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Is Greg Monroe really better than John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins?

In his latest Rookie Rankings, ESPN’s David Thorpe ranked Greg Monroe No. 2. My reaction went something like this:

  • Well, he’s been playing pretty well lately.
  • Wait a minute! Blake Griffin, John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins are still rookies.
  • Monroe is better than two of them?!
  • No way.
  • Well, he’s been playing pretty well lately.
  • No way.

Thorpe explained:

Monroe hit for a career-high 20 points against New Jersey, while grabbing 11 rebounds and blocking two shots. It’s a sign that, rather than hitting the rookie wall, he’s starting to hit his stride as a legit big man.

In his last 19 games, Monroe is averaging 11.7 points on 60.4-percent shooting and 9.3 rebounds per game. But what about his previous 32 games, when he averaged 4.8 points on 45.1-percent shooting and 5.0 rebounds per game?

There are plenty of ways to evaluate that, but I’m going to take a cue from John Hollinger’s team power rankings. A player’s full-season stats count as two-thirds, and the last 25 percent of his games count as one-third. Recent games are a player’s last 10 or last 25 percent, whichever is greater. Using that method, here’s how Monroe, Cousins and Wall stack up (Griffin obviously ranked No. 1):

Total 24.8 7.4 6.6 0.9 1.0 0.5 1.0 2.4 52.3 54.1
Recent 32.8 11.1 9.0 1.2 0.9 0.5 0.9 2.9 61.3 61.5
Power 25.7 7.8 6.9 0.9 1.0 0.5 1.0 2.4 53.6 55.2

Total 26.8 13.9 8.0 1.8 0.8 0.8 2.8 4.0 43.8 48.6
Recent 28.8 17.1 8.9 2.2 0.9 0.9 3.3 3.9 46.4 51.9
Power 27.0 14.2 8.1 1.8 0.8 0.8 2.8 4.0 44.1 49.0

Total 37.1 14.8 4.2 9.0 1.7 0.4 3.7 2.6 40.4 49.0
Recent 37.3 13.9 5.6 7.8 1.2 0.3 3.1 3.4 43.7 50.2
Power 37.1 14.7 4.4 8.9 1.6 0.4 3.6 2.7 40.8 49.1

I think Thorpe is overvaluing recent results, and even then, getting a little ahead of himself with Monroe.

Look, Monroe has amazed me. He’s rebounding and defending like a mad man, and the Pistons are slowly integrating his passing ability into their gameplan. Once they fully unleash his offensive repertoire, he’ll become even more dangerous. Plus, he has plenty of room to improve his body during the summer. I already have him penciled in as my 2012 Most Improved Player.

But Monroe has to deliver on that promise before he ranks ahead of Cousins and Wall – at least that’s what I think. What I know: Thorpe knows a lot more about basketball than I do.

Let’s hope he’s right.


  • Feb 12, 20118:42 pm
    by Jason


    This is definitely shocking, but I love to see it.. I think Monroe has been a monster, but i too don’t believe he’s been better then Wall or Cousins. Lets hope he keeps it up for a long long time!

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  • Feb 12, 201110:05 pm
    by Tom


    While I am inclined to agree with you that Monroe doesn’t deserve to be ranked number 2, I think your analysis undervalues recent games. For Hollinger’s purposes giving only a slight weight imbalance to recent stats makes sense; in general there is nothing special about more recent games that make them a truer reflection of ability than older games. But, for rookies I don’t think you can say that. Surely a rookie having a late season surge is more indicative of truly turning a corner than a veteran stringing together a few strong games.
    Ultimately, I think Thorpe is just forcing a twist into his ranking to justify the need for an update – in reality one through three are set in stone for the rest of the year – while Monroe may not be top 3, I think he has cemented himself as the fourth best rookie and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if five years from now it’s a no-brainer to say that Monroe and Wall stand alone at the top of last year’s draft.

  • Feb 12, 201111:51 pm
    by Charles X


    As with any other random ranking system, the idea of the rookie rankings is based on who has played the best since the last ranking. I’m too lazy to look up Cousins’ and Wall’s numbers but my guess is Monroe’s numbers were somehow superior. Or maybe they weren’t. That’s the beauty of creating your own rankings: one can use any arbitrary system one wants to decide who’s better than whom. But the basic premise of most of them is not a comprehensive season-long study but a “what have you done for me lately” kind of thing. Unless Monroe jumped from 20 to 2, he’s probably been making his way up the rankings with his strong play and was able to leap-frog the other two by having a very good series of games. Possibly this stretch was an anomaly or possibly a harbinger of great things to come. Either way, based on the made-up, personal, bullshit system Thorpe uses, the ranking is probably fair for what it’s supposed to be.

  • Feb 13, 20113:11 am
    by Ryan


    I’d say by the eye factor Monroe is slightly behind Cousins  and just ahead of Wall.  Wall may have started out bad but hasn’t done much in several weeks.  DMC is still a little raw from time to time but can score in bunches more than Monroe and also possesses a better jumper

  • Feb 13, 20113:46 am
    by Fennis


    Thorpe may also be accounting for the fact that Monroe takes fewer shots, has a significantly higher shooting percentage, fewer turnovers, more assists, and doesn’t go bat ish at the smallest inconvenience. Are we allowed to post links here? If so, see: http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=6118009
    Given Cousins’ personality disorder, I’m more than happy with Monroe. I wanted Cousins badly on draft night, and who knows where they’ll be in five years. But as of today, I’ll take my chances with the Moose. Has anyone thanked Golden State for taking Epeh Udoh? Let’s acknowledge that we caught a major break.

  • Feb 13, 20114:44 am
    by jgk281


    IMO, Wall’s terrible FG% automatically disqualifies him from the discussion. You cant be the best “true” rookie and only shoot 40%.

    Cousins is not that much better at 44% considering he’s a big man likely shooting high percentage shots around the basket. He’s avg close to the same amount of rebounds as Monroe, but defintely scoring more.

    The fact that his FG% is so low and pts are much higher says he is somewhat of a volume shooter, whereas Monroe is extremely efficient converting over 50% on less FGA’s/gm.

    I think where Monroe has the edge over Cousins is consistency. Cousins will get 20 and 10 on 8-16 shooting one night, then 4 and 3 on 1-6 shooting the next. Whereas Monroe, in the las few months, pretty much gets close to a double-double with an efficient FG% every night.

    Monroe’s early stats dont look great, but even then he was consistent. First he would get like 5 and 5 for his first few weeks, then 7 and 7, and then starting putting up doubles-doubles nightly, and has pretty much stayed close to that level or above every night since. So its been a steady climb of consistency for Monroe.

    I dont know if Monroe is the best of the bunch, but he certainly belongs in that group, and thats good enough for me.

    By the way, I dont consider Griffin a rookie, and he shouldnt be allowed to win ROY. When you’ve gone through a whole NBA season, whether playing or not, that gives you a huge advantage over the true rookies straight from college. Its not fair that they have to compete for ROY with this ‘super senior’, if you will. If not for Griffin, Monroe would have a legimate shot at ROY, which kind of sucks that he has no chance now.

    The Rookie Game is going to be great this year though. Maybe one of the best Rookie teams in a long time, with a lineup of Wall, Fields, Griffin, Cousins, and Monroe.

    • Feb 14, 201112:41 pm
      by Tim


      That’s absurd. Of course Griffin should be able to win ROY. It’s not that big an advantage to not play for a year. It makes a player rusty and is indicative of the potential for injury reccurence (see Oden). Finally, If he’s not able to win it this year, when would Griffin be able to win ROY.

  • Feb 13, 20118:34 am
    by detroitpcb


    Cousins is not going to put up with Evans and Sacramento is going to be forced to trade one of them. If Cousins hits the market we should do everything we can to get him in a Pistons uniform (except giving up Monroe or Daye).

    • Feb 14, 201112:44 pm
      by Tim


      I just don’t get why people are so high on Daye. He’s a decent player, but nothing incredible. I don’t see him ever making an all-star team. And his game is not multidimensional enough.

  • Feb 13, 201110:27 am
    by Jason


    Cousins barred from trip to Phoenix after altercation with Greene in the locker room, following OKC loss….
    Maybe these are the things Hollinger was taking into acount…If so, guess I can’t disagree with the rankings, Monroe seems to be about as professional as it comes, add that with his impressive recent numbers – maybe he is better then Cousins..

  • [...] Is Greg Monroe really better than John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins … [...]

  • Feb 13, 201111:52 am
    by Fennis


    I think I’d have to ship Daye for Cousins. Love Daye-O, but you can’t pass up a 12-year Cousins/Moose lineup given that quality bigs are so hard to find. (BTW, did anyone hear them play the “Daye-O” audio in Cleveland after Austin hit a bucket? Really weird. No wonder that team is utterly demoralized.)
    Re the rankings: you have to also consider that Cousins is the #2 option on the Kings whereas Monroe is like the #4 option at best, and probably more like #7 if you include BG and CV coming off of the bench. The question is, what numbers would Monroe register if he had been on that Kings team from Day 1?

  • Feb 13, 20111:00 pm
    by Adam



    Great comparison, but I’d like to see these three compared with their “Per 36″ numbers as well.

    Good point by Fennis.  If Monroe were a #1 or #2 option like Wall and Cousins, his per game numbers would be very similar, IMO.

  • Feb 13, 20112:18 pm
    by danny


    Ive been the Pistons biggest critic, but I agree, and I think those stats further prove his point. Cousins, while providing great rebounding, is shooting a bad % for a big man. Wall, great distributor and good defender, is shooting a terrible %. Those facts, plus the fact that Monroe isnt getting the minutes he should, tells me Monroe is more impressive than these 2. When Monroe has played 40 minutes this year, hes pretty close (if not in-fact), too averaging a double-double. Hed probably be closer to 2 steals a game as-well, all while shooting over 53% from the floor, which also would be better if had more time.

  • Feb 13, 20112:21 pm
    by danny


    And I dont care about Cousins’ upside, Id take Monroe over him any day of the week. He has a serious attitude problem. And Wall gloats way too much for just an average PG on a terrible team.

  • Feb 13, 20113:07 pm
    by Tom Y.


    I agree with recent posters that Monroe is at least around Cousins’ level, maybe a little better or worse, it’s hard to tell. But I prefer Monroe – by far the most efficient shooting of the three, plus much lower TO’s and lower PF’s. Plus maturity and a great attitude. Also yeah, being around the 4th option compared to Cousins’ 2nd obviously means he’ll score less.
    Anyway with his attitude he’s as sure a bet as you can have in the NBA to continue improving and helping the team, which is what we need and more than could be said for Cousins. Not that I’d mind having both…

  • Feb 13, 20114:37 pm
    by jgk281


    Cousins is an out of control maniac, but I’d trade Daye for him in a second. I’d include Stuckey as well, and pretty much anybody else they’d want aside from Monroe.

    We should offer up our #1 pick this year and Daye. For SAC, they get sort of a mulligan on last years draft, and a great young shooter to play off of Evans. For us, we can rebuild around the best young frontcourt in the league. With a foundation of Cousins and Monroe in the middle we would be set up front for the next 12 yrs.

    Cousins said he wanted to play here, and Joe was trying hard to trade for him even after the draft, supposedly. With all this dysfunction, I’d have to think Joe has been keeping an eye on the situation, and I hope he’s still calling trying to make a deal.

    The relationship between Cousins and Evans doesnt look good, so its only logical to think they may need to move one of them, and considering Evans has been there longer and Cousins has been nothing but problems, I’d think they would be listening to offers.

    • Feb 13, 20117:28 pm
      by Patrick Hayes


      I agree it would be worth trying to get Cousins, but rather than part with Daye, I’d first try and entice them by offering Prince and next year’s No. 1 for Cousins and one of their bad contracts, either Udrih or Garcia.

      Cousins certainly has baggage, but I think he’s more talented than any of this year’s potential lottery players other than Kyrie Irving, and a Monroe-Cousins high post/low post combo could be amazing.

  • Feb 13, 20116:20 pm
    by Ryan


    Only two playes on the Stones I wouldn’t part ways with for DMC are Jonas and Greg.

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