After projecting stat lines for next season’s rookies, including Brandon Knight, Kevin Pelton has projected the stat lines for next year’s sophomores. You might be surprised what he wrote about Greg Monroe (the first numbers are Pelton’s projections, and Monroe’s totals from last season are in parentheses):
10.0 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 1.6 apg (9.4, 7.5, 1.3)
Monroe was passed over for the All-Rookie First Team, but few rookies did more to help their teams win. Only Griffin surpassed him in Basketball Prospectus’ wins above replacement statistic. What might limit Monroe’s upside is that he has what Bill James has termed in baseball as "old player skills." Other than rebounding, the areas in which Monroe excelled — taking care of the ball and finishing at a high rate — tend to be associated with grizzled veterans rather than promising rookies. Indeed, players similar to Monroe made relatively modest strides the next season, improving on average by 5.5 percent.
It might seem surprising that Monroe would regress on the glass next season, but this is actually relatively common. Players tend to peak on the offensive boards as rookies and decline from there, while defensive rebounding is generally steady from year to year. If Monroe is to beat last season’s rebound average, it will come thanks to more minutes after he came off the bench early in his rookie campaign.
A caveat: Pelton keeps each player in the same role as they played last season. I think it’s extremely likely Monroe will play more than the 27.8 minutes per game he averaged last season. Let’s say Monroe plays the median amount for a second-year center in the last 10 years who started at least 65 games, 31.9 minutes per game. With that 15 percent bump, Pelton’s projections would have Monroe averaging 11.5 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game.
That sounds a little better, right?
But I still don’t think 11.5-8.4-1.8 would satisfy the group of Pistons observers who have immortalized Monroe. On the bright side, I think Monroe will surpass at least two of those totals.
I emailed Kevin and confirmed his analysis doesn’t account for in-season improvement during a player’s rookie year nor college stats. That bodes well for Monroe.
Monroe became a much better scorer as last season progressed. His season-total stats are weighed down by those early games when he could barely attempt a layup without it getting blocked. Monroe isn’t that same player, and his scoring stats next season should reflect that.
Monroe also showed a tremendous passing ability for a big man at Georgetown. The Pistons didn’t run many plays that asked him to take advantage of that skill, but I doubt it’s disappeared. Presumably, Detroit’s next coach will put the ball in Monroe’s hands more, and not only will that lead to more points per minute (although, at the expense of a lower field-goal percentage), he will make more assists.
As for the rebounds, Pelton is probably right. It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest to see Monroe’s rebounding percentages dip. Sure, he could buck the trend and offensively rebound even better in his second year than in his first. But what evidence suggests he will?
I’d bump up Pelton’s statistical projections slightly, but keep your expectations in check.
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