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Drag Race: Greg Monroe vs. DeMarcus Cousins

This is the debut of a new feature called “Drag Race.” Patrick and I pit two players, one Piston and one non, against each other with the question in mind: Which would you rather have on your team? Age, salary, everything count. Scroll past the post, and there’s a poll for you to vote.

Greg Monroe

DeMarcus Cousins still has more upside than Greg Monroe, but it’s shocking how far the gap has closed between the two in just one season. Cousins was the consensus top big in the draft last season, while a handful of scouts were lukewarm on Monroe and didn’t feel like he lived up to his full potential at Georgetown. Here’s an example from DraftExpress in 2010:

“Monroe came into this season very out of shape, and thus took time to shed some of the extra weight he was carrying and get himself into optimal condition. For a player who already struggles with heavy feet and a general lack of athleticism, he cannot afford to give NBA scouts the impression that he’s not working that hard in the summer.”

There were dozens of reports similar to that on Monroe before the 2010 NBA Draft, which is a big reason he slipped to Detroit and lesser, but allegedly harder-working college players like Ekpe Udoh rose.

All of that is a long way of saying that in less than a year, Monroe completely wiped out just about every one of the many negative stereotypes there were about him by working hard, having a good attitude and flashing parts of his game that he didn’t show in college, specifically the fact that he became a much better offensive rebounder as a pro than he was as a college player and became much more efficient finishing at the rim as a pro.

If Cousins develops a work ethic to match his talent, he’ll be one of the game’s best big men. Monroe has already developed it, and that’s enough to sell me on him.

-Patrick Hayes

DeMarcus Cousins

Greg Monroe had a better season than DeMarcus Cousins, and they’re about the same age and make about the same money. Typically, I’d take the better player in that situation.

But Cousins is the rare exception.

Cousins scored more, passed better and rebounded better than Monroe. Unfortunately, Cousins also made more mistakes than Monroe, and that separated them – last year.

A rookie big man who turned the ball over too much, fouled too much and didn’t shoot well enough from the field? Sorry, that’s not a deal breaker. He’ll have plenty of time to polish his game.

Cousins and Monroe actually shot a similar percentage at the rim, despite Cousins being burdened with creating his own shot much more often. Cousins also shot better than Monroe did at every other distance. The difference was Cousins took a higher percentage of his shots from those low-efficiency areas away from the rim.

Part of the blame falls on Cousins for taking bad shots. Some should also go to his teammates, many of whom lack scoring skills. Somebody had to shoot, so why not Cousins? His usage percentage (27.2) dwarfed Monroe’s (15.4), and if they had swapped teams, I’d guess those percentages would look very different – as would their field-goal percentages.

Cousins’ turnovers and fouls were less excusable, other than to point to his age and hope he grows out of the deficiencies.

Cousins will also likely become a better rebounder than Monroe. Monroe was a better offensive rebounder last year (13.0 percent to 10.4 percent), but Cousins was better defensively (24.4 to 20.4) and overall (17.2 to 16.5). Players’ offensive rebounding tends to peak their rookie year, which means Monroe’s advantage on the glass very well could shrink or disappear.

Plus, if Monroe plays more in the high post to take advantage of his passing ability, that would mean fewer offensive rebounds. He can’t have his assists and eat his cake, too. Or something like that.

Cousins has the potential to dominate the league. At some point, Monroe’s lack of athleticism will limit his progress. For that reason, I’d take a chance on the guy who played slightly worse last year.

-Dan Feldman

Vote in our poll


  • Nov 2, 20111:16 pm
    by tarsier


    Such a tough call. But ultimately, I would have to opt for the guy with a shot at being a superstar (Cousins) over the guy I would pick to be the better pro given 50/50 odds (Monroe).

  • Nov 2, 20111:19 pm
    by tarsier


    I’m also curious where people would put Favors relative to these two.

  • Nov 2, 20111:39 pm
    by Jodi Jezz


    They’re both good, but I would rather have Monroe because he can play 2 positions…I think Monroe stats will look more appealing when Dumars trades for a Center and plays Monroe more at the PF…

  • Nov 2, 20112:05 pm
    by johnnyyen


    Stats aside, I’ll take Monroe because he has the higher probability of being a cornerstone center for a franchise long-term. History shows mercurial head cases bounce around in free agency.

  • Nov 2, 20113:08 pm
    by tarsier


    So apparently bleacher report considers Brandon Knight the top contender for ROY. Craziness.

  • Nov 2, 20113:09 pm
    by Saul


    I’ll take Monroe if he is the Pistons’ expected power forward of the future. If the Pistons are looking at having him at center I’d go Cousins. The center spot in the league is getting redundant with PF I know but I like Monroe at PF best.

  • Nov 2, 20113:12 pm
    by Saul


    Hey Brandon Knight has the smarts and work ethic to be ROY. He might start out slow learning the NBA game but like Monroe last year he’ll pick it up later on. I think it mainly hinges on how much PT does he get, is he starting from Day 1 or on the bench, and most importantly, and related to the other things, what type of coaching he has. LFrank is a good coach and that should steady the team enough so BKnight has a chance to be the best rookie.

    • Nov 3, 201111:37 am
      by tarsier


      Starting out slow is very close to the definition of not a ROY candidate.

  • Nov 3, 20119:03 am
    by Steve K


    I know we’re off-topic chatting about Knight…

    What I like about the kid is that he can shoot. He may not be a “natural” PG, but how many “natural” PGs come out every year? Every decade? Magic doesn’t come around every year. Nor does a Rod Strickland.

    But with a good shot, the kid can go far. He’d have to learn the ins-and-outs of the NBA PG position anyway, and, if he can score, he’ll stay afloat. 

    Of course, we won’t know what he’s capable of this season, if Dumars retains Stuckey and fails to thin out his 2-guard spot.

    • Nov 3, 201111:39 am
      by tarsier


      I have nothing against Knight, but he is a project. Projects don’t win ROY. And based on ESPN’s 5-on-5 today, I clearly am not the only one who thinks so.

  • [...] Drag Race: Greg Monroe vs. DeMarcus Cousins PistonPowered Quote: [...]

  • Nov 10, 20112:34 pm
    by Brap


    Monroe.  Easy pick because Cousins is a potential problem child long term.  He’s been a major problem child short term!

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