Greg Monroe coming to New Orleans has floated on the internet for years. A graduate from Helen Cox High School on the Westbank, Monroe has made it no secret that he would like to come home to the Crescent City and pair up with Anthony Davis in the front court. Most recently on The Lowe Post ESPN’s Marc Stein said he thinks Monroe would prefer to come to New Orleans.
There was a time when I was not just on board with the idea of Greg Monroe in a Pelicans uniform but actively driving the train. At the time, June 2014 to be precise, Monroe was seen as miscast as a power forward with the Detroit Pistons while Andre Drummond manned the center spot. Instead the Pelicans traded for Omer Asik, surrendering another first round pick in the process. Halfway through the season I was still pining for Monroe over re-signing Asik. Last summer the Milwaukee Bucks finally gave us a look at Monroe at center full time, and I had to look away.
It would be inaccurate to place all the blame on Greg Monroe for the Bucks slide defensively. Yes, Milwaukee fell from 2nd to 22nd in defensive rating after adding Monroe but he was hardly the only significant change on the roster. The Bucks lost both Zaza Pachulia (a solid defensive center) and Jared Dudley (a consummate vet) from their starting lineup in 2014-15 and replaced them with Monroe and Jabari Parker. Milwaukee posted a 93.1 defensive rating when both Pachulia and Dudley were on the floor in 2015 and a far less impressive 109.2 defensive rating with Monroe and Parker together in 2016.
Not to say Monroe is a positive impact defensively. Last season the Bucks were worse with him on the floor (107.5 DRtg) than off (103.2) on that end of the floor. In Detroit the record is more mixed; better in 2015 (103.7 on, 104.7 off), worse in 2014 (107.8 on, 106.2 off), and better in 2013 (105.0 on, 107.1 off). That inconsistency continues straight through to his rookie campaign. Squint hard enough, and it might be possible to conclude he might not be the glaring negative many are painting him as this summer.
It is harder to say Monroe is not an overall positive on the court. In each of the last three seasons his team has posted a better net rating with Moose on the court than off. 2016 in Milwaukee (-2.7 on, -4.8 off) and 2015 (-1.7 on, -2.0 off) and 2014 (-4.1 on, -4.9 off) in Detroit all saw a positive impact when Monroe checked in the game. This is a far cry from what I discovered when examining the impact of Kenneth Faried yesterday.
There are areas defensively where Monroe excels. He ranked in the 87th percentile defending post-ups; on par with Draymond Green and DeAndre Jordan. When defending the roll man he placed in the 68th percentile between Paul Millsap and Andrew Bogut. The 51.5% conversion rate he allowed at the rim is not a sterling mark, but not awful either as he comes in just behind Marcin Gortat.
Monroe is the biggest liability defending in space. Numbers don’t catch the missed rotations or shots at the rim that go unchallenged because he was a step slow. He would certainly save Anthony Davis the pounding at center but Davis would be left to scramble and clean up the mess Monroe’s deficiencies create. While AD is the ideal power forward to pair with Greg Monroe it is a fair question to ask if the reverse is also true.
Offensively Greg Monroe is competent in nearly all areas. He ranked in the 50th percentile or better on post ups, cuts, put backs, as the roll man, spotting up (!), in transition, and in isolation last season. Most frequently he utilized post ups (33.8% of his total possessions), cuts (17.6%), put backs (14.1%), and as the roll man (10.8%) offensively. In those 919 possessions Monroe scored 941 points (1.02 points per possession) while turning the ball over just 9.5% of the time. On top of that he adds solid passing, especially from the elbows.
There is an off-court element here to consider as well. Who better to sell Anthony Davis on sticking in New Orleans than his front court mate, a local boy who has tried to move heaven and earth to get back home? In the end that may be the greatest reason to add Greg Monroe to the roster.