Greg Monroe probably wants out, and who can blame him?
When the Detroit Pistons signed Josh Smith last summer, analytics geeks across the country screamed, “Spacing! Will somebody please think of the spacing?”
The Pistons wound up playing a near-unwatchable style of basketball and finished the season with the second-worst three-point shooting percentage (32.1 percent), ahead of only Philadelphia.
The Pistons tried to trade Josh Smith all summer, but unfortunately other teams have NBA League Pass, and occasionally, on a quiet Wednesday night perhaps, watch the Pistons play.
Next summer, 14 teams have cap space. The salary cap is set at $63.065 million, a seven percent increase over last year. If we project the same growth next year, the cap could be around $68 million. For Monroe, it will again be a seller’s market. So where should he go?
Monroe has his weaknesses on defense, as he’s not particularly fleet-footed when defending the pick-and-roll, but he did rank 27th in the league in post-up defense, allowing .68 points per possession, per Synergy Sports. More importantly, Monroe has the ability to score in the low-post and create his own shot, a glaring weakness for the Raptors that Brooklyn exposed in their first-round matchup last season. Last season, Monroe only ranked 104th in post-up scoring, but at least some of that can be attributed to Detroits terrible spacing. The other benefit is that Monroe and Jonas Valanciunas work effectively in opposite sides of the floor.
The Magic will have so much cap space next season, even after signing Channing Frye to that generous four-year, $32 million deal. You ideally want Monroe to play next to another power forward or center who can spread the floor and protect the rim. Or at least do one of those two things, as Drummond doesn’t do either at an elite level yet. By playing Monroe next to Frye, a three-point shooting center, the team would improve its inside-outside balance, and that’s before you remember all the young athletes— Victor Oladipo, Aaron Gordon, Elfrid Payton and Tobias Harris. That’s a playoff team.
Dirk Nowitzki isn’t going to be around for many more years, so by signing Monroe, the Mavs could begin transition to a younger core with a 24-year old Monroe and 25-year-old Chandler Parsons. Meanwhile, the team would still remain competitive in the short term. Imagine going from playing next to Andre Drummonds and Josh Smith, to being flanked by Dirk and Parsons. So much space for Monroe.
My personal favorite. The Bucks wouldn’t have to worry about protecting the rim, since Larry Sanders has that covered, along with Giannis Antetokounmpo, or “Freaky Greeky” (h/t Bomani Jones). With Brandon Knight, O.J. Mayo, and Jabari Parker, that’s an athletic young core with potential. Couldn’t Monroe organize the offense in a similar fashion to what Al Jefferson did in Charlotte? You’re probably thinking, “But it’s the Bucks; it’ll never happen.” Yeah, you’re right. Nevermind.
Let’s quickly run through the rest of the teams with cap space:
Atlanta— The Hawks have a lot of space, but Monroe doesn’t fit its all-out approach to three-point shooting.
Boston— The one team with possibly less outside shooting ability than Detroit next season.
Charlotte— Too much overlap with Al Jefferson.
Houston—Could be a solid Chris Bosh/ Chandler Parsons consolation prize, but they’d have to get creative to afford him.
L.A. Lakers—They already have Julius Randle, Carlos Boozer, Ed Davis and Jordan Hill.
Memphis—Monroe could be a serviceable back-up plan if Marc Gasol leaves, but Monroe and Zach Randolph would be terrible defensively.
Miami—If Luol Deng opts out, it could make sense to pair Monroe with Chris Bosh.
Minnesota Timberwolves—I think we’ve established that you can’t play a sub-par defender next to Nikola Pekovic.
New York Knicks—Could make sense, but knowing the Knicks, they’ll probably strike out with a bigger name instead.
Philly—Frontcourt is already set.
Phoenix—They have their own restricted free agency issues to worry about.