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As the Boston Celtics continue to surprise most of the nation by leading the Atlantic Division a few things have become clear. Their coach is an elite talent. Their pieces are better than expected. And there's probably 5 teams who are worse than us; Meaning our plan for a massive rebuild probably won't revolve around Riggin for Wiggins, Sayin' sorry for Jabari, or Losin a Handle for Randle. Which may or may not be a phrase that I just completely came up with.

So if a top 5 pick becomes an increasingly distant likelihood, then what?

In his most recent podcast with Zack Lowe, Grantland Editor Bill Simmons mentioned that the Celtics could be 'in the mix' to acquire Greg Monroe without having to surrender Rajon Rondo. A slightly taken aback Zack Lowe paused, and seemed to have the same response that I did; Was Bill Simmons simply speculating on a potential trade, or has he heard something from someone on the inside? At the risk of reading too much into it, Simmons' tone seemed to ring with a hint of 'I know something you don't know.'

With that in mind, I thought it would be of value to take a deep look into Greg Monroe's availability, and what he could mean to the Boston Celtics' future.

The first question of course is 'Is Greg Monroe Available?' It's a subject that the guy's over at Detroit Bad Boy's did a great job looking into over this past summer.

Their verdict? Yes and No.

During their research, they referenced an article by David Aldridge of NBA.com, who like everyone else had some questions about what the signing of Josh Smith meant for Monroe's future in Motown.

But league sources indicate an extension for Monroe is highly unlikely. The Pistons are not going to give him anywhere near the max, based on their current roster. Plus, Monroe’s agent, David Falk, has little interest in signing an extension for less than that. While discussions are friendly, it’s likely the two sides will revisit next summer -- if Monroe is still on the roster.

With Andre Drummond looking like the Pistons’ center of the future, and with $56 million invested in Josh Smith -- much more effective as a four -- how much will Detroit put forth for Monroe?

Since then, we've seen some developments that seem to back up Aldridge's thoughts.

Josh Smith, Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe can't co-exist. It's so abundantly clear that the Bad Boy's Blog have literally started running a feature entitled 'The Josh Smith Advent Calendar' where they suggest a new Josh Smith trade everyday.

Here's what Zach Lowe had to say about their fit:

But teams will ignore Smith from outside 15 feet, and Monroe is only in the early stages of developing an NBA-level midrange jumper; he hit just 30.7 percent of his midrange jumpers last season, about the same as the sad rates Smith and Maxiell bricked up.

The Pistons as of now plan to start all three of their front-court studs, and that lane is going to be packed with bodies. Smith can help by squeezing clever passes through tight spaces — something Detroit's guards can't really do — and working his post game against overmatched small forwards, but there's only so much breathing space for a team going ultra-big like this without even a single average jump-shooter among those bigs. Smith also needs the ball much more than Prince, which makes for a challenge distributing possessions in the right balance. That was tough already, since Monroe's elbows-in game2 isn't an ideal match with Drummond's Tyson Chandler–style pick-and-roll rim-wrecking.

That was written this summer. It's not any less true 1/3rd of the way through the season. Monroe-Drummond-Smith isn't working, and more importantly: It never will.

So where does that leave them? Drummond's playing like an absolute monster, who could easily see himself as a perennial second or third team All-NBA Center, so he's not going anywhere. Josh Smith just signed his contract this past summer, so you'd think he'd probably stick around, right?

So, uh, Monroe?

Joe Dumars certainly left that door open; As the Pistons and Monroe couldn't come to an extension this past October, allowing Monroe to become a restricted free agent this summer.

That doesn't mean Monroe's gone, though. Allowing a young center to become a restricted free agent isn't unprecedented (the Indiana Pacers did it with Roy Hibbert just two years ago). And to be frank, allowing him to become a restricted free agent is absolutely the right move for the Pistons.

Quite simply, there's not really a great argument for the team to extend him. According to every source out there, Monroe's agent David Falk was unwilling to sign for anything less than the max over four years. With the Pistons maintaining the rights to match any offer-letter, they reserve the right to pay him that, but only if Monroe can find another team thinks he's worth that money too.

It should be noted here that the answer to that question is almost definitely going to be 'Yes.' The Hawks, Bobcats, Mavericks, Lakers, Magic, 76ers, Suns and Wizards all figure to have the ability to sign a max free agent this summer. In itself, that many potential suitors would probably be enough. But a look into this Summer's mostly poor free agent class will show you that, yes, that will most definitely be enough suitors for Greg Monroe to find a max deal.

While they're not listed above, you can count the Pistons on the list of teams that could afford to pay Monroe max money. Again, from the Detroit Bad Boys' article

Signing Smith to a 4-year deal does complicate the team’s salary picture, because they will still be paying Smith $13.5M the year that Drummond’s extension will need to start (2016-17). Assuming that both Drummond and Monroe are signed to max deals, that would mean these three players will be soaking up about $44M of the NBA salary cap (currently $58.7M). Granted, this would only be for one year, since Smith’s deal will expire in 2017.

To be clear, despite the reports that have came out the Pistons don't HAVE to move Monroe by any means. The way Detroit's salaries are set up the Pistons can more afford to keep Smith, Monroe and Drummond together. And really, it isn't an absorbent amount until Smith's final year.

All of this is a very long way of saying this: The Pistons aren't going to give Monroe away for nothing.

That brings us to our next point: Can the Boston Celtics acquire Greg Monroe?


On Thursday, I suggested that the Boston Celtics trade Jeff Green, Courtney Lee and Kelly Olynyk to the Detroit Pistons for Greg Monroe and Charlie Villanueva's expiring contract.

Allowing the Pistons to get two guys who fit their lineup much better, and solidifying their roster as one of the strongest defenses in the league. Adding a pretty solid prospect in Kelly Olynyk in the process, who would round out their big man rotation nicely.

Olynyk isn't meant to be an afterthought in the equation. While his rookie effort hasn't been out right sensational thus far, he's certainly shown flashes of being a very effective player in this league. He's on cheap money, and his perimeter offense and heady passes would likely be a very good fit for Smith and Drummond.

Still, that might be a little low for Greg Monroe, but it keeps in mind that the Celtics are both giving up chips, as well as being tasked with paying Monroe this coming summer.

It was met with a good deal of criticism, and to be honest, I was quite shocked.

I think it comes down this; Right now there's a lot of focus on what Greg Monroe hasn't done. After taking a giant step forward in his sophomore season, Monroe has failed to take another step forward in the past 15 months. Whether that's through his own fault, or the fault of his supporting cast I suppose is debatable.

But I can assure you that the Detroit Pistons won't lose sight of what Greg Monroe currently is: A 6 foot 11 inch, 23 year old who has hovered around 15 points and 10 rebounds game for the past 3 years (to go along with over a steal a game). If you're a skeptic of Monroe read that last sentence again. And again.

Here's what Zack Lowe had to say about him during his sophomore season:

Greg Monroe is having a monster season. The numbers are ridiculous: Monroe is fifth in the league in Player Efficiency Rating, and one of the guys ahead of him (Manu Ginobili) will soon fall off the leader board due to a lack of minutes. He is shooting 59.7 percent from the floor. Only Nene shot better last season. He has rebounded 14.4 percent of Detroit’s misses, an offensive rebounding rate that would have led the entire league last season. • He has assisted on 19.4 percent of Detroit’s baskets while on the floor Among players 6-foot-9 or taller,

This guy is a coach's dream, and an absolute monster. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. His lack of improvement can absolutely be attributed to his supporting cast; which can be described as either a bad fit, or just outright bad.

At 23 year old, Monroe has proven himself to be a force inside. He's huge, both in size as well as in intelligence. The last part can't be stressed enough. That brain allows some truly great things to happen as he always seems to be in the right position on offense, and when he does get the ball, he shows a ton of patience, which is something that's rare for a player of his age. Monroe doesn't confine himself to a single post move, but often a counter, or even a double-counter.

He's also got a pretty decent face-up game that often leads to him blowing past a slower defender, and is an underrated passer.

Again, a monster. Take a look at what he did to the Celtics last year:



All of this coming from the most difficult position to fill in basketball. It's what's got the Boston Celtics playing 2 guys under 6'9 at Center, and what had the Washington Wizards give up their first round pick for Marcin Gortat.

Placing him next to Jared Sullinger couldn't hurt his cause, either. Here's what I wrote on Thursday:

Sullinger, on the other hand seems to compliment Monroe perfectly. Sullinger's mid-long range game allows the proper spacing Monroe would need to operate in the post where he's outright brilliant. And I can't even begin to imagine what kind of sets Brad Stevens could cook up with two big men as talented at passing as Sullinger and Monroe.

Defensively, Sullinger's help defense could hide some of Monroe's lapses, while Monroe's height could prove to be fruitful for a Celtics team in desperate need of further rim protection.

I literally haven't been able to escape that thought for the past few days.

At the risk of sounding like a Nic Spark's novel, Sullinger and Monroe seemed destined to be together, and it'd be nothing short of an absolute treat to watch them operate together. Sullinger keeping defenders away from Monroe in the block, while allowing Monroe either a low post or base line target when he's facing up near the free throw line.

Again, Greg Monroe was a league leader in PER when paired with Jason Maxiell. Imagine what he could do with someone as versatile and intelligent as Jared Sullinger.

Picture this: Rajon Rondo playing pick and roll/pop with Jared Sullinger, with Greg Monroe on the opposite block keeping defenses honest, and Avery Bradley in the corner of the roll-side waiting for an open 3 look, or for his defender to fall asleep and make a beautiful cut. Mouth watering.

And if all this 'pairing him with Sullinger fixes all' talk is for not? Monroe stays what he is, and the Boston Celtics have a 15 point, 10 rebound center on your team for the next ten years.

If the Celtics were able to land Greg Monroe, what does their future look like? Well, here's a look into their hypothetical books:

Two things to note -

1. I've factored in Greg Monroe getting the same contract extension as Demarcus Cousins, and factored in Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley getting what I believe to be realistic extensions (Bradley receiving 8 million a year for 3 seasons, and Rondo 15 a year for 4)

2. I've highlighted the above hypothetical extensions in green


These numbers are important because they tell us two things:

1. The Celtics could afford to add Monroe and still stay under the luxury tax line. A number that Wyc & Camp probably aren't ready to go over at this point.

2. Signing Monroe would prevent the Celtics from being able to sign another top free agent, unless they were somehow able to move Gerald Wallace's contract.

But Gerald Wallace's contract might not necessarily be a bad thing either.

Let's take a look at the picks that are owed to the Celtics, courtesy of RealGM:


In addition to their own picks, there's the 3 heralded picks from the Nets, the pick from the Clippers in exchange for Doc Rivers, and what could turn out to be a very valuable chip in the right to swap picks with the Nets in 2017.

With Monroe, Sullinger, and Rondo already on the books - the Celtics have essentially filled the most difficult roster spots. Leaving them to either fill out the rest of their roster with 7 draft picks, and/or combining one or two of those picks with Gerald Wallace's 10 million dollar contract (which expires after the 15/16 season) to land another star. Again, all while staying under or around the luxury tax line.

Danny Ainge, you sly fox.

To state the obvious, it's not as if the above scenario isn't any less true if the Celtics weren't to acquire Monroe, but I think it's worth re-emphasizing my last point: Over the past 15 years the Center position has been increasingly difficult to fill.

Acquiring Monroe allows Danny Ainge to focus his efforts on finding the best player available for this team: If that leads us to another small forward, perfect. If for some reason an even better Center falls into our laps? Fine. There's plenty of other team's out there who'll be interested in Greg Monroe's services.

The point is that he's not forced to roll the dice year in and year out on a big man, hoping to stumble into finding this team another center. Something that he's really found himself doing since trading away Kendrick Perkins.

That challenging piece becomes locked in. With a 6 foot, 11 inch 23 year old, who has consistently hovered around 15 points and 10 rebounds a game. Read that again, again.


My conclusion?

The original trade I came up with for Monroe isn't enough. Green, Lee and Olynyk seem to be pretty good fits for a team that figures to look to move forward around a cast that features Drummond, Smith, and Brandon Jennings, but the Green would likely have to throw at least one of their first round picks to the Pistons to make it happen.

And that's a price the Boston Celtics should absolutely pay.



Follow Me On Twitter: @mattdotrich

Matt Richissin 12/09/2013 01:28:00 PM Edit
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