According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, the Portland Trail Blazers have “serious interest” in conducting a sign-and-trade for Detroit Pistons forward/center Greg Monroe. If pursued, the deal would almost certainly involve Trail Blazers small forward Nicolas Batum based on need, salary, and structural mobility. By trading Monroe for Batum, the Pistons could slide Josh Smith into the vacant power forward position where he belongs, take in a talented wing to help Brandon Jennings facilitate the offense, and balance the books all in one go. By trading Batum for Monroe, the Trail Blazers could have the best offensive frontcourt in the league, and possibly clear some cap for retaining Aldridge next season in the process.
Yet, there is more to it than that. The trade would probably have to include C.J. McCollum or even Thomas Robinson, but as much as I want those guys to stick around, I am more curious about the fate of Robin Lopez. If the Trail Blazers do indeed pursue this endeavor, it won’t be to tag Monroe onto the end of the depth chart. Monroe would receive starter money and starter minutes (as he should). Since the Trail Blazers still have Lopez’s team option to consider, Lopez’s future could go one of two ways:
- 1) The Trail Blazers hold onto him for another season at the reasonable price of $5.3 million. He comes off the bench for up to 20 minutes a game as the best backup center in the league, but is likely gone for salary purposes as a free agent in 2015.
- 2) The Trail Blazers choose not to exercise his team option, allowing him to become a free agent immediately. They then sign someone like Spencer Hawes (with whom they have established a mutual interest) to fill the backup role at a lower price, or simply let Joel Freeland dive on that grenade.
While option one doesn’t sound half bad, both scenarios spell the end of Lopez’s tenure as a Trail Blazer. Monroe could very well be worth it, but, on paper, his arrival would bring about more questions than answers. How would the Trail Blazers replace Batum’s contributions? Who would play defense in the post? What is Robin Lopez—chopped liver? What are Freeland and Meyers Leonard—chopped… colon, maybe? There are too many pieces being pushed around for this to work out well, which makes me think that Neil Olshey has more complex trading in mind. If this deal advances to the point of gaining any real traction, don’t be surprised if it’s not the only one.
Right now, it’s little more than a whisper, but you can see how it lines up with the other whispers floating around. If, and that is a huge IF, the Trail Blazers are able to snag Vince Carter or Paul Pierce with the MLE, then this Monroe business makes a lot more sense. I don’t think I could argue with a starting lineup of Damian Lillard, Wesley Matthews, Carter, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Monroe, with Lopez coming off the bench. Still any pulled trigger could upset the Trail Blazers’ delicate balance and cost them the championship run they are hoping for. Then again, fortune favors the bold.