LeBron James made his decision. And so did Carmelo Anthony. And Chris Bosh. And Chandler Parsons. Now, one of the only big names left is Detroit Pistons big man Greg Monroe.
The dominoes have fallen and the remarkably quiet market for Monroe might finally heat up. The only problem for Monroe, however, is that the number of teams who can offer him a considerable amount of money outright has dwindled.
The only teams with the requisite cap space to trump the Pistons' reported $12 million per year framework are the Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, Charlotte Hornets and Orlando Magic.
The Sixers could throw a max contract at Monroe easily, but they have young big men Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid to build around, and I am unsure the Sixers are at the point in their plan where they really want to sign a big-money player anyway.
The Suns, by my back-of-the-envelope math, have about
$14 $16.5 million to offer Monroe, but they have likely earmarked that money for Eric Bledsoe and might not want to tie up two near-max contracts for Bledsoe and Monroe in the same offseason. The Suns were big-game hunting when trying to lure James, and it seems likely they want to maintain financial flexibility in order to appeal to star players in the future.
The Charlotte Hornets and the Magic can offer just around $12 million but I'm unsure how appealing Monroe is as a fit next to the defensively challenged, post-scoring Al Jefferson. That leaves the Magic who already have Nikola Vucevic.
The Lakers are out after trading for Jeremy Lin and throwing big money at Jordan Hill. The Mavericks are out after signing Chandler Parsons. The Cavs are out because ... duh. Rockets out after signing Ariza, Hawks out after signing Thabo. The Heat will be out once they re-sign Wade.
The market is thin and Monroe is unlikely to field the max offer he was looking for. That means Pistons fans should rejoice, right?
I'm not so sure.
Vincent Goodwill has a headline titled: Greg Monroe's return to Pistons is no sure thing.
David Mayo has a column headlined: Stall raises concern that Greg Monroe may block Detroit Pistons' matching rights
And on July 2 Vince Ellis at the Free Press wrote: Short-term deal may be best option for Greg Monroe, Detroit Pistons
All the articles operated under the same premise -- Monroe is unsure if he wants to make Detroit his long-term home and he holds the threat of taking his qualifying offer of $5 million and becoming an unrestricted free agent next year.
To be clear, to take those steps would be unprecedented. No top-level free agent leaves that much money on the table. The threat is often made and never followed through. In Monroe's case, he would be forfeiting a guarantee at $60 million-plus in order to sign for $5 million and try again next year to make a few million more per season. With the threat of injury, that is the kind of gamble players just don't make.
But it keeps popping up so maybe the threat is legitimate this time around. Although he's never said so publicly, Monroe might want to move to a team where he could be the featured scorer on the block playing center as opposed to sharing the spotlight in Detroit with center Andre Drummond and being pushed to power forward.
And the mess that is Josh Smith is real. Stan Van Gundy inherited it and he has to deal with it. Again, not impossible but a significant challenge.
In a perfect world, Van Gundy finds a home for Smith and a lot of this bad blood and mistrust goes away and the Pistons and Monroe hammer out a deal somewhere between the $12 million and $14 million annual salary range.
But it's not a perfect world and with the likelihood of a team setting Monroe's market decreasing, it might take a protracted negotiation between Monroe and the Pistons to get this thing worked out.