It's entirely reasonable to think that Greg Monroe is tired of Detroit. It may well be that he refused to re-sign with the Pistons because of Josh Smith, averaging 28 wins per year, or because he wants to be the primary young player on a team's frontcourt.
That said, let's try taking a few deep breaths and look at the situation objectively.
Despite the purgatory-esque length that the situation was drawn out, remarkably few trustworthy details were leaked in the process. We heard some from David Falk himself, some that sound like they might have come from within the Pistons organization, some denials, and lots of "roomers."
One of Falk's claims was that two teams were willing to offer Monroe a maximum contract but didn't have the assets to facilitate a sign-and-trade or the cap space to extend an offer sheet. This sounds like an agent playing up his client's value, but what if it was true?
Restraint seemed to be the name of the game for Stan Van Gundy and Jeff Bower's offseason strategy. Van Gundy showered Monroe with praise, but also said that they had a methodical approach for dealing with Monroe's contract with a set dollar amount they were not willing to exceed. And despite a legendarily poor performance by Josh Smith last season, Van Gundy spurned the Sacramento Kings' attempt to buy low on him.
So approaching Monroe's free agency situation with a sense of desperation would have been quite out of character taken in the context of the rest of the summer. While the risk of Monroe refusing a Detroit offer and playing the season on the qualifying offer puts the team at risk of losing him for nothing next season, it's not much different than the risk taken by declining the Kings' trade offer. Falk suggested that he brought teams to the table willing to offer a maximum contract, but that the teams were unable to come together for a sign-and-trade deal. Unless if the Pistons were getting specific players Van Gundy wanted, he was content standing pat.
Perhaps as fans we've come to view players too much as assets that need to be turned around for the optimal value, and that losing one of these assets for no return is a catastrophic mistake. For Pistons fans in particular, this is understandable after watching the values of Ben Gordon or Rip Hamilton fall into the cellars or Chauncey Billups being given up for an expiring contract when he still had four solid years left.
But the goal isn't to collect the most assets. The goal is to assemble the best team. Instead of viewing these guys as assets, let's look at them as players.
Monroe playing for the Pistons this season makes the 2014-15 Pistons better. Adding a couple of fringe prospects in return for Monroe would have made the team worse. The same claim could arguably be made in the case of the Kings' proposal for Smith.
And long term, the Pistons still might not be any worse off. While it's easy to assume that this is a move for Monroe to escape from the franchise that has floundered his entire career, the statements seemingly leaked from Monroe's camp simply sounds like he wants the freedom to decide where he plays.
Unrestricted free agency allows him to control the situation, as oppose to restricted free agency which allows the team the primary control. And if multiple teams really were talking about max contracts, it's not that hard to relate with him that the ability to decide where he plays during the prime of his career was worth leaving money on the table.
So if Van Gundy revives the Pistons this season to a playoff team and helps Monroe take an overdue step forward, why wouldn't he consider sticking around? The cities that have creeped up in rumors have been places like Oklahoma City, New Orleans, and Portland -- so it doesn't exactly sound like he's looking for bright lights.
And let's say that next step forward does not come this season and Monroe decides he'd be best off elsewhere. Well, in that case it was probably in both side's benefit that they didn't agree to a big money, long-term deal this offseason. Van Gundy has freedom to remake the roster in his image while Monroe can find greener pastures elsewhere. After all, keep in mind that this roster is mostly filled with players that Van Gundy didn't choose for himself.
Still, losing a talented 24-year-old with years of experience as a starter is a blow -- even if you have an up-and-coming star like Drummond in the fold. Just look at the Indiana Pacers. After losing Paul George to injury, their roster is a mess. Finding a way to have kept 24-year-old Lance Stephenson surely would seem nice to them about now.
And Monroe hitting unrestricted free agency does put the Pistons more at risk of losing him due to the expanded field of suitors and inability to match an offer sheet. But since Monroe still has his Bird Rights with the Pistons, they are still positioned to make the best offer -- which means that Falk could insist on a sign-and-trade from whatever team Monroe chooses to sign with. In that case, the Pistons could return a package similar to what they would have received this summer while still having benefited from another season of Monroe's services.
Or we could find that once Van Gundy does finally get a chance to get his hands on the team, to see how players perform on the court and respond to his coaching, he suddenly warps into Trader Jack mode. It makes sense that he wouldn't want to move a player simply based on reputation or how he operated in a dysfunctional environment. With training camp and the preseason opening up in the next month, maybe this is the point that we suddenly see a flurry of activity. Who knows.
The uncertainty makes the situation nerve-wracking. But there are an incredible number of different permutations that could happen this year. Some of those could work in the Pistons' favor, some otherwise. For now, let's just keep the cart behind the horse.