to present a max contract to Monroe.

What can they offer? The Spurs and Pistons would have to negotiate a sign-and-trade, and the asking price could very well be Splitter (three years/$26 million) and Kawhi Leonard (one year/$2.9 million). While that might be expecting too much, anything less would probably be too little. Including Kyle Singler could possibly balance the equation.

Should Detroit be interested? Leonard is one of the top young (age 22) small forwards in the NBA, and if he is made available this deal would be worth a very careful look. Otherwise, no.

Will Monroe land in San Antonio? Most observers think Leonard is as close to unavailable as anyone on their roster can be. If that is so, then it’s hard to envision them acquiring "Moose."

Utah Jazz

Would they want Monroe? It’s very questionable, since they have youthful bigs in Favors (age 22) and Enes Kanter (age 21). But if they are not sold on that pairing, they might envision "Moose" as a better fit with either guy.

Can they afford him? With only $31.4 million tied up for 2014-15, the Jazz could afford to make a max offer to Monroe. They also face a contract decision with Gordon Hayward, whose cap hold is $8.6 million.

What can they offer? If Utah covets Monroe, but does not wish to retain Hayward, a swap of the two 2010 picks is conceivable. Hayward is a dynamic wing who scores, rebounds and facilitates, though his scoring efficiency has dropped this season. Yet such an outcome seems very unlikely. And if they would prefer to have Monroe instead of either Favors or Kanter, it’s hard to imagine the Pistons viewing one of them as a better match with Andre Drummond.

Should Detroit be interested? Unless Hayward is offered in a mutual sign-and-trade, there’s nothing for these teams to discuss regarding Monroe.

Will Monroe land in Utah? Probably not.

Washington Wizards

Would they want Monroe? It’s long been rumored that the Wizards covet him, and he would certainly be a fine addition to their frontline. Marcin Gortat’s deal is expiring, and at age 30 he’s not the best big for the long haul for a team built around John Wall and Bradley Beal. Their only other sizeable post presence is Nene Hilario, who is 31.

Can they afford him? They have $46.9 million on the books for next season, with sizeable cap holds pending for Trevor Ariza, Trevor Booker, Kevin Seraphin and Gortat. If they renounced them all, they might be able to present Monroe with a competitive contract.

What can they offer? Not much. Beal (two years/$10.2 million), Otto Porter (three years/$15 million) and Martell Webster (three years/$16.8 million) are about all that’s available, and it’s doubtful Beal is on the table. They would probably swap Nene (two years/$26 million), but what difference should that make?

Should Detroit be interested? No.

Will Monroe land in Washington? No.

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

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