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.
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?
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.