The Pistons have a big-man problem.
They have three good bigs – Josh Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond – who start but have, so far, fit poorly together.
The problem isn’t a single one of them. Rather, it’s an issue of fit.
When all three play:
- Offensive rating: 104.3
- Defensive rating: 112.2
- Net rating: –7.9
However, remove one from the lineup – doesn’t matter which one – and things suddenly look much better for Detroit.
Monroe and Drummond, not Smith:
- Offensive rating: 113.6
- Defensive rating: 109.4
- Net rating: +4.2
Smith and Monroe, not Drummond:
- Offensive rating: 106.9
- Defensive rating: 100.5
- Net rating: +6.4
Smith and Drummond, not Monroe:
- Offensive rating: 111.6
- Defensive rating: 105.2
- Net rating: +6.4
(numbers via nbawowy)
What should the Pistons do about this?
Removing one of the three from the starting lineup could work, as could trading one for a more-traditional wing player.
Smith probably doesn’t have much trade value after signing a four-year, $54 million contract this summer. His production has slipped, and teams might not accept such a burdensome contract without attaching one of their own bad contracts in the deal.
Drummond is even more untradeable for the opposite reason. He’s too good for too cheap a salary to make a trade viable. It’s difficult to match salaries when most of the players whose value are as high as his are on max contracts and he’s still on his rookie deal.
That leaves Monroe, who will be a restricted free agent this summer. Monroe is more likely than not to receive a max contract, so the Pistons should decide before the deadline whether he’s worth that. If not, they should trade him. That dealing him, both by omission and addition, would likely improve the frontline should move the needle toward a trade.
But the Pistons don’t see it that way.
I can say with certainty there is no talk of trading Greg Monroe currently. Could that change? Sure, but right now the Pistons are going to be patient.
You can’t prove a negative, so it’s logically impossible for Ellis to say this with absolute certainty. He can know a trusted source in position to know told him as much, but that’s the limit.
But assuming Ellis is correct, the Pistons should get over it and stop being so stubborn.
They’re 14-22. If the season ended right now, not only would they miss the playoffs, they’d send their first-round pick to the Bobcats to complete the Ben Gordon trade. They’re facing disaster, and they won’t even entertain trading Monroe?
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I actually don’t think the Pistons should trade Monroe for a lesser and/or older wing player, the most likely return, even though that would likely improve the team this season.
I think it’s still possible, though unlikely, the three-big lineup works with more time. Most of all, I just think a young and productive big like Monroe is too valuable to trade for a quick fix.
But to not explore a trade is choosing to limit your options for improving, and I don’t see the point of that.