For anyone who has played NBA 2k or seen his stats, Greg Monroe is an "I want that" player. He can step out to 15 feet for jumpshots, knows where to be offensively, and tallies good rebounding numbers.
His last name is a Louisiana city and he played at Helen Cox, a local high school, so it only seems right that he should be a New Orleans Pelican, especially with the team likely researching center alternates to Omer Asik.
Well, he should not be.
After watching my share of Pistons games over the course of the past year, I can safely say that Monroe is a good player but a bad fit.
In fact, Sports Illustrated's Rob Mahoney questioned nearly a year ago on whether he would be a good fit anywhere when trying to explain why last year Monroe had zero offers in restricted free agency. Zero. Mahoney answered his own question with no, "barring an unexpected union with Anthony Davis."
There has to be some reasons why people think that this AD-GM combo would be so divine. So first, let's examine Monroe's strengths.
Monroe is a back to the basket, traditional big. In the post, Monroe does it the old fashioned way and whenever he has a switch, he capitalizes. He has a soft touch with both hands but prefers going to his left and displays great footwork, frequently utilizing a jab step or hop step to neutralize defenders.
Moreover, Monroe can play both center and power forward offensively, stay composed, and find holes in the defense. And although he does not have many assist numbers, make no mistake, he is a good passer. Bleacher Report's Adam Fromal reiterated that.
"Part of what's always made Monroe a special center is his passing."
Monroe's inside presence and passing vision could allow Davis more midrange jumpers, the same jumpers that were easy money last season.
Monroe also rebounds well, and he always has. Uneducated haters say that it is because of Andre Drummond that Monroe rebounds at such a high rate, but the pre-Drummond era stats corroborate just the opposite. Monroe's second year had him boast his second highest rebounding average, 9.7 per game. That was while Drummond was still at Connecticut.
Lastly, Monroe gets flack for being a bad defender, but he really is decent in the post. His BPG numbers are B-A-D, yet that does not mean he's a shoddy post defender. One-on-one post defense is Monroe's specialty, and although he does not block shots, he is a good contester and never wanders too far from his man.
Here's what Stan Van Gundy said about his big man's defensive reputation:
"I think Greg's actually pretty good defensively," Van Gundy said. "I've thought that all year. He's a very good low post defender, in my opinion. And he's a smart defender. He doesn't make a lot of mistakes [...] His mental approach and ability makes him a solid defender."
From the coach that developed Dwight Howard, that's not too bad of a review.
Lastly, Monroe has a good looking jump shot and shot 75% from the free throw line last year. Although his numbers from the stripe have fluctuated through his career, even on his worst day, he's no Omer Asik. And that goes for every aspect of offense except for screen setting.
For all of Monroe's skills, he lacks the physical strength or athleticism compared to other big men in the NBA. It limits him to post moves and makes him less effective at setting screens, rebounding, and isolation play than players like Zach Randolph, who possess a similar style of play. Additionally, his physical boundaries explain and worsen Monroe's blocking and help defense problems.
His lack of elite strength would lower the amount of open threes for the Pelicans in the half court, something that Asik contributed heavily to with sturdy screens. Monroe's lack of athleticism and quickness would also prevent him from running the fast break with the Pelicans, something that will be the team's staple style under Alvin Gentry.
And while Monroe is a good one-on-one post defender, he lacks any rim protector instincts or attributes that the Pelicans would desperately need if Asik left. The Pelicans defense would ache against penetrating defenses who would keep slashing inside, as neither Davis nor Monroe could choke off the lane.
Finally, Monroe's shot may look nice and smooth, but he shot 24% on jumpshots, and was successful only 32% of the time from 10 to 16 feet, per basketball-reference.com.
And did I mention he doesn't run well?
Why This Would Be a Bad Fit in New Orleans
The reasoning here is simple; Monroe slows down the game and the Pelicans primarily picked up Alvin Gentry to put the NO2 in NOLA basketball. Monroe's only efficient offensive attempts come when he is in the post, something that is by nature incompatible with a fast-paced team. Although he is a good outlet passer, Monroe would be liable to intense pressure from cutting scorers as the primary post defender, eliminating some rebounding opportunities.
There is a reason the Pelicans or any other team in the league did not make Monroe an offer in last year's restricted free agency. There are few teams that he fits in well with, and the Pelicans will not be one of them, not anymore anyways.
Monroe could not play the brick wall of a center that the Pelicans desire (Roy Hibbert/Timofey Mozgov types of defenders) and that would be a calamitous combination with Davis. Ever wonder why Davis and Anderson were so defensively permeable? It's because Davis, despite what his block numbers may hint at, is a roaming defender and Anderson can provide little help or resistance when players drive. Monroe would be similar to Anderson defensively, although he would rebound better.
So rejoice, Pelies. A crisis has been averted. The money has not been spent yet, and the Pelicans roster remains intact, with flexibility to make other moves. I am as much of a homecoming fan as anybody, but I would prefer a reunion with another center who will be revealed in my next article. Until then, just watch this again for optimism's sake.