Restricted free agent center, Greg Monroe, has yet to reach an agreement with the Detroit Pistons, despite lucrative offer sheets in Motor City. The Pistons offered him $60M over five years—he declined. They offered him a higher yearly rate of $54M over four years (the same deal that was given to teammate Josh Smith last year)—he declined. Monroe simply does not want to play in Detroit.
This is understandable. He is an elite center who, after four NBA seasons, has yet to experience a winning record. The Pistons are on their fifth coach since his rookie year, the roster is a train wreck, and he doesn’t even get to play his natural position now that Andre Drummond is anchoring the five. What incentive does Monroe have to stick around? If money won’t influence him, I doubt anything will change his mind.
Yet, as a restricted free agent, he has little say in the matter. He has but three options to consider:
- 1) Sign one of the offer sheets that the Pistons have proposed and stay in Detroit for multiple years with career stability.
- 2) Become the biggest name to ever sign his qualifying offer ($5.5M) after the expiration of his rookie contract and wait for more enticing offers as an unrestricted free agent next year.
- 3) Hope that the Pistons find an agreeable partner for a sign-and-trade.
The Pistons win options 1 & 2, but perhaps the Portland Trail Blazers could step in to make option 3 beneficial for all parties. The Trail Blazers discussed a sign-and-trade for Monroe as soon as free agency began, but were unable to push the envelope with a team hoping to retain one of its best players. However; the possibility could absolutely be revisited now that Monroe and the Pistons have reached an impasse.
Although the Trail Blazers have been “done” with free agency moves since signing Chris Kaman and Steve Blake, Trail Blazers General Manager, Neil Olshey, has stated that they will entertain further possibilities for improvement:
“Look, I think Terry [Stotts] and I are both really comfortable with where the roster is right now—it doesn’t mean that we’re not going to explore opportunities to upgrade other areas if they come up.”
The Trail Blazers are a difficult team to trade with because they possess predominantly “untouchables” and “undesirables”. Most of the starting five are off the table, but most of the bench guys are young with tiny contracts and limited experience. The Pistons would be fools to give up Monroe without fair compensation, so a bundle of scraps would not do the trick.
What the Pistons would gain from this deal:
Lopez is capable enough to be a starter in Portland, but would still be valuable as a low-cost bench weapon. He and Drummond are both elite offensive rebounders (both top-3 league wide in 2013-14) and would make an impressive tandem at center. Robinson, the meat of this trade, would help fill the void left by Monroe, and have an opportunity to reach his full potential rather quickly in the starting lineup, while Wright provides desperately needed floor spacing and veteran leadership off the bench.
What the Trail Blazers would gain from this deal:
Monroe is a big step up at the center position. There is no way around it. He is a better scorer than Lopez, a better passer than Lopez, and a better overall rebounder than Lopez. With demonstrative career averages of 14.0 points per game and 9.0 rebounds per game, Monroe could solidify Portland as a perennial contender. It also doesn’t hurt that he is the picture of health, having missed just three games in four years.
I am interested to see what happens if this sort of trade proposal comes to fruition. It is the best offer that the Pistons would receive for Monroe and makes sense not only on the court, but in the books. The Pistons have just nine players officially signed for this coming season and need to fill out. The contracts of Lopez, Robinson, and Wright combine for $12.2M in 2014-15; almost the exact amount that the Pistons initially offered Monroe. It’s a good fit.
On the Portland side, Monroe wouldn’t even have much bearing on their ability to re-sign LaMarcus Aldridge or Wesley Matthews next year. The Trail Blazers have built in so many team options in 2015-16 that they can slough off non-essentials in favor of retaining stars pretty handily. The salary cap is anticipated to climb again as well, making a high-priced, long-term contract for Monroe a distinct possibility.
As much as I would miss members of the Trail Blazers’ current crew, I would be alright with this arrangement for the coming season:
PG: D. Lillard | S. Blake
SG: W. Matthews | C. McCollum | W. Barton
SF: N. Batum | V. Claver | A. Crabbe
PF: L. Aldridge | J. Freeland
C: G. Monroe | C. Kaman | M. Leonard
There would be a small sacrifice of depth, but the experience of newly added Blake and Kaman combined with the continued growth of players like C.J. McCollum, Will Barton, and Joel Freeland is very reassuring. A trade like this could take the Trail Blazers to the next level while simultaneously appeasing the Pistons, who have had difficulty finding a team with the right pieces willing to offer Monroe big money.