This weekend Nakia Hogan of Nola.com posted a story about Greg Monroe‘s impending restricted free agency and as probably could have been expected the Pelicans are reportedly interested in trying to bring the New Orleans native back home to play the next few years of his career as a member of the New Orleans Pelicans.
While the Pelicans, with about $7 million in salary cap room, don’t appear to have enough cap space to sign Monroe, a source said the team has made some initial inquiries to the Pistons about the possibility of working out a sign-and-trade deal.
On the surface the move would make sense. The Pelicans would add another young piece to their core as Monroe is just 24 years old, would fill one of the two remaining holes on the roster as Monroe would slide in next to Anthony Davis at center and finally they would add a local hero into the fold, something that a fan base won’t ever complain about.
Look a bit deeper though and the fit becomes less clear, though the issues aren’t because Monroe is a bad player but more that he isn’t a good enough fit next to Anthony Davis for the money he will surely command. The Pelicans need a center that could help Davis protect the rim, help rebound the ball and stay out-of-the-way and space the floor for Davis to work out of pick-and-rolls and on dribble drives. In fact the Pelicans in all reality don’t need much offense at all from the center spot considering Davis, Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday should carry things on that end for New Orleans.
The biggest offensive problem with Monroe is where he likes to work, which is clearly down on the block as shown in his shot distribution chart below.
That distribution becomes a problem when compared with Anthony Davis’ shot distribution, especially considering that Davis is without a doubt the best player on the team and will be for years.
Davis has the ability to work from a multitude of place on the floor but to actually be able to do that there needs to be room for him to work. With Monroe on the floor that room shrinks as there is no worry from teams about Monroe stepping out to take a mid-range jumper. Monroe also is a heavy usage player which complicates things even more. This season he posted his lowest usage rate of the last three years but a lot of that was due to defenses letting Josh Smith throw up long twos and threes costing the other Pistons touches. The two years before this past season Monroe posted usage rates of 24.8 and 23.6, both numbers that would have fit into the top three on the Pelicans this year. What should worry the Pelicans the most is that this season, the one with the lowest usage rate since his rookie year, Monroe posted the second worst EFG and true shooting percentage of his career. If he comes to New Orleans he will surely see his touches drop a bit so that sign isn’t a great one, though part of it may be due to the poor spacing Josh Smith and Andre Drummond provided.
Monroe’s abilities in the pick-and-roll should also raise some questions for the Pelicans who had plays finish via pick-and-roll ball handler or roll-man 23.3 percent of the time last season via data from mysynergysports.com. Monroe meanwhile used 32.8 percent of his possessions as post-ups, something the Pelicans did as a team just 5.1 percent of the time last season. The few times Monroe finished as the pick-and-roll, roll-man (12.3 percent of his possessions, the third most used number) he did it just ok, averaging .91 points per possession and shooting 44 percent. With Jrue Holiday set to return it seems likely the Pelicans will potentially run over more pick-and-roll this season so adding a player who doesn’t play that often in those situations seems questionable.
The biggest question of all though is the defensive side of the ball where Monroe struggles fairly significantly. Monroe’s biggest problem is his lack of quickness which causes him to struggle in his rotations and especially in pick-and-roll coverage. Davis would help most of the issues, much like Andre Drummond did in Detroit, but the Pelicans should be finding ways to help take some of the workload off of Davis, not add someone else for him to cover for.
All of this doesn’t mean the Pelicans should completely stay away from Monroe. He is talented and at a certain point you need to take chances on talented players if you want to compete for a title. Monroe is a good rebounder that would help with the team’s issues when Davis sits and the idea that much of his struggles this year were due to the chaos in Detroit is entirely possible. What it does mean though is that there are way too many red flags to give Monroe a max contract if the rumors of that is what he wants are correct. For a team without assets as is, tying up a ton of money in a player that would potentially be the third best player on the team depending on the growth of Jrue Holiday seems like a bad idea. If Monroe is serious about coming home and being in a position to win and the Pistons are ready to move on though and a deal that would pay Monroe about 10-12 million dollars a year can be made it makes complete sense. The Pelicans would then be able to test the fit for a bit and if things don’t work out have an actual movable asset to work with down the road.
At the very least this seems like a very important moment in the Pelicans future and one that should be very interesting to watch.