Report: Greg Monroe out with the Stan Van Gundy’s Pistons (update: maybe not)

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Update: Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

Well, that’s quite the 180 from the initial report.

It’s also possible both reports are correct. Maybe Van Gundy likes Monroe only as a center, not a stance I agree with but also not a totally unreasonable one. Drummond is the Pistons’ center of the future, and if Van Gundy doesn’t believe Monroe can play with Drummond — no matter how much he likes Monroe — the Pistons’ new president would try to trade Monroe or even let him walk.

End update

Stan Van Gundy likes to run a one-in, four-out offense that requires a stretch four.

Good luck with that with the Pistons, whom officially announced Van Gundy’s hiring today.

Van Gundy inherits a team with two starting caliber power forwards – Greg Monroe and Josh Smith. Monroe doesn’t shoot from the perimeter, and Smith does. Both are problems, because neither can reliably make shots from there.

Personally, I’d rather have the player who doesn’t miss so many outside shots, but it’s complicated by their contract statuses. Smith is signed for three more years at $13.5 million per season, probably making him untradeable without a sweetener attached. Monroe will be a restricted free agent this summer, a legitimate candidate to receive a max contract.

What will Van Gundy do?

Sean Deveney of Sporting News:

Even before the Pistons made the bold move of hiring Stan Van Gundy to be their coach and run their basketball operations on Tuesday, there was a growing consensus around the league that whomever was tabbed to replace Joe Dumars in the front office would be willing to let restricted free agent Greg Monroe go.

Now, with Van Gundy in place on an eyebrow-raising contract—five years, $35 million—there is near certainty among league executives that Monroe has played his last game for Detroit.

Deveney names the Bobcats and Lakers as teams interested in Monroe, and Monroe’s hometown Pelicans interest him. If Van Gundy can swing a sign-and-trade that returns equal value and a better fit, fantastic.

But with the league-wide perception described in this report, Van Gundy loses a lot of leverage. Why sign-and-trade for Monroe if you know the Pistons don’t value him and won’t match a big offer?

Smith, Monroe and Andre Drummond can’t play together. They had a full season to confirm that, and as good a coach as Van Gundy is, I think he could only limit the damage when those three share the court.

Of that trio, Drummond is by far the most valuable player. After that, I’d rank Monroe – even on a max deal – simply due to his age. Smith (28) is likely to have declined by the time Drummond (20) enters his peak, but Monroe (23) will have a career arc that more closely overlaps with Drummond’s. The Pistons should focus on maximizing their roster for Drummond’s prime years, when he could be one of the NBA’s top players.

Plus, Monroe is already about as good as Smith. Monroe averaged 15.2 points and 9.3 rebounds per game last season, and although he doesn’t defend as well as Smith, he also doesn’t destroy the flow of the offense with as many forced shots and sloppy turnovers.

Van Gundy has the power, based on salary and title (president of basketball operations, head coach), to take the long view. Monroe is a good, young, big man, and that makes him valuable. You don’t let valuable pieces walk away for nothing, even if they don’t fit right away.

The Pistons – if they can’t find a trade that returns equal value – should re-sign Monroe and try to trade him and/or Smith later. It’s not worth selling low now. Van Gundy’s job is not in jeopardy, and he can survive the growing pains that result from keeping Monroe.

Soon enough, Monroe would help the Pistons – either by another team stepping up with a better trade offer without Monroe on the free agent market or Van Gundy realizing he can use a player of that caliber after all.

Report: Nerlens Noel hires Rich Paul as agent, looking for big deal from Mavericks

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It’s been a rough year for restricted free agents (and plenty of unrestricted ones). After NBA teams spent like drunken sailors on shore leave last summer, this time around — with the cap not rising as much as had been expected — the market got tight quickly, and few questionable contracts were handed out. A year ago the Brooklyn Nets were making the Miami Heat pay big to retain Tyler Johnson and the Trail Blazers pay big to keep Allen Crabbe. This year teams were not biting the same way on restricted free agents.

Which left guys like Nerlens Noel, who expected to be maxed out by the Mavericks (or someone), still looking for a deal. Noel was frustrated enough to switch agents, picking up Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, according to Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders.

Paul is LeBron James‘ agent, and in recent years has done well getting Tristan Thompson and Eric Bledsoe good contracts as extensions to their rookie deals. In both cases, he showed a fearlessness in holding out longer and being willing to push the envelope. That had to appeal to Noel.

But it doesn’t change the underlying dynamics at play — and not just with Noel. Paul also represents restricted free agents this summer Shabazz Muhammad — who has yet to sign a deal — and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who had to take a one-year deal with the Lakers for $18 million (well below his max). Throw in Noel’s injury history, and teams were not eager to jump in with a big offer for the athletic big man.

At this point, no team has the money to offer Noel a max contract right now — the Bulls have the most available money at $17.3 million, the Sixers and Suns have about $15 million and $14 million. Noel’s max is $24.7 million a year. Dallas is playing hardball because they can — without another offer on the table, Noel’s only real threat is to sign the qualifying offer (about $6 million) and play the season for that, then become an unrestricted free agent next summer. That’s possible, but a guy with Noe’s history of injuries may want to be careful betting on himself like that.

With Paul in the negotiations, expect them to drag out. That’s about the only sure thing.

Remembering Notre Dame, Laker legend Tommy “the hawk” Hawkins

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Tommy Hawkins passed away recently at the age of 80.

The former NBA player was the first black athlete to earn All-America honors in basketball at Notre Dame (he still holds the school’s total rebounds record), was drafted in the first round, and went on to have a 10-year NBA career playing for the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers as well as the Cincinnati Royals. Los Angeles fans may also remember him as the long time director of communications for the Los Angeles Dodgers after his playing days ended.

The NBA put together this well done video look back at Hawkins’ career.

Celtics’ Brad Stevens said early September tests will show if Thomas ready for camp

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Isaiah Thomas said he expects to be ready for the Celtics’ training camp next month. The guard’s All-NBA season came to an early end in the playoffs when he aggravated a labral tear in his right hip initially suffered back in March. At least the injury did not require surgery.

Players are also about the worst judges of when they will recover from an injury. They pretty much all think they are invincible and will be healthy faster than doctors predict.

Coaches tend to be more pragmatic. Take Boston’s Brad Stevens, who told Chris Mannix on The Vertical Podcast that tests in a couple of weeks will show if Thomas is ready for camp.

“He has another follow-up and another scan in the early part of September. Obviously, it’s been a lot of appropriate rest, a lot of rehab. There have been some good strides here certainly in the last month or few weeks, but we’re not going to know that until after that early September timeframe.”

The Celtics are understandably going to be cautious with Thomas, while Thomas wants to prove he is healthy and has no ill effects from the injury as he enters a contract year (one where he expects to get PAID). Also, the Celtics could use him in camp as they start to figure out how he and Gordon Hayward can share playmaking duties.

Still, from the outset, the timelines have suggested he should be ready for camp in late September. Coaches are just cautious on these things by nature.

Allen Iverson predicts LeBron James will win MVP

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LeBron James has four NBA MVP trophies in his case. (Does he keep that case in his home in Akron or the one in Los Angeles… that’s a question for another day.) Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (six) and Michael Jordan (five) have more.

Could LeBron James add a fifth to his case this season?

Allen Iverson said yes at last weekend’s Big3 playoffs in Seattle.

LeBron was fourth in preseason odds to win the MVP at 15/2, behind Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Kawhi Leonard.

To me, LeBron could be a good bet. If/when Kyrie Irving is traded, the chances of LeBron getting the MVP go up. If LeBron puts up impressive numbers (again) and leads a depleted Cavaliers team to a top two seed in the East, he is certainly going to be in consideration. And should be.

It’s a long season, and personally, I think you need to get midway through the season before seriously considering the year-end awards. But history says LeBron will be in the mix, and Allen Iverson could be proven prophetic.