Last season when Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond were both on the court for the Detroit Pistons, the team scored at a clip of 103.8 points per 100 possessions, which is nearly 1 point better than the Pistons team average. They looked better when not there with Josh Smith.
Problem was, Detroit gave up a whopping 110.2 per 100 when those two were paired.
A year ago Drummond and Monroe were seen as the front court of the future for Detroit, then now deposed Joe Dumars decided to help everything out by adding Josh Smith to the mix. That worked out about as well as Caddyshack II. The offense had no flow and it was worse on defense where the trio allowed 110.5 per 100 when on the court together.
Stan Van Gundy wants to get back to what works — and he thinks the Drummond/Monroe combo works. He wants to keep Monroe (a restricted free agent) with the Pistons and play him more with Drummond. That’s what he told the Pistons’ official Web site.
“I think it is an ideal pairing,” he said. “If I look at just the film I’ve watched now and looking at the numbers, you would say that Greg and Andre together were great offensively. That was a great combination on the offensive end of the floor, especially when the three guys around them were shooters — more conventional perimeter types. That worked very, very well. Now, it didn’t work very well defensively. I think it puts a lot of responsibility on Greg Monroe to have to guard out on the perimeter.
“But I think there are things we can do in terms of schemes and things that would make it a little easier on Greg to make that unit better defensively and then take advantage of the offensive end of the floor.
“In the things we’ve studied — when you look at our three frontline guys, there’s your strength — but when you study it, when you play two of those three guys together, the Pistons were a very good team, at least last year. When you played all three of them together, they really struggled.”
That presents two challenges for Van Gundy.
First is keeping Monroe — the big man with a good outside touch (he shot 48.9 percent on midrange baseline jumpers last season) plus deft passing skills — has a lot of fans in front offices around the league. Someone is going to come hard at him this July — like max contract hard. Or close to it. The Pistons have the cap room to match right now, but that could make things tight in a couple years when they start having to pay Andre Drummond max money, also. Basically, three front line guys all on eight digit salaries makes it hard to build a team. Someone eventually has to go and that could be Monroe because of the contract situation.
The other trick is how he gets the Smith/Drummond/Monroe trio to work. The obvious idea here is to not play any of them together, but which one are you going to bring off the bench? Can’t be Drummond, he’s the best of the three. Do you think Smith would handle that well (he’d just come in, dominate the ball and fire up shots indiscriminately more than he already does). That might leave Monroe, the guy you’re about to give a massive contract to.
(If you’re thinking, “just trade Smith” remember he is owed $40.5 million over the next three years, an anchor contract that the Pistons can only trade if they give the other team something of real value just to take it on.)
There are no easy solutions, but that’s why Van Gundy is getting the big bucks.
But clearly Van Gundy wants Monroe to be part of the answer in Detroit.