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Internal Improvement: Greg Monroe

Tom Gores said it better happen. Jonas Jerebko guaranteed it. Rodney Stuckey agreed.

The Detroit Pistons can certainly make the playoffs this season, but given how similar the team is to last year’s, it won’t be easy. It appears the Pistons are mostly relying on internal improvement in order to exceed expectations and reach the postseason.

For our 2012 preview series, Patrick and I will each examine one area where we see realistic room for improvement from each Piston. Today, we look at Greg Monroe.


Greg Monroe excels in the two areas where big men are most judged – scoring and rebounding – so his poor defense has been mostly unnoticed. Actually, Monroe has been mostly unnoticed despite clearly being the best player in his draft class to date.

But as Monroe begins to get the positive attention he deserves nationally, it’s time for his defense to catch up.

Monroe should be able defend in at least one of two ways. 1. He could improve his quickness, leaping ability and recognition in order to become a valuable help defender who protects the rim. 2. He could improve his core strength in order to become strong enough to prevent opponents from successfully posting up. Right now, Monroe provides help in neither of these areas, but I’d prefer to see him take the second route. For one, Monroe’s offensive game isn’t exactly predicated on speed, so bulking up shouldn’t hinder him on that end. Plus, Andre Drummond is shaping up to be the Pistons’ help-side shot blocker of the future, so if Monroe can keep opposing bigs from establishing good position, that would be a huge help. — D.F.


Monroe certainly has the tools to be better defensively. He’s strong, he’s mobile and he’s smart. His lack of explosive athleticism will never let him be an elite big man defender, but those other things will eventually make him solid.

In the interim, though, he’ll become more useful if he’s able to consistently take advantage of his quick hands. Although he doesn’t block many shots, he’s pretty good at stripping the ball from players as they go up for shots. This is a really useful skill — as Dan Feldman always likes to point out, steals are one of the more under-valued stats in basketball because they often lead to transition opportunities, which then lead to more high percentage shots, especially for a team like Detroit that’s not always great in the halfcourt.

Anyway, if Monroe can get more steals on defense and combine that with his new-found confidence starting the break, he could potentially help the Pistons pick up a couple more easy scoring opportunities per game. For a team that figures to be in close games a lot this season, those couple extra possessions could be pivotal. — P.H.



  • Oct 19, 20123:37 pm
    by Al


    The refs dont really call for Monroe enough, 3rd year all star potential.. i mean he gets hit way to often down low with no calls. Maybe they don’t like to hear and-one being yelled lol

  • Oct 19, 20124:08 pm
    by Mark


    I agree Monroe gets no love from the ref on offense. His defense is subpar though. Another reason to move him to PF is his steals ability is one of his few strengths on D. And he seems to get most of them around the high post area, where he would be most of time on defense at PF.

    He’s decent at post defense, but against bigger Centers, once they get deep position down low on him there’s not much he can do. Without a shot-blocker behind him its an easy 2 pts. Pistons won’t go far with Monroe as their defensve anchor.

  • Oct 19, 20124:39 pm
    by Keith


    I don’t think Monroe forces the refs whistles enough. Part of it is limited athleticism. He doesn’t jump up through contact like other bigs, and his reputation for getting blocked factors in as well.
    But defense is definitely the biggest improvement he needs to make. If he can’t be even an average defender (and he’s not), we MUST move him to PF and hide him with a better defender in the post (Drummond most likely). If he can get more strips, great. If he can get stronger, even better. But more he simply needs to be in position and react quicker to the rotation. He’ll never be the fastest or most agile big man, but he’s damn smart. He can still be where he needs to be as long as he learns to read the play quicker.

  • Oct 19, 201211:14 pm
    by Corey


    Yes, he needs to be better on D. But I am also tremendously excited about his new midrange J. If he can hit that well, then he can space the floor and pass from farther out and play really well with Drummond.  That will help the D more than Monroe improving a little on D.

  • Oct 20, 201210:41 am
    by DG


    Greg Monroe excels in the two areas where big men are most judged – scoring and rebounding – so his poor defense has been mostly unnoticed.”  Centers are also judged by blocked shots.  Monroe dos not excel there. 

    He does excel, especially relative to other big men, at steals.  He was second amongst qualified centers in steals (1.26) last year.  He also would have had the second best average for qualified power forwards.  My point isn’t that he can’t do better, but that there may be a lower ceiling for the number of steals he can get than there is blocked shots.  He already excels in this area statistically.  There isn’t very much room for improvement there.

    I’m also not going to argue that he’s going to improve that much in blocked shots.  Although I do think that like you say, improving his core strength and getting better shape physically will benefit his athleticism some, there’s only so much he can do.

    I think the Pistons might be best off hiding his biggest weakness with other players (i.e. – Drummond).  I’d like to see how Drummond complements Monroe on the court.  On paper it looks like Drummond has strengths that Monroe doesn’t and vice versa.  And this could lead to a whole being greater than the sum of its parts.
    Another thing that Monroe excels at, especially relative to other big men, is passing.  I think that Drummond could also help in this area.  The Pistons, since drafting Monroe, have not had another big player with the athleticism to finish in the post that Drummond has (if they have ever had a player of this talent level in the post).  Monroe passing and Dummond finishing could be an incredible sight.  Albeit that will take some time to develop.

    But this could also help Monroe offensively.  Imagine how it could open him up if he was a threat to pass the ball to another big for a thunderous jam.  Opposing players would have to sag off of him and play the pass or the shot.  Not just the shot.  I’d be willing to bet he’d get less shots blocked with this combination.  He could pass when opponents were a treat to block his shot, or shoot when he was truly open.  I think it would improve both his assists and his FG%.  Both of these are already areas of strength, which suggest that he is naturally inclined with those abilities anyway.

    I don’t think I’m saying anything new.  I’m mostly making all of the arguments for drafting Drummond.  I just can’t wait until the Pistons use them together and they develop chemistry.  I think they have the potential to be one of the most, if not the most, dominant front lines in the league.

    I guess that’s my biggest argument for starting Drummond.  Get those two started developing that chemistry which will be exciting to watch, and could make the Pistons a dominant force in the league again. 

    It just could make them a big man dominated team offensively.  That’s a new thing for the Pistons too.  Thomas, Dumars and VJ dominated through the first pair of titles.  Billups and Hamilton were the primary offensive forces in the third title and run of dominance in the east.

    it’s time for a big change in Detroit.  BK and Stuckey are not going to get us to the promised land.  Monroe and Drummond might.

    • Oct 20, 201212:35 pm
      by Tom Y.


      I think if Drummond continues to develop as he seems to be, and he and Monroe develop good on-court chemistry, they’ll be the league’s best frontcourt in 3 years (that is in the season starting after next year). Drummond has to improve his defensive rebounding though.

      Knight may still pan out, I’d give him a couple of years, but even though Stuckey was really good for a stretch last year, I’m starting to think by the time this team is ready to contend, injuries and age will take too much of a toll on him. My personal fantasy is to sign Harden over him – in many ways a similar player, but younger, healthier, and very importantly – a much better 3-pt. shooter. Then one of JJ/Middleton/Singler fills the starting lineup, and we have some solid guys off the bench (i.e. the two remaining guys of those, plus English, plus whoever we draft in the next couple of years).

  • Oct 20, 201211:42 am
    by DG


    The good thing is that the Pistons have Stuckey and Knight.  I don’t think that Stuckey wants to be the man.  He struggled as such, especially as the new guy coming in and expected to lead the Pistons to the future.  And as a former point guard he has better passing skills for a SG than most SG’s do.  Knight wants to get better, which in part means as a team.  I think he is well suited to develop into a pass first point that can shoot the occasional three as the shot clock winds down.  If not, move him to the backup role and he can function as a VJ.

    The remaining pieces the Pistons need are a 3-point shooting and defensive minded SF – aka Bruce Bowen (not hard to get) - and a pass first point guard.  Knight may develop into the latter.

    Can you imagine if Monroe had the option of passing out to a legitimate 3-point threat or inside to a post up threat like Drummond.  How much would that free up Monroe to do his thing?  It certainly sounds to me like an all-star in the making.

    And the Pistons, as a team, would be that much better.

    Making Monroe better may mean making the Pistons better – other players developing into better players.

  • Oct 20, 201212:07 pm
    by Corey


    I agree with the idea that playing him next to Drummond will help Monroe’s D.  moose will always be guarding the lesser scoring threat of the opponent’s bigs. How many teams have two high quality offensive bigs? Lakers… Heat when they play Lebron and Bosh as the bigs. Who else? Memphis, perhaps? It’s not many teams

  • Oct 20, 20128:29 pm
    by Eric


    Monroe needs to be traded, everyone here may think I am crazy, but for the future of this team I see a path to a championship.  Trade Monroe and Prince to Oklahoma City for James Harden and Cole Aldrich.  My thinking is this team does not have enough good shooting outside and Oklahoma can’t let James Harden walk.  This will save the Pistons another 2 million, 11 milcome off for Maggette, 5 mil for Maxiell, 3.2 mil for Bynum, we can amnesty Villanueva for 8 mil, and we should be able to give max contracts to James Harden and Josh Smith.   I don’t see the Monroe-Drummond combo working because both are not good shooters, Stuckey & Prince aren’t great shooters.  We currently do not have an offensive identity.  A lineup of Knight, Stuckey, Harden, Smith, Drummond would be much more versatile defensive and offensive lineup, and potentially to see Stuckey moved and Harden play the 2.  It wouldn’t be the first time Joe D trade our best player Stackhouse for Hamilton and it turned out to be a great move in the long run.

    • Oct 21, 201212:31 am
      by OKJ


      I hope it is not serious.

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