I’ve linked to the fun speculative series that Tom Ziller, Mike Prada and Andrew Sharp are doing at SB Nation, predicting who they think will be the top 99 players in the league in 2015, a couple of times now. I think it’s safe to say Pistons fans will enjoy where Greg Monroe showed up on their countdown:
28. Greg Monroe
Put it this way: if he’d played anywhere other than Detroit last year, there’d be approximately 300 percent more buzz around Greg Monroe and where he’ll go from here. He averaged 13.7 ppg and 10 rebounds after the All-Star break last season, and he’s still 21 years old. As he gets older and stronger, he’s poised to become one of the best passing big men in the league, a better scorer, and one of the most versatile power forwards in the league. — Sharp
PRADA: Monroe going 15 spots higher than Serge Ibaka is pretty questionable.
ZILLER: Monroe would be No. 2 on my list of centers under the age of 22 that I’d want most. (I mean, he’s no DeAndre Jordan, but …) I have a feeling Warriors fans are going to be apoplectic by 2015 about passing on Monroe in 2010.
But, along with the analysis, check out some of the names Monroe finished ahead of: Brook Lopez, Amar’e Stoudemire, Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Zach Randolph. Granted, some of those guys will be in their 30s by 2015, but the fact that Monroe would even be considered a potential top 30 player in the league by that point speaks volumes about how much his stock rose over the course of his rookie season. Remember, it’s not as if Monroe was a can’t-miss prospect when the Pistons drafted him. Pre-draft, no one considered his ceiling close to those of DeMarcus Cousins, Evan Turner or Derrick Favors, and Monroe was better than all three players as a rookie. Hell, Golden State didn’t even think he was a better prospect than Ekpe Udoh. Then, after a Summer League and preseason where he lacked aggression and looked to be a ways away from contributing, followed by a first six weeks of the season when he shot below 40 percent and got his shot blocked an outrageously high percentage of the time, it wasn’t even clear at the time if he could become a reliable rotation contributor as a rookie based on those early returns. David Thorpe of ESPN.com called him ‘the most disappointing rookie‘ (Insider required) in late November. Then, very quickly, Monroe figured things out, earned regular minutes and, eventually, a starting job that he’d never relinquish. By the end of the season, Thorpe had put him on his All-Rookie First Team ahead of Cousins.
It’s probably not fair to expect Monroe to continue to improve as rapidly as he did over the course of his rookie season, but I agree with Ziller’s analysis above: there are only one or two young big men I’d rather have for the next 10 years than Monroe.