Greg Monroe isn’t long for the Phoenix Suns. The Suns acquired the big man as part of a trade to send point guard Eric Bledsoe to the Milwaukee Bucks. Monroe was involved in the deal for salary-matching purposes (the Suns also received a protected first-round pick and cap space), and Phoenix is expected to trade his expiring contract or buy him out, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Monroe, 27, is more of a traditional big. He can post up and score in the paint, but not necessarily protect it very well (though he’ gotten slightly better since last season). Whereas several bigs (Brook Lopez and Marc Gasol) have began taking 3-pointers, Monroe hasn’t stretched his game. He took just four 3-pointers all of last season, and hasn’t attempted one this season. Virtually all of his shots come at the rim or in mid-range. Monroe in this respect is old school. He is, however, a good passer from the post. He’s in the 90th percentile of assist percentage among all NBA players, per cleaningtheglass.com. With his post moves, passing and size, Monroe can still be a valuable player to the right team.
Here, we’ll take a look at some of the teams which could use Monroe.
The Utah Jazz have the fourth-worst offensive rating in the league, and that’s mostly because the team can’t score in the paint. The only teams making fewer shots in the restricted area per game are the Dallas Mavericks and Chicago Bulls. The best way to fix this might not be to acquire a paint-clogging big man, but that hasn’t stopped Utah yet. Unlike the Mavericks and Bulls, the Jazz have two true bigs–Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors–in its starting lineup. A team with twin towers shouldn’t be near-last in points in the restricted area.
Gobert is a good pick-and-roll finisher and an obvious starter because of his defense, but Favors hasn’t been very effective this season. He’s better reprising his role from late last season as a backup center. Monroe could be a better option to start, or to come off the bench if Quin Snyder goes with a smaller starting lineup. Again, Monroe doesn’t offer a tremendous upgrade, but if he’s bought out it could be worth a shot.
The best fix to Utah’s problem is going small and providing more space to finish inside for Ricky Rubio, Gobert, and impressive rookie Donovan Mitchell.
The connection here is obvious. The Suns want to get rid of Monroe, and the 76ers want to get rid of Jahlil Okafor (and, according to ESPN, the Suns “have had interest” in Okafor). This could be a win-win. Phoenix gets another young player to add to its growing group of young players, and the 76ers get another veteran who can help them reach the playoffs this year, and whose contract comes off the books this summer.
The 76ers are one of the worst teams in the league in converting shots near the basket. Monroe could help there. Theoretically, he could play next to Joel Embiid, who spaces the floor enough to not clog the paint if Monroe is working in the post.
It just doesn’t move the needle enough, though, to be exciting. It makes sense from a roster-building perspective, but that’s it. What if Monroe is bought out? He’d probably would want to join a contender.
Is there a contender in need of his services?
Sure, the Cavaliers have the second-best offense in the NBA this season, but they’re also scoring nearly two fewer points per 100 possessions than last season’s iteration. It will be nearly impossible to fix Cleveland’s defense–there are just too many old players who don’t play defense to fix it–but the Cavs could double down on offense. Juice it up a bit. That’s where Monroe comes in.
Tristan Thompson is good for one-and-a-half things–rebounding and occasional defense. When he’s not doing those things, he doesn’t bring anything to the table. This season, he’s not doing those things. Thompson is averaging just 6.1 rebounds per game this season, lost his starting job, and has a negative Defensive Box Plus-Minus for the first time since the 2014-15 season. Kevin Love, Cleveland’s wannabe center, isn’t much of a rim protector either, but he’s an excellent floor spacer and passer who could play next to a competent post player.
Monroe can play next to Love and contribute to Cleveland’s offense. A lineup of (healthy) Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder/J.R. Smith, LeBron James, Kevin Love and Greg Monroe has enough passing and scoring to work. Defensively, no one is a stalwart defender (until April, when LeBron can be), but that unit has enough size to bother opponents (Monroe has at least two inches on Thompson). It’s not unlike what the Spurs have done with LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol, which is somehow a competent rim protecting unit (the Cavs don’t have Gregg Popovich, but Ty Lue could embrace the Steve Clifford-style of You’ll Never Get This rim protection, in which the defense seals off the paint from drives and closes out hard on shooters).
Cleveland doesn’t have much it can offer in a trade, but if Monroe is bought out, this could make sense for a team still looking for answers.