I’ve been e-mailing with Jeff Green’s Dad, who wrote this nice piece on Greg Monroe for Casual Hoya. (No, that’s not actually not the Oklahoma City Thunder forward’s dad, just an online handle). One statement stood out.
“I’m pretty convinced he’s going to be a better pro than he was in college.”
It’s a sentiment I agree with.
A lot of Monroe’s worth comes from how polished he is. He’s probably the third, maybe fourth, most NBA-ready player in this draft. Most who think Greg Monroe will be better in the NBA than he was at Georgetown think that because of his style of play.
- His passing will help Ben Gordon more than it did Jason Clark.
- His knowledge of the game will help him grasp complex schemes.
- His ability to create his own shot will come in handy in the matchup-based NBA.
But I think there could be even more reason to believe in Monroe at this level. He just turned 20. As complete as his game looks, he’s young enough to get a lot better.
I’ve sized up what I consider the key facets of Monroe’s game, exploring what’s in store for the Pistons.
The first thing I notice when watching Monroe play is his body control. He’s 6-foot-11 and 247 pounds, but he moves like a small forward.
Joe Dumars has shown a propensity for players with long wingspans. Monroe’s is slightly above expected for his height, but nothing to write home about.
Still, I think he brings many of the same advantages long-wingspan players do. By nature, tall players tend to be clumsy and awkward. It’s just not easy maneuvering 7 feet of body. But players with long wingspans can play tall without the awkwardness of being tall.
Even with his fairly average wingspan, Monroe plays like he has the perks of having a long wingspan.
Here’s a chart of offensive- and defensive-rebounding percentages for frontcourt players drafted in 2010. There are a lot of ways to analyze this (based on position and round), but the chart is customizable, so choose your preference. No matter how you set it, Monroe is an excellent defensive rebounder and poor offensive rebounder.
(First-round picks are filled, and second-rounders are unfilled.)
The difference between his production for those similar skills is pretty astounding.
But I think his offensive rebounding will improve markedly in the NBA.
Jeff Green’s Dad said Georgetown frequently played Monroe at the top of the key, where he was too far from the basket to rebound the Hoyas’ missed shots.
Part of the reason Monroe played on the perimeter was to be in position to see the court and take advantage of his passing ability, but JGD said Monroe passed and offensive rebounded effectively in the rare times he played in the high post. That’s where I expect to see him in Detroit.
Anyway, using Roy Hibbert as a model indicates Monroe will be a much better offensive rebounder in the NBA.
With Green in the NBA, Hibbert assumed that role at the top of the key as a senior. His offensive-rebounding percentage fell to 11.5.
With the Pacers, Hibbert has returned to being a quality offensive rebounder. Among everyone who played at least 41 games per season and at least 15 minutes per game since Hibbert entered the NBA, Hibbert ranks 43rd in offensive rebounding, according to Basketball-Reference – ahead of Kendrick Perkins, Brook Lopez, Tim Duncan, Anderson Varejao and Jonas Jerebko.
This offensive-rebounding quirk might make Monroe even better than expected next year, and judging by John Hollinger’s numbers, the expectations are already pretty high.
Monroe is an excellent passing center. I’ve heard a lot of people say Monroe could serve as Detroit’s point center.
But let’s not get carried away. Centers just don’t hold that role often, and when they do, they’re not as effective as guards.
Tom Boerwinkle had the highest assist percentage for a center in NBA history (33.8 in 1974-75 for the Chicago Bulls). That would only rank 11th this year among all players last year. Again, the center with the highest assist percentage of all-time didn’t even surpass Jose Calderon’s assist percentage last year.
Only six centers have ever had multiple seasons with an assist percentage higher than 20 percent (Boerwinkle, Alvan Adams, Wilt Chamberlain, Rich Kelley, Sam Lacey and Brad Miller). Fifty-two players had assist percentages higher than 20 percent each of the last two seasons.
For Monroe to be the Pistons’ point center, he’d have to be the best or one of the best passing centers of all-time. Monroe, obviously, in all likelihood, won’t be that good.
He turns the ball over a lot for a big man. He also has the ball a lot more than a typical center, which mostly explains all the turnovers.
But if you’re calling for Monroe to serve as Detroit’s point, you have to compare his turnovers to a typical point guard. And given he doesn’t have the ball in his hands nearly as much as a point guard, Monroe turns the ball over way too much to serve as a full-time point.
Still, his passing is a big plus and should make Detroit offense a lot more efficient.
The Pistons have players capable of initiating the offense from three positions: Rodney Stuckey at guard, Tayshaun Prince at forward and Monroe at center. It would be intriguing to see an offensive scheme that relied on each of to play point equally or near equally.
I think there’s a good chance that would confuse the Pistons just as much as the opposing defense, but if I was John Kuester, I’d spend at least a couple practices experimenting.
In my mind, this is the biggest question about Monroe’s game. Relayed by Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press, Monroe described what he brings:
"I’m just another big man that’s going to come in and rebound and score and be able to make plays for his teammates and a hard worker whose main focus is to help the team win," Monroe said.
I wish he mentioned defense. One of the main ways I’ll be evaluating Kuester this year is how he gets Monroe to buy in defensively.
I’m not sure Monroe has the leaping ability to ever be counted on to protect the rim.* But that doesn’t mean he can’t become a solid defender.
*It’s sour grapes now because the Kings picked him a few spots before Detroit drafted Terrico White, but Hassan Whiteside, with his shot-blocking ability and explosiveness, had the potential to be a great defensive complement to Monroe.
Monroe’s frame should allow him to gain strength. Combined with the body control I mentioned above, I think Monroe could become an excellent on-ball defender in the low post. Think Rasheed Wallace in that brief period around 2007 or 2008 when he still played excellent on-ball defense but lost the mobility to rotate and help.
Perhaps, the biggest key to Monroe’s defense will be his attitude. Will he ever have the tenacity necessary to really get after it and make opponents uncomfortable?
Style comparison: Brad Miller (a good rebounder with great passing ability for a center who can score, but never defends as well as his measurables would suggest)
Ability comparison: Mehmet Okur (a quality starting center who legitimately sneaked into an All-Star game)
Bottom line: For the first time since Darko Milicic, the Pistons have a big man it appears they can rely on long-term. Playing the odds, this will probably go better.
If the Pistons re-sign Ben Wallace and/or use the mid-level exception on a veteran center, I predict Monroe will begin the season coming off the bench. But I expect him to be starting by the end of the year.
He plays with a certain calmness, and that works for him. I can’t see him getting rattled in high-pressure situations.
But that can also make him look passive, which doesn’t inspire greatness from his teammates. He has oodles of talent, but I’m not sure he has the presence to lead a team to a title.
Of course, I’m getting way ahead of myself. By the time Detroit is ready to contend, Monroe could have had a Pau Gasol-like intensity transformation.
For now, I’m absolutely thrilled the Pistons have Monroe’s calmness, intelligence and ability. It sure beats the disarray, confusion and ineptness of last year.
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