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When Greg Monroe was selected No. 7 overall in the 2010 NBA draft, we were told he had high basketball IQ, great instincts, plus decision making and unselfishness. Five years later, these all hold true, and it's been a joy to watch the pre-draft intangibles breed the tangible.
In five seasons, Moose has cultivated his skills and has developed into one of the premier big men in the NBA, one who is bound to get rewarded with a very lucrative contract this upcoming summer. He's achieved success with hard work, by maximizing his athleticism (yes, lazy journalists) and smartly putting a diligent focus on his strength.
If you look at Monroe's traditional stats, you might conclude he's having a fine season in line with his previous years in the league. A deeper look at the stats will tell you he's in fact having one of the best seasons of his career.
Offensively, Monroe's put an added focus on his inside game, almost completely abandoning anything outside the paint. Averaging 3.7 feet away from the basket on each shot, his lowest since his rookie season, Monroe's attempting 74 percent of his shots within five feet compared to 67 percent last year.
While he's not having a career year in TS% (55 percent) despite shooting closer to the rim and career highs at the free throw line, usage and predictability are up. Defenses know the ball is going to Monroe in the post, a lot, and yet they still can't stop him. Only six players in the NBA execute a higher number of their post ups. He's playing to his strength and it is his strength that makes him one of the more unstoppable players in the NBA.
As for Monroe's defense, it's a fun area of his game to pick on for writers adhering to old narratives. For example, Rob Mahoney at SI.com cites Monroe's low blocks as to why Monroe's weak on defense. Yeah, he's not a "rim protector" and his block totals are at a career low (as are his steals). The traditional numbers don't tell the whole story, though. He's far from perfect, but Monroe's actually been one of the Pistons' best defenders this season.
What makes Monroe such an underrated defender are his smarts.
"I think Greg's actually pretty good defensively," Van Gundy said. "I've thought that all year. He's a very good low post defender, in my opinion. And he's a smart defender. He doesn't make a lot of mistakes [...] His mental approach and ability makes him a solid defender."
Very good low post defender? Yep. Monroe allows 0.78 points per possession in the low post, which is better than Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, DeAndre Jordan, Mason Plumlee, Joakim Noah and more. When he's not defending in the post, Monroe's using his brain to position himself so opponents are forced to take shots outside their sweet spots.
Overall, Monroe's Wins Produced per 48's at a career high and is tops on the team (and Top 40 in the NBA). The Georgetown product is a leader on the floor in knowledge and that has led to him being a leader in production with a style of play that is deliberate and has a great chance of standing the test of time a la Tim Duncan.
Monroe took what many believed and still believe to be a very big risk when he decided to accept the Pistons' qualifying offer this past offseason rather than sign a multi-year offer sheet with another team or an extension with the Pistons. Like everything he does on the floor, Monroe's calculated decision should prove to be a very fruitful one for him this summer.
What other Pistons player in the organization's history has displayed such intelligence and been so successful? You might be hard-pressed to recall any quite like the Professor Moose.