Stan Van Gundy is a busy man. Not only is he the Detroit Pistons coach, but he is also their president. His offseason involves transitioning immediately from coach to executive. However, he was a guest on Zach Lowe's Lowe Post podcast recently, and Van Gundy covered a large range of topics. With everything in the rear view mirror, Van Gundy was able to open up more than ever about the Greg Monroe situation.
Below is a rough partial transcript of Van Gundy discussing Monroe, but every Pistons fan should listen to the whole episode.
Zach Lowe (14:12): "It's unfair to say that you lost Greg Monroe for nothing. Because you didn't. No one ever loses a player for nothing. You lose him for the cap space that turns into (Ersan) Ilyasova and Marcus Morris, and a shot at Reggie Bullock and some other things. But do you regret how the Greg Monroe thing unfolded? Do you regret that you didn't max him out a year ago when you had the chance to and he took the qualifying offer? Is there any regret there?"
Stan Van Gundy: "Um...you know I'll be honest -- I go back and forth on it. I really do. Because I think Greg is an outstanding player and I think he's a high-character guy as well. And I think those are the guys that you generally want to build around. But I don't think that, you know, he and Andre Drummond are the best fit. Not saying you couldn't make it work, but certainly not the best fit. First of all, I think the game is moving smaller and quicker as it is. The teams that have continued to play with two big guys - at least one if not both are guys who can step away and make shots. Indiana played with David West. Memphis plays with Zach Randolph. Those guys can all go 17, 18 feet and make shots."
Van Gundy has always sung the praises of Monroe, calling him "probably a top-10 big guy in this league." He likes him a lot. Mike Payne had some good ideas on how to make it work, but it just didn't happen.
What of the comparisons of West and Randolph to Monroe? Monroe did not shoot a three all last year, but only 4.3 percent of his shots were from 16 feet or further. He only made 35.1-percent of those. Randolph shot 25 threes last year, making eight. However, from 16 feet to the three point line, he was slightly better at 38.7 percent where he took 16.8 percent of his two-point shots (16.5-percent of his total shots). West shot 20 three pointers and only hit four of them. But from 16 feet to the three point line, he was much better shooting 50.2-percent on 47.0-percent of his two-point shots (45.6-percent of his total shots).
Ersan Ilyasova will likely be Monroe's replacement in the starting lineup (baring injury, Stanley Johnson fighting for the starting small forward position, etc.). Last year he shot 34.5-percent of his shots from three-point land and connected on 37.1-percent of them. As for shots that were 16 feet to the three point line, that accounts for another 20.1-percent of his total shots (30.6-percent of his two-point shots) and he connected on 47.6-percent of those. That means 54.6-percent of Ilyasova's shots are from 16 feet or further. He'll definitely stretch the floor more than Monroe could.
At this time it is uncertain who the primary backup power forward will be. It could be Marcus Morris or Anthony Tolliver. Morris shot 41-percent of his shots from three last year, hitting on 35.8-percent of them. Additionally, another 18.5-percent of his shots (31.3-percent of his two-point shots) came from 16 feet to the three point line at a 45.4-percent clip. Tolliver, between Phoenix and Detroit, shot 73.8-percent of his shots from distance on 36.6-percent shooting. Another 21 shots, 5.3-percent of his total shots and 20.4-percent of his two-point shots, were from 16 feet to the three point line. He connected on 33.3-percent of those.
In other words, Van Gundy has replace Monroe with three players who are very similar to West and Randolph. Assuming Andre's rebounding numbers increase due to Monroe's absence, and a combination of Ilyasova/Morris/Tolliver recover the rest of Monroe's missed rebounds, Van Gundy kinda didn't lose Monroe for nothing.
Lowe: "Yeah, what happened to Greg Monroe's jump shot? Because in his second season it looked like he was going to become a serviceable mid-range shooter and then it just never happened and he kind of stopped taking them. What happened?"
Van Gundy: "Well, ya know, it's a little of both. I think coaches, myself included, have to take some of the blame. But Greg never really developed a consistency either. And quite honestly, as much as he's comfortable, I think, taking that shot, Greg's a pretty smart guy and knows what his best game is. And if you ask Greg what he is, Greg will tell you he's a low-post scorer and a rebounder. And so, that's where he wants to get. So, basically, what we were trying to do is play with two centers. And if you're going to max Greg out, which he's certainly worth the max, there's not a question with that, then you're going to try to do it with two centers. And as much as it was a little bit tough on the offensive end, the real problem was at the defensive end. I mean it just -- really tough. You know, we put Greg in some tough situations, and he did a good job, as good a job as he could. And you're asking him to guard stretch fours like Kevin Love and things like that. You can't sign him to a max, you can't sign Drummond to a big contract eventually, and then just say they're going to share the center spot. That doesn't make any sense. And so, that's where I went back and forth with it on Greg, and I still do. I mean, part of me is wondering if we made the right move, quite honestly, letting him go. Because he's a talented guy. But the other part of me says we were just never going to have the fit that we needed to move forward. And I think from Greg's point of view, I don't think there was much doubt, certainly we didn't feel there was much doubt, that Greg was gonna leave. And I think for probably a couple of different reasons, but the main one was that, I think, Greg wants to be a center. I mean, that's where his best game is. And I think he wants to put himself in a situation where he can thrive. So a lot of my misgivings are sort of mitigated by the fact that I think even if we had gone out and offered Greg a max we would not have gotten him back."
Yes, Monroe's second season was his best season shooting from 16 feet to the three point line, but that was still on only 56 attempts. That equates to 7.2-percent of his total shots that year. Not quite sure I would say that is evidence that he was becoming a serviceable mid-range shooter. But it was much better than his rookie year.
Though these numbers are not for a whole season, and they include Jackson, there was evidence that defense with Monroe and Drummond were an issue:
Your encouraging stat of the day, featuring the Detroit Pistons: pic.twitter.com/lgSb671LoO— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) July 27, 2015
If Van Gundy wasn't sure if Monroe would come back even on a max contract, it means that this rumor was probably true.
Lowe: "Really? You think he would have turned down a max?"
Van Gundy: "Last summer I'm not sure. This summer I think he got the max elsewhere. I just didn't...yeah...it was...ya know...and he wanted the out and the whole thing...yeah...I think that...so he wasn't looking for the extra year anyway. So there was nothing we could have really done more than they could have done other than a little bit of money on the raise."
So that means this rumor was true as he only took a three-year deal (with a player option) from the Milwaukee Bucks. This means when his contract comes up again, he can get as much as 30-percent of the cap...or $30+ million dollars. Smart move Greg, smart move.
Lowe: "No, I'm talking about last summer."
Van Gundy: "You know what, I don't really know last summer. But Greg had at that point a lot of misgivings. And, quite honestly, again, we didn't know our team real well. I'd had six weeks here and we were pretty conservative in what we were willing to do money wise. I mean, we did offer him a contract that would have made him our highest paid guy. But we didn't go to the max."
There were rumors of a 5/$60 million offer initially. Then they offered to make him the highest paid player. Monroe denied these offers were ever made.
Lowe: "And once he takes the qualifying offer it's very difficult, if not impossible, to trade him for many different reasons including esoteric rules about who can be traded, and what happens to their bird rights. The time to trade him would have been earlier. And I guess sort of, again, you come in at an awkward time and the opportunity cost I guess is was there a deal out there that would have returned something better than what we did with this cap space. Ilyasova, Morris, all those guys we talked about. I guess we just don't know the answer to that."
Van Gundy: "Well, we do. Because we know what was out there. We did look at things along with David Faulk who was in favor of looking at deals last summer on a sign-and-trade. And so, we did look at those things last summer."
But why do a sign-and-trade when Monroe said that he was willing to re-sign with the Pistons. Monroe even said the Pistons had the upper hand.
Lowe: "Portland, and Atlanta and Orlando were all rumored. Yeah, yeah, yeah."
Van Gundy: "Well there wasn't anything we even remotely liked last summer. And so, I'm much happier with what we got with our space this year. And as far as last season, I'm happier having Greg than what we would have gotten in return. There wasn't anything that even made us pause last summer, quite honestly."
Lowe: "Wow! Well, ok, Greg's gone and now you've moved on..."
Is Zach reading Detroit Bad Boys? Nah, he probably just follows Marc Stein on Twitter.
So there you have it. From Van Gundy's mouth to your ears, everything you wanted to know about what happened with the Monroe situation. Van Gundy says contracts were offered, he doesn't think Monroe would have stayed, they did explore some sign-and-trades, and he was much happier with him last year than what he could have gotten in return.
Either way, Monroe is gone now. We now have a team in Van Gundy's image. This should hopefully be our last foray into Monroe on the Pistons. We wish you well Greg, except for when you face us.