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Greg Monroe struggled with pick-and-roll defense in opener

After a lengthy lock-out it is  good to be finally back to watching Detroit Pistons basketball and breaking down plays from their games. It is hard for any fan to be deprived from watching a sport they love. I had to look out for other hobbies to pass my time with, such as watching Bundesliga soccer or building miniature planes. Against the Pacers, we finally got to watch whether Greg Monroe and the rest of the squad passed their free-time during the extended offseason improving their basketball or Halo skills.

I am looking forward to seeing what Lawrence Frank can get out of this team. After all Monroe, Brandon Knight, Jonas Jerebko and Austin Daye are supposed to be young talent helping the team advance into the playoffs. Ben Gordon, Rodney Stuckey and Jason Maxiell supposedly suffered under the coaches the past few years and are better players than they have shown. The alleged rotten apple Richard Hamilton is gone, plus the team finally has an owner in place to start a season, so the excuses of the past few seasons are gone. After the first game, though, the results haven’t changed much.

After looking at ways to get Gordon going yesterday, today I’ll focus on Monroe’s pick and roll defense from game one, which wasn’t good against the Pacers.

Monroe was possibly the lone bright spot last year, so naturally, this year, fans expect him to be a leader for the team. I don’t think he is a polished player and might not be for a couple of seasons. I think if he gives the team energy and hustle he will be fine and a very good center. Against Indiana, I was missing the energy. The Pacers killed Detroit on the boards, Monroe looked a bit slow and was often just overpowered by strength (David West), size (Roy Hibbert) and hustle (Tyler Hansbrough). What I found the most lackadaisical, however, was his P&R defense. Here is an instance from the first quarter with about 8:10 to go.


You can see Hibbert setting a screen, not a very good one at that, for his point guard Darren Collison. You can see Gordon should not have a problem fighting over the screen, which is usually your preferred defensive strategy. Nonetheless, Monroe is supposed to show for a split second so he can buy his teammate Gordon a little more time to recover. You do that by taking one strong step, acting as if you want to steal the ball, and then you move back to your own player. Collison would be forced to move back a little bit or at least hesitate and delay his decision. .BadP&R2

Here you can see how far Monroe backs off. Instead of making Collison hesitate, Collison just got to the spot he wanted to get to with ease. Monroe did not show at all. There is of course the possibility of not showing at all and letting the ballhandler try to create off the dribble, but Collison is more of a playmaker and not a big scorer. He wants to find open teammates. Letting him create offense for himself is fine with me, but you need to close down the passing lanes then. As you can see after the screen, Hibbert just runs towards the basket and has a clean lane. Even if Jerebko decided to come over and help he leaves his guy wide open. Monroe needs to put more pressure on the ballhandler and then recover quickly so he closes down the pass. The P&R wasn’t executed very well, yet it killed the Pistons throughout the game. I don’t mean single Monroe out since the entire team did poorly defensively, but I expect that Monroe can improve this part of his game.


As the play unfolds, Collison hits Hibbert with a bounce-pass, Stuckey rotates over and is forced to foul — a 6-foot-4 guy can’t to much more than that against a 7-foot-2 center on the move.

I’ll keep an eye on how Monore performs in the pick and roll the next few weeks. I was pretty thrilled when Monroe hit his first jumper, it really looked as if he had added it to his repertoire. His foul problems might have taken his confidence away, but as I have explained before, he doesn’t need to score 20+ points per game, he needs to show constant defense and then he can improve on offense. I wouldn’t consider the Collison-Hibbert tandem to be a premier P&R team in the league, so if the Pistons struggle to guard those two, how is the defense going to handle Chris Paul and Blake Griffin?


  • Dec 28, 201112:33 pm
    by Patrick Hayes


    I’m not all that worried about Monroe’s P and R defense, although there were a couple instances where he didn’t look great in that respect vs. Indiana. He was OK on it last year. His biggest issue vs. Indiana to me was that he and Jerebko were simply overpowered by virtually any big the Pacers put in the lineup. And the Pistons as a whole didn’t play with much toughness on D.

    • Dec 28, 20116:39 pm
      by Jakob Eich


      It was just something that stood out to me and surprised me. Pick and roll defense is something very fundamental and I though Monroe would come out this year and have his fundamentals down so we could see some other refinements to his game. I see him as a player who will have a playing similar to Tim Duncan’s (not very athletic but smart basketball) and we can’t have him making mistakes like this.
      Indiana is a big and very athletic team. We wont be outrebounded that badly every game but Monroe and Jerebko arent very strong players with great size. Monroe can be a very good rebounder, but he wasn’t on the floor long enough to get a lot of them against Indiana. Jerebko will improve as the season goes on. What stunned me was that Ben Wallace was the best rebounder in a Pistons uniform once again, at least to me. I’ll never get tired of him, he ‘s just a first-class grinder.

  • Dec 28, 20112:45 pm
    by frankie d


    agree with patrick.  
    monroe is a smart guy and while he doesn’t have the quickest feet in the world, defending the pick and roll is as much about smarts as anything.  monroe is a smart guy with decent athleticism, so he should ultimately be ok. he was pretty good at it last year.
    but the team’s lack of size just kills them.  the team needs a big guy who can take up space and keep guys out of the lane.  they need a ricky mahorn-type player who will simply be there defensively and keep guys from pushing monroe and JJ and daye under the boards while they pound the pistons’ defensive boards.
    it would also be nice if they got a big guy – like fesenko – who had decent feet, and the size and length to disrupt the pick and roll.  i’d rather have another interior defender chasing the P&R, while monroe concentrated on rebounding,  because he seems to have a real knack for it.

  • Dec 28, 20115:39 pm
    by Max


    Hibbert might not be elite but I’m scratching my head while trying to figure out if there is a bigger starting center right now than him.  He’s 7-2 and looks about as wide as two Tyson Chandlers.

  • Dec 28, 20115:44 pm
    by Max


    I was struck by just how big the Pacers were.  I just commented on Hibbert but the dynamic thing about the Pacers is Paul George,  I think their opening game against the Pistons probably witnessed the largest shooting guard to ever start in the NBA’s history and while Daye is 6-11 and people clamor for him to start at the 2, he could put on weight for 5 to 10 years and he’d still be smaller than that first game’s 6-10 Paul George.  I think they are going to be very surprising to people this year and I don’t think there is a larger starting unit in the league so they were a pretty bad matchup for these small Pistons.

  • [...] center Greg Monroe has some work to do on learning how to defend the [...]

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