Greg Monroe may not be working out exactly as the Boston Celtics planned
When the Boston Celtics won the race to sign Greg Monroe after he was bought out by Phoenix, it was seen as a big win for Boston. The Celtics were getting a quality big man that could rebound and score in the post, two of the teams’ biggest weaknesses.
Yet, seven games into his Celtics career, Monroe looks like a bust. After he was signed, optimistic fans were hoping that Monroe could anchor the Celtics’ second unit and be an offensive force off the bench.
Instead, Monroe is averaging 6 ppg and 5 rpg in 15 minutes per game for the Celtics. Instead of being a key player, Monroe looks like he is the fourth true big man on the Celtics, behind Al Horford, Aron Baynes and Daniel Theis. When Boston wants to play small with Marcus Morris or Jayson Tatum at the PF spot, Monroe slides further down the totem pole.
Monroe is shooting just 47 percent from the field in Boston, a bad number for a big man who shoots nearly 70 percent of his shots within three feet of the basket. On offense he has been slow to make a decision, leading to a lot of ineffective post-ups. Monroe is shooting 26 percent on post-ups as a Celtic. 26 percent! That is supposed to be his best skill and he is worse than pretty much anyone else in the league at it.
If his offensive struggles are not bad enough, his defense has been an even bigger issue. Now, unlike his post-up game, nobody thought Monroe was going to be an above-average defender, but his defense impacts his playing time. Teams know that Monroe isn’t the quickest on his feet and attack him out of the pick-and-roll and Monroe’s lackadaisical effort doesn’t help matters.
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You could say that seven games is a small sample size and that Monroe needs more time to adjust to Boston; but these struggles are not new to Monroe. Monroe peaked as a 24 year old in Detroit, averaging 16-10 and flashing playmaking skills. Then he signed a 3 year, $50 million contract with Milwaukee in 2015. Once he was in Milwaukee his numbers dipped and his defense got worse, leading to him being traded to Phoenix at the beginning of this season in the Eric Bledsoe trade.
Despite playing for a dreadful Phoenix team, Monroe only averaged 23 mpg and 11-8; hardly the kind of stats you could build a second unit around. When he was bought out and came to Boston, he looked sluggish and out of shape. Maybe he needs to play himself into shape; but the Celtics probably shouldn’t be banking on a guy that needs to play himself into shape in March.
Monroe’s stint in Boston hasn’t gotten off to a great start, but he can still be a factor in the playoffs. He can exploit mismatches and pass out of double-teams; if Brad Stevens can find the right role for this team, he can be useful. The problem is his defense isn’t going to likely get better and in the playoffs he will still get exploited. It’s going to be a tough battle to get him minutes against the top teams.