Should Boston attempt to turn a Pistons pending loss into a potential Celtics gain? A glance at the Celtics roster shows a gap at the center position, despite options that would be used either as a stopgap or that would be considered developmental. While considering minutes at the 4 for the leading two, the Celtics have a center-by-committee rotation that includes PFs Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger as well as last year’s reserve C Vitor Faverani and newly acquired Tyler Zeller.
All players in the rotation should contribute though no option is what fans would consider home runs. Faverani has recently been charged with a DUI (operating at three times the legal limit) while also rehabbing a meniscus injury. Even with his potential and imposing size, he is still a serious question mark. Zeller has familiarity with Coach Brad Stevens and I expect a positive impact on this year’s squad, but his lack of familiarity with the system may undermine his capabilities. I assume he will understand his role properly and look for easy baskets on passes from Rondo.
I do think Olynyk and Sullinger can play together and have some level of success. However, to me, at the end of the day, both are better suited to playing power forward either due to their game or due to lack of height.
To resolve what I foresee as a hole at C, I would prefer the team look at a trade to bridge the gap, even if only temporarily. While rumors have been heard involving Roy Hibbert (and his max deal), I would prefer a cheaper option with a shorter term and pursue Greg Monroe.
Monroe seems to be a lame duck without a starting position. Detroit has Andre Drummond starting at the five, so any minutes available to Monroe would be solely as a backup. Prior to the 2103-14 season, Detroit signed Josh Smith to a 4yr/$54M contract, virtually ensuring him many minutes at a forward position. However, last year showed that Smith is likely better suited to playing PF, which leaves Monroe as a player without a starting position, despite his ability to play either front court position.
Monroe signed a qualifying offer after not signing an extension or offer sheet during the off-season. The QO will pay Monroe a reasonable $5.479M and while the signing means he cannot be traded, one would have to think he would provide his content considering the logjam in the Pistons frontcourt.
Monroe is a talented 24-year old who comes in at 6’11” and 240 pounds with a 7’2″ wingspan, which gives him plenty of size to play C, particularly in a league with a dwindling focus on the position. Monroe has shown flashes and shows a good deal of consistency – he can handle the ball and shows a good acumen on the court while having a post presence that is becoming harder and harder to find (admittedly becoming less and less necessary to win). Monroe has averaged 15.2 points and over nine rebounds during his brief career and has shown a willingness to pass, both fundamentally well and beautifully with some flash. His passing suffered last year with a drastic reduction in assists, but there is not enough evidence to suggest this was not just an anomaly or a situation of being a bad fit with Josh Smith. Monroe’s assists dropped about 40% last year despite playing nearly an equal amount of minutes (281 in 2687 minutes to 171 in 2690 minutes). I can equally appreciate the idea of Rondo passes leading to easy baskets and the idea of Rondo having ‘hockey assists’ due to Monroe’s willingness to pass and his vision. Monroe also has improved his mid-range jump shooting (.311 to .410 in the past two seasons from 10′-16′), which could spread the floor for other contributions including Monroe’s passing abilities.
There are some negatives to consider – Monroe is a poor rim defender and has difficulty recovering when defender a player on the move. With respect to being a poor rim defender, the Celtics rotation is full of players who haven’t shown a propensity to protect the rim, so there would be only a slight defensive loss (if any) by injecting Monroe into the line-up. Monroe rebounds well and would be successful at ending possessions, despite his poor block numbers. Since the PF rotation would be sound, I would see no reason for him to play four and therefore should not be in as many positions to get burned since he cannot get back. He also chips in a steal a game, so could have a positive impact on the defensive end despite not blocking many shots.
Next off-season, someone will likely take a chance on Monroe. I very much want to the Celtics to take the chance, but do it now. Paying less than $6M for a player with his output and potential should be nearly a snap decision. When one considers that we would not really be squashing potential (or at least it would be cheap potential), there seem to be few negatives. Even if signed to an extension, the money would be similar to Marcin Gortat, who is a better defensive player but one who soon will be on the bad side of 30.
The part to be determined would be what the Pistons would need to make the trade happen. Since Monroe is a soon-to-be UFA, the payout has decreased. Lacking leverage, a Green/LAC-1st could be an attractive offer for both sides since it would allow Boston to remove itself from Green’s salary and open up minutes for James Young while allowing Detroit to fill a SF gap while adding an asset with some value rather than seeing Monroe walk. Other tweaks would have to be made to match salaries but trade based on the Monroe for Green/Pick framework seems to be one that would be mutually beneficial while allowing the Celtics a full season to decide on Monroe as a long-term option deserved of an extension.