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Greg Monroe can mirror Roy Hibbert’s defensive progress

J.M. originally published this Wednesday night, only for it to be promptly shoved down the page thanks to seven posts about Jose Calderon. So, I’m reposting it now, because it’s well worth a read.

-Dan

The NBA is a funny league in some respects. The dominant center is slowly becoming extinct, thus paving the way for good centers to be considered as great.

A quick look at the Eastern Conference standings will reveal that Miami has the best record in the east. They do not have anything resembling a prototypical center other than perhaps Joel Anthony; but they manage to get by because of LeBron James.

However, if we look at the rest of the leaders in the conference, you will find something relatively interesting:

  • New York Knicks (second best record in the east) start Tyson Chandler at center.
  • Chicago Bulls (tied for second best record in the east) start Joakim Noah at center.
  • Brooklyn Nets (fourth best record in the east) start Brook Lopez at center.
  • Indiana Pacers (fifth best record in the east) start Roy Hibbert at center.
  • Atlanta Hawks (sixth best record in the east) start Al Horford at center.

Other than the Miami Heat, the top teams in the Eastern Conference all have a center that already has or will participate in the All-Star game — this is conjecture but one has to assume that with Rondo out for the season that Lopez will earn an All-Star selection as a replacement — at some point.

Of all the top teams in the east, an argument could be made that the roster that is mostly similar to the Pistons’ is that of the Pacers.

They have decent or good talent at just about every position, but offer some quality talent in the frontcourt with David West and Roy Hibbert.

It’s worth noting that Hibbert has struggled offensively this season, but his value to this team is still fairly important on the defensive side of the ball.

Since joining the NBA five years ago, the former Hoya has improved defensively to better play alongside his teammates and cover up for them. As the big man has gotten better on this front, so have the Pacers. Have a look at the graphic below showing the team’s defensive efficiency as a whole as well as the breakdown when he has been on or off the court in the last four seasons per NBA.com’s advanced stats tool:

Season

Indiana Def. Eff.

Def. Eff. w/ Hibbert

Def. Eff. w/o Hibbert

2012-13

96.5

96.4

96.8

2011-12

100.4

100.2

100.8

2010-11

103.4

104.0

102.6

2010-11

104.2

102.3

106.3

Obviously, not all of the credit can go the Georgetown product.

Indiana’s turnover in personnel plays a huge part into that and so do the tweaks in the team’s defensive concepts.

But Hibbert certainly deserves some praise because the team has in fact gotten better on that side of the ball as he’s grown and become a better defender.

The Pacers’ center has a good understanding of angles and how to position himself to prevent ball handlers from driving past him when he is out on the floor and how to contest shots while avoiding fouls. Consequently, it’s been hard to score on Indiana in the interior.

This season especially, the Pacers have done an excellent job of packing the paint and preventing teams from getting scoring opportunities at the rim. Indeed, no team allows fewer shot attempts directly at the basket, per Hoopdata. Hence, the Indiana coaching staff has been far less reliant on Hibbert this season to keep players away from the rim this season because as whole they’ve done a better job of simply shutting off the driving lanes.

However, whenever opponents have gotten an opportunity to shoot right at the basket, it’s been incredibly difficult.

According to NBA.com’s advanced stats tool, when Roy Hibbert is on the court, the Pacers yield a mere 51.3 percent conversion rate inside the restricted area, whereas when the 7’2’’ center is on the bench, that figure gains a slight boost and goes up to 55.6 percent. We are looking at a difference between the top and fourth best mark in the league with or without the big man on the floor.

Needless to say, the Indiana Pacers are tough to score on as a whole, but particularly when the five-play veteran is on the court.

But this speaks to something particularly important to Detroit.

Greg Monroe is obviously not the same player that Roy Hibbert is; and really it’s not close. The Pistons’ center has proven throughout his career to be a better scorer, better rebounder and passer. Basically, he’s been the better player.

Mind you, the Pacers’ big man is a slightly better defender.

He rarely if ever gets stuck in no man’s land, where he is just defending air. Every movement has a purpose.

Given his lack of speed, Hibbert always has an eye on his man and another one on the ball. The further away his man drifts from the action, the better his help position gets. The former Hoya is also quite adept at figuring out how long he’s been in the paint away from his man, and typically jumps out the paint towards the ball and then gets back into his help position to avoid and defensive three seconds violation.

His size as well as well the angles he takes typically leave the driving ball handler with one option: go to the basket; which is what the big man wants. There he jumps straight up to contest the shot and force the miss.

Monroe has improved defensively but can still get better.

He doesn’t always sprint back defensively if his man isn’t part of the action, gets caught ball watching and tends to hug his man a split second too long when rotating defensively.

In addition, in pick-and-roll defense, he opens himself a bit too much to one side of the court as opposed to facing towards the ball and being able to change directions whenever needed. Ball handlers take advantage of this by passing the ball to the opposite side of where his body is facing (might be the roll man in pick-and-roll or shooter on weak side of the court) or simply dribbling the ball at him and changing directions to throw him off balance.

Also, he doesn’t always do a good job of helping off the ball if his man sets a screen, which allows shooters to get free.

But fear not Pistons fans, he can improve in these aspects. Have a look at the Pistons’ defensive efficiency as well as the breakdown when he is on and off the court in the past three seasons, courtesy of NBA.com’s advanced stats tool:

Season

Detroit Def. Eff.

Def. Eff. w/ Monroe

Def. Eff. w/o Monroe

2012-13

103.1

102.2

104.9

2011-12

104.0

107.4

97.6

2010-11

109.0

108.8

109.3

Some mixed results, but the results are getting better mind you.

The left-handed big man is good at crowding the air space of opposing big men and preventing their drives because he is typically quicker than them. Also, he can switch out on some perimeter players and contain them, which allows the Pistons to close out defensive possessions late in the shot clock.

Clearly, Monroe has a few things to get better at, but it’s worth noting that he is already a more than capable defender in certain situations.

With that said, Roy Hibbert is an example of how Greg Monroe could improve and become a terrorizing defender that anchors the Pistons’ defense.

9 Comments

  • Feb 2, 20137:46 pm
    by Jay

    Reply

    I know this is random, but here’s a quick trade idea. I didn’t think of this too seriously, but it’s a thought. 
    Detroit trades Jose Calderon for Boston’s Jeff Green. I’m sure more players would have to be added to make financial sense, but I thought it would work for both teams.  

    • Feb 3, 20139:25 am
      by DasMark

      Reply

      Don’t ever suggest any trade that involves Jeff Green AGAIN. 

      We want + players, not -. Green is an overpaid rotation player at best. We’re already overpaying Villanueva, why would we want another useless overpaid guy?  

      • Feb 3, 201312:01 pm
        by tarsier

        Reply

        I’d be willing to give up Calderon, take back Green’s bad contract, and give up Max’s expiring deal and a promising young guy like Singler… in exchange for Rondo.

        Unfortunately, Calderon cannot be traded with any other players. To make such a swap, it would have to be Rondo for Calderon straight up. And I doubt the Cs would go for that. 

      • Feb 3, 201312:59 pm
        by sloppy joe

        Reply

        Isn’t there a rule that a player cannot be traded twice within a certain amount of time?

        • Feb 3, 20133:33 pm
          by Worm

          Reply

          Technically Calderon already got traded twice this season. Once to Memphis then again to Detroit.

  • Feb 2, 20138:05 pm
    by Fallon

    Reply

    All of that is interesting, but Monroe is going to be playing PF’s when Drummond enters the starting lineup!

    In that case, he’ll have to guard a variety of PF’s, and these days there are a lot of spread PF which will draw him further away from the basket.

    Greg Monroe needs more quickness, but he’s still young, and may develop better, but I’m still worried!      

  • Feb 2, 20138:11 pm
    by sloppy joe

    Reply

    Greg Monroe is never going to be a “terrorizing defender that anchors the Pistons Defense”

    Our Anchor is and will be Andre Drummond

  • Feb 2, 20138:12 pm
    by Piston Moribund

    Reply

    Bullwinkle will never terrorize anyone on defense.  His biggest attribute to playing defense is his height.
    On a side note, if you want to shore up the defense, then Joe needs to sign Tony Allen.  A proper stopper, if he cant score, then the he will make shore the opposing team wont either.

  • Feb 3, 20139:29 am
    by DasMark

    Reply

    Tony Allen would certainly be a nice addition to the team, but he’s 31 years old. His athleticism will likely begin to slip very soon, and his aggressive defensive style with it. 

    I would sign him for the right price, but Detroit would likely have to overpay him to convince him to leave Memphis, or stop him from going to a contender. 

    As for Moose, the biggest factor on defense is effort. Can he be a better defender? Absolutely. He just has to decide to be one. He isn’t a scorer the likes of Kevin Love, where he kills his opponent offensively, and his D can take a back seat. Moose needs to defend.  

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