Sacramento Kings: Omri Casspi Signing Grade

By Josh Morgan: VP and Director of Content At Hoopstuff…

Contract: 1 year, minimum

Since having the two best seasons of his career in his first two years in the league, Casspi has struggled to find any kind of footing. The Kings traded him to the Cavaliers and his production and playing time slipped each season, only playing in 43 games, mainly due to having his appendix removed, during the 2012-13 season. He would sign with Houston and would go on to play in 71 games, seeing a minor bounce back in production, but not what one would expect from a former first round pick. After getting traded to New Orleans in the deal involving Omer Asik, Casspi would be waived and has found his way back to Sacramento on a one year deal.

Apparently California’s capital is the perfect place for the Israeli native because anywhere else he has been the numbers haven’t been the same. With the Kings he shot 37 percent from behind the three point line, nearly 47 percent from inside the arc and put up a respectable 9.5 points per game on 8 shots, in 24.5 minutes. While his overall numbers per 36 minutes have essentially stayed the same once he was traded, those numbers mean very little. What matters is production on the floor and for Casspi it has been a rough time trying to maintain or improve on what he did during his first two seasons. His percentage from three hasn’t come close to what it was, 33 percent for three seasons, and his point production dropped as well, to just 6.5 points per game. Now that he has found his way back where he started, maybe this is what he needs to get his career back on track to at least being that reliable bench shooter, and the Kings sure could use his shooting ability. They drafted Nik Stauskus in the hopes of improving upon last season’s 33 percent shooting from behind the arc, good for 27th in the league, and the 17th ranked scoring offense in the league; the signing of Casspi could also improve those numbers even in the limited role he will most likely see backing up Rudy Gay. Casspi is also a capable defender on the perimeter, something the Kings could also utilize ranking 29th in opponent’s three point percentage and 24th in points allowed per game.

There isn’t a huge risk in signing Casspi and with the offense likely going through DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay; reliable shooters will be a priority to space the floor and be ready to shoot when they get stopped. If he can find the form he had those first two seasons of his career he should be a decent bench piece for the Kings. While the reward isn’t huge either, it’s hard to argue with the front office bringing in a player they are familiar with on a minimum contract. The grade may seem relatively high because of his limited production the previous few seasons but he can provide skills they lacked last season and fills a need on their bench.

Grade: B

Los Angeles Lakers: Byron Scott Signing Grade

By Mike Elworth: Owner and Publisher/Hoopstuff…

There really is no problem with this hiring, as Scott is a strong veteran coach who should be a nice fit for them, however there are 2 problems; 1, why wait for weeks to hire a coach, when it was assumed that he was the favorite and 2, can he win the Lakers a title? I will answer each of these questions.

As for the 1st point, they spent all that time waiting to hire Scott, but again we all thought this would happen, so what were they thinking? I believe that they had plans for an intriguing hire, like the Cavaliers and David Blatt, someone who they were keeping secret so no team would consider signing him 1st, whether it be an excellent college coach or even a legend like Jerry Sloan or George Karl. Them waiting to me says they had different candidates in mind and that Scott wasn’t their 1st choice. Also by waiting, they could have lost him.

If Scott was their guy, their was little reason to wait, however can he help them win? With this roster, they likely aren’t making the playoffs, so for now it really isn’t an issue and as they realize they aren’t winning, could Scott just be a stopgap, while they wait for a bigger name? Yes there are a lot of questions in this scenario, but I refuse to believe that he was their 1st option. No, I try to avoid conspiracy theories, but something about this was fishy.

As for him as a coach, with the Nets he won the East twice, he guided the Hornets (Pelicans) to some excellent seasons and although his tenure with the no-LeBron James Cavaliers was a mess, that cannot be blamed on him.

He is a strong head coach who is better than what they had this season, can help get their odd assortment of talent to fit together and could help them get close to the playoffs, so I like this signing. The Lakers have no playoff roster, but they have the talent and have brought the coach to be a near .500 NBA team. He isn’t the big coaching hire I had in mind, but there aren’t 20 NBA coaches I would say are better. I have little clue what the Lakers are planning, but at least they have a veteran, wining coach to lead this roster.

Grade: B

Phoenix Suns: What Should Be Their Starting 5?

By Troy Tauscher: Staff Writer At Hoopstuff…

A season removed from a surprisingly successful season , the Phoenix Suns are looking to get into the playoffs with their recent roster additions. The additions of Isaiah Thomas, Anthony Tolliver, and rookie T.J. Warren should help that objective, but a question remains: Who should be in the starting 5 for Phoenix?

PG: Eric Bledsoe

- Despite the fact that he isn’t currently under contract, it’s pretty much settled that Bledsoe will eventually return to Phoenix. The dynamic guard is going into his second year in the starting spot, and hopefully this one will not be cut short by injury. In the two PG system that Phoenix runs, Eric Bledsoe is marked as the starting point guard here because he should be the primary ball handler. The reason for this is that Bledsoe showed a lack of comfort working off-ball, which hindered the success of the backcourt tandem in Phoenix. If Bledsoe can stay healthy, he can have an excellent season for the Suns.

SG: Goran Dragic

- The second member of the dynamic duo, Goran Dragic is arguably one of the top 25 players in the league at his best. His ability to score at any range, his passing ability and his leadership are invaluable assets to this young Suns squad. He can carry the team through a game almost on his own when needed, and despite a rumor or two popping up, it’s unlikely he will be anything but the number one guy in Phoenix this season.

SF: P.J. Tucker

- It’s possible this spot could fall to Gerald Green or perhaps even TJ Warren. However, Tucker’s defensive skills give him an edge. The Suns need someone to lock down opposing stars on a nightly basis, and Tucker is that man, as he has proven for the last two seasons. Tucker is also an astute rebounder for his size. The Suns need rebounding, defense, and a passion to win and P.J. Tucker provides all three to the starting 5.

PF: Markieff Morris

- With no clear competition unless the Suns make a trade or free agent deal, Markieff Morris will be the starting power forward in the desert. He has certainly worked hard to earn the position. Last year, Keef provided a valuable contribution off the bench, showing much more consistency than he had in his first two seasons. His rebounding and interior scoring will be valuable assets, and he also is a fairly good 3 point shooter. Being under a head coach who has shown a knack for developing young players will be excellent for him as his role in Phoenix grows.

C: Miles Plumlee

- It’s Plumlee vs. Len, and being tossed suddenly into a starting spot last season yet still performing we’ll gives Plumlee the edge. After only playing 55 minutes as a rookie with Indiana, Plumlee became the anchor of the Suns defense and one of the league’s best rebounders this season. He has some inconsistency when it comes to scoring, but the Suns have plenty of scorers available. Plumlee is still young and now that he knows the ins and outs of being a starter at the pro level, he should be an even better big for the Suns this coming year.

Bench: With a bench that features Isaiah Thomas, Gerald Green, Marcus Morris, T.J. Warren and Tyler Ennis, the Suns have enough depth to match or exceed their success next season. They have guys that can provide as much offense needed to get wins, and they still have cap room that allows them to sign free agents. With offensively skilled players working in an up tempo style, the Suns will be rising next season.

Cleveland Cavaliers: What Should Be Their Starting 5?

By Mike Elworth: Owner and Publisher/Hoopstuff…

The Cavaliers have resigned Kyrie Irving and signed LeBron James, but these 5 are assuming that the Cavaliers make the Kevin Love trade and gain Kevin Love and Kevin Martin.If you disagree deal with it (joking). If you look at this potential starting 5, they would have to be the favorites to win the East.

* In the Kevin Love trade I see It being a 3 team trade and that Andrew Wiggins, 1 of Anthony Bennett and Tristan Thompson are traded and maybe Dion Waiters too.

PG: Kyrie Irving

- LeBron James should help Kyrie Irving far more than people are discussing. Irving is one of the best scorers in the NBA, but is a poor point guard and with LeBron handling at least half of the ball handling for the team, Irving can focus on scoring and should average 20+ points per game this season and will have about 5 assists per game as well. In this scenario, he is the 3rd offensive option, but is too talented and hungry to let LeBron and Love be the only ones carrying the offensive load.

SG: Kevin Martin

- Martin is an elite 3rd or in this case 4th option offensively and will score 15-17 points per game with excellent shooting. He wont help on defense, but next to LeBron James you need as many shooters and scorers as you can find and he will help them there.

SF: LeBron James

- Best player in the NBA, yadda yadda yadda, he will average close to 25 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists per game while playing elite defense and being the team’s leader.

PF: Kevin Love

- The best big man in the NBA would give them 20+ points, 12+ rebounds and 3+ assists per game, giving them the best big 3 in the NBA. LeBron-Kyrie-Love just isn’t fair for the rest of the NBA.

C: Anderson Varejao

- If they were to trade Tristan Thompson and with them trading Tyler Zeller, Varejao becomes valuable again as he is really the only player that can play center on the roster. Varejao is still a very capable scorer and an excellent defender and rebounder and if healthy, will be vital to their defense. Love-Varejao would be the rebounding big duo in the league.

Bench: Their bench is way too hard to analyze as there will be a lot of movement and they have a lot of non guaranteed contracts. Today the only players that I can say will be there are Mike Miller and Joe Harris, 2 elite shooters.

Chicago Bulls: What Should Be Their Starting 5?

By Mike Elworth: Owner and Publisher/Hoopstuff…

The Bulls are the rare NBA contender that will have 2 different starters this season, technically 3 if you include Derrick Rose’s return, but after their excellent offseason adding multiple big pieces their starting 5 and bench will be much better next season.

PG: Derrick Rose

- Rose will start the season as the starter, but the big test is if he will still be playing when the playoffs start. He is the best player on this team and one of the 5 best players in the NBA when he’s healthy and even at 80 percent he will be an All Star and the Bulls will be contenders. If he plays 70+ games, averages 20 or more points and 7 or more assists and is still playing in the playoffs, then this season will be a win for him.

SG: Jimmy Butler

- Butler will start at one of the 2 perimeter spots unless the Bulls make the Love trade and he is included. He is their best perimeter defender and has gotten better on offense too, but has to be more efficient. He is by a wide margin their best perimeter player, will guard the LeBron James and Kevin Durant’s of this league, will average close to 14 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists per game and although he isn’t an All Star, he is one of the best role players in the NBA.

SF: Doug McDermott

- Unless the Bulls add someone better, McDermott should be the starting small forward on the Bulls. His 4 incredible seasons in college and his excellent play in the D-League says he is ready for the NBA. He is a premier shooter and scorer, who should be their leading perimeter scorer if given minutes. If Rose and Noah are healthy, they are contenders, but McDermott’s scoring and shooting are perfect with Rose and along with Gasol will help take the burden of scoring off of Rose and he has a chance to be the 3rd leading scorer on this team. There is a chance that Dunleavy gets the starting spot at least for a bit, but McDermott is ready for a big role and better than him.

PF: Pau Gasol

- As a Bulls fan I was pulling for Gasol and love that he is now a Bull. The only player I coveted more was Love. Regardless, Gasol will be the 2nd option on offense next to Derrick Rose and is like Carlos Boozer, just competent. Small joke, but we can expect 17 points and 10 rebounds from him and solid defense and with his ability to play center, his versatility helps, as this means more playing time for Taj Gibson. Although the Bulls have Mirotic, I see no reason why any big man should take a single minute from Gasol-Noah-Gibson.

C: Joakim Noah

- Noah is Chicago’s leader and embodies what the Bulls are about, hustle, defense and effort. He is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, an elite rebounder and on offense he has developed a set of moves to become a solid scoring option and he’s also the best distributing big man in the NBA. There really isn’t anything Noah cant bring to the Bulls, he is the NBA’s most unique player and it’s best center.

Bench: The Bulls have a far better and deeper bench this season. Taj Gibson-Kirk Hinrich-Mike Dunleavy Jr. will likely play the most, but with Nikola Mirotic-Aaron Brooks-Tony Snell they have a lot of players who can produce. They have no weaknesses on this roster as they have a player to fill all needs, which is why the Chicago Bulls can win a title next season.

Brooklyn Nets: Bojan Bogdanovic Signing Grade

By Josh Morgan: VP and Director of Content @ Hoopstuff…

Contract: 3 years, 10 million

After being selected 31st overall in 2011 by the Heat and having his rights traded to the Nets, Bojan Bogdanovic has played the past three seasons in the Adriatic League with Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul of Turkey. Now he is finally making the trek overseas to play this season in Brooklyn and thanks to the departure of Paul Pierce after just one year with the Nets, it couldn’t have come at a better time. It is no guarantee but if Bogdanovic is given the playing time he could help take up some of the offensive slack with Pierce gone and makes for a potentially good combination along with Andrei Kirilenko at the small forward for head coach Lionel Hollins.

We all know what Kirilenko provides at this point in his career. He was once a defensive dynamo that would fill up the stat sheet with block, steals and rebounds while putting up 10-15 points per game as well; essentially a fantasy players’ dream. Now he has slowed down on the stat side of things but Kirilenko is still a good defender and should play a large role with a defensive minded coach such as Hollins. When it comes to scoring however, Kirilenko isn’t much at all to be concerned about in the minds of opposing coaches, averaging just five points per game last season on fewer than four attempts.

Along with Mirza Teletovic, Bogdanovic has the talent to be the opposite side of the small forward coin. He is a versatile scorer, with range from the NBA three point line and a quick first step to get past his defender on the drive to either get to the rim and finish or pull up for a mid range jumper, which he is very confident in taking and making. He isn’t a chucker when it comes to shooting either, with very efficient numbers during his six year professional career at 52.4 percent from inside the arc, 55.4 last season. His three point percentage took a bit of a dive, at 29.8 percent, but I believe this to be a bit of an aberration as he had never shot below 30 percent the past five years and the previous two seasons was at 41 percent. Other than scoring it doesn’t appear as if Bogdanovic will produce much, averaging just 2.5 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game, but when you are the 21st ranked scoring team in the league it’s hard to argue with bringing in more offensive punch.

His deal is along the same as fellow European Nikola Mirotic, who has been much more heralded, but with this the apparent going rate for players in his situation it’s again hard to argue with. I like the signing as it gives an offensively deficient team a threat from all over the floor and spaces the floor for their two biggest threats Deron Williams and Brook Lopez. Bogdanovic will still need to put that talent to use on the floor but the potential is obvious and with the aforementioned loss of Paul Pierce they needed this type of addition. The grade will be a little lower because of the relative uncertainty around his actual production but it is a good move finally bringing him over stateside.

Grade: B+

 

Milwaukee Bucks: What Should Be Their Starting 5?

By Mike Elworth: Owner and Publisher/Hoopstuff…

The Milwaukee Bucks have found themselves a franchise player in rookie Jabari Parker, have added 2 point guards and have an excellent collection of young talent, but what should be their starting 5 next season?

PG: Kendall Marshall

- Kendall Marshall is one of the best pure floor generals in the NBA. He isn’t an elite point guard, but he is an elite distributor, one of the very best in the NBA. He was 3rd in the NBA in assists this season with the Lakers and proved that he can run an offense very well. With so much young talent on this roster they need someone to give them the ball and Marshall is the perfect choice. He is no franchise point guard, but he is an excellent starter until they find themselves a franchise point guard. This move would allow Knight to become their starting shooting guard.

SG: Brandon Knight

- Speaking of Knight he was their best scorer this season, but in 3 seasons as a starting point guard has shown little improvement as a distributor. He is an excellent scorer though and playing off the ball would allow him to focus on just that, scoring. Maybe he would be best as a sixth man, but he has the talent to be a very strong starting shooting guard. Being a 2nd scorer next to Parker, he could thrive in a secondary scoring role.

SF: Giannis Antetokounmpo

- By drafting Parker, you would think that he would start at small forward, but they have said they will have him at power forward and its hard to blame them as Antetokounmpo is their 2nd best talent and seeing if they can work together is vital. Antetokounmpo is still only 19 and his rookie season was solid. He can score and shoot, but he has to be more efficient, however he looks to be a talented distributor. He also showed that he has big defensive potential and with his length he could be elite and with about a steal and block in just 24 minutes per game, that is excellent. Per 36 minutes he produced 10 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.1 steal and 1.2 blocks and even though those numbers are solid, he still has so much potential and those numbers could become 15 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks next season.

PF: Jabari Parker

- Parker is their new franchise player and although his best role may be as a small forward, he is so big and talented, he can play a Carmelo Anthony like power forward role and thrive. He won’t be playing in the paint, but with his scoring versatility he will be very difficult for power forwards to defend. He can shoot, he can score from anywhere and he can rebound and in that Anthony role, who he is most compared to, he could average 20 points and 8 rebounds per game as a rookie. He will also play a lot on the perimeter, so he can play in any 5 man unit. They have to build their offense through Parker and he is so talented that there is no doubting that he will thrive as a small ball 4.

C: Larry Sanders (?)

- The question mark is about Sanders’ immaturity issues, but if he behaves, he should be their starting center, as he is an elite defensive talent. Two seasons ago, the season that earned him his 44 million dollar contract, he averaged 9.8 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game in just 27.3 minutes and per 36 minutes averaged 12.9 points, 12.4 rebounds and 3.7 shots blocked. Even though he had his personal problems this season, he still averaged 11 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.5 rebounds per game per 36 minutes, so he played well. They are going to be a poor defensive team, but he is an excellent defensive player who can carry their defense and with the money invested in him and him being by far their best big man, him starting would be incredible for them because it would mean he has matured and earned his spot as the starter and could earn that 44 million dollar contract.

Bench: They actually also have a very talented bench, although there are a lot of veterans making too much money. Regardless, O.J. Mayo, John Henson, Damien Inglis, Ersan Ilyasova, Jerryd Bayless, Nate Wolters and Zaza Pachulia is strong.

Dallas Mavericks: Jameer Nelson Contract Grade

By Mike Elworth: Owner and Publisher/Hoopstuff…

Contract: 2 seasons, 5.5 million (there’s a player option)

The Mavericks just keep adding talent. The Mavericks may have Raymond Felton, Devin Harris and Gal Mekel at point guard, but they have wisely signed Jameer Nelson, who is actually the best of the group. Felton is lucky he isn’t going to prison, Harris is best as an elite sixth man and Makel hasn’t proven himself in the NBA, so Nelson should be the starter, although that’s just a maybe next season.

Regardless of whether he starts, Nelson is the best point guard on their roster and he just averaged 12 points and 7 assists per game. The Mavericks need a pure distributor as their starter, as they have Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis and Chandler Parsons, 3 excellent scorers in their starting 5 and need someone to run their offense and give their scores the ball. Nelson has started for a number of contending teams as the 2nd star next to Dwight Howard and is just 32, so there is little reason to think that if given similar playing time he cannot replicate his 12-7 numbers or produce even more. He isn’t perfect, as his shooting percentage is too low, but he is a very strong 3 point shooter and for a starting point guard rarely gives the ball away. He also isn’t much of a defender, however he is just a tough, effective and productive veteran with excellent leadership skills. It is really telling that he just had arguably his poorest season in the NBA, yet I would still pick him to start for the Mavericks. He is easily the best point guard on the roster

Nelson starting or playing off the bench isn’t really a big deal, although it is best for the team, what matters for them is that they signed a solid starting point guard on a championship contender for less than 3 million per season. An incredible value for the Mavericks.

 

Grade: A+

Minnesota Timberwolves: Robbie Hummel Resigning Grade

By Mike Elworth: Owner and Publisher/Hoopstuff…

Contract: 1 season, minimum

As a fan of Hummel I love that he is still in the NBA. He said no to the NBA on multiple occasions in college to stay at Purdue, yet tore his knee and there was a strong chance that he wouldn’t be able to make it to where he is today. However he was drafted and played well enough to earn a 2nd season and another contract from the Timberwolves.

The Timberwolves may have about 26 perimeter players already on their roster, but they are a roster with a lot of question marks as their franchise player Kevin love is about to be traded, so they are continuing to just add young talent and as they are about to be a team that is rebuilding that is a smart idea.

As for how he produces, it is difficult to really say, as he only played 655 minutes in 53 games, so I will go to the per 36 minute stats, as it is the best way to see how a player in limited minutes produces. Per 36 minutes he averaged 9.9 and 7.3 rebounds per game and even though he only shot 37.9 percent from the field which has to get better by at least 4 percent, he shot a very respectable 36 percent from 3. Because of his shooting, rebounding and how hard he works, he proved that he can be a rotation player in the NBA.

For the minimum this is an excellent value signing, but with Kevin Martin, Corey Brewer, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Chase Budinger and Shabazz Muhammad on the wing, even though one or more of these players could be apart of the Kevin Love trade, they have more than enough perimeter players so playing time isn’t a given. Regardless, it is a nice move for Minnesota.

Grade: A-

Detroit Pistons: What’s Greg Monroe’s Value?

By Jennifer Fazioli: Lead Writer/Hoopstuff…

It’s now more than three weeks since the start of free agency and most of the top end players on the market have been signed. Yet one of the Detroit Pistons’ valuable big man, Greg Monroe, remains in limbo – not actively shopping himself to other teams or entertaining meetings with them, but also not in serious discussions with the Pistons about a new contract. Along with the Phoenix Suns’ Eric Bledsoe, Monroe is the highest value player still remaining on the (restricted) open market. Both are facing what appears to be a dried up market for their services, with many teams unwilling to be tied up for three days on an offer sheet it is assumed will be matched by their incumbent teams anyway. While Bledsoe believes – and is probably correct – that the Suns lowballed him with their offer of four years/$48 million and is currently waiting on the Suns to raise their offer to a more appropriate level, Monroe has never been formerly offered any kind of deal by the Pistons. There were vague reports back in early July that the two sides were discussing a five year/$60 million deal similar to the one Marcin Gortat had just received from the Washington Wizards – a very solid offer and one that Monroe would have been wise to snatch up – but it appears that nothing ever came of those talks. And so Monroe waits and as he does the debate continues on what his value actually is.

While Monroe has been largely silent his agent, David Falk, has said that they believe Monroe to be worth a max contract and are actively seeking such a deal which at this time would be in the neighborhood of four years/$63 million. This would be equivalent to the extension that Sacramento Kings’ star big man Demarcus Cousins just signed. While Monroe is a talented young big man that money is more in line with what frontcourt mate Andre Drummond will command should he ever hit the open market and represents the more apt comparison for Cousins. At 6’11” 250 pounds Monroe actually functions much more like a center in today’s NBA in some respects than he does as a true power forward. While he is a clear offensive weapon in the low post with the ability to attack from anywhere off the elbow, Monroe doesn’t even come close to resembling the stretch four that has been so highly valued in recent years by the majority of teams. He demonstrates no ability to space the floor or hit a reliable jump shot. In fact over 50 percent of his shots came within three feet of the basket last season, with only 16 percent of his attempts being released from beyond 10 feet, where he shoots just 30 percent. Monroe’s defense is relatively subpar – his defensive real plus minus (DRPM) ranked just 36th among all power forwards – and he can’t adequately protect the rim; a key trait in any sought after big man. In fact opposing power forwards registered a player efficiency rating well above the league average (21.2) when facing him.

 

Monroe’s own player efficiency rating, a statistic which trends more towards the offensive side of the game – Monroe’s supposed strength – was just 23rd among power forwards (18.16) and his true shooting percentage, an underwhelming 53.1 was 45th among all other qualifying fours. Not good numbers to be sure. However Monroe did just complete his third straight season averaging 15 points and nine rebounds per game, a feat that places him in the company of Dwight Howard, Cousins, David Lee, Kevin Love, and Al Jefferson as the only other active players to do so. The problem is with such a limited skill set and absent the versatility to serve as a team’s primary offensive weapon then Monroe cannot realistically be viewed as a max player and for Falk to keep insisting he is just further limits the market for Monroe.

 

The biggest issue that has led to Monroe’s stalled growth is not even under his control. Last offseason former Pistons’ GM Joe Dumars made the decision to forgo signing Monroe to a lucrative contract extension when he first became eligible for one, instead electing to sign Josh Smith to an overpriced deal. That choice – one that might have effectively brought about his “resignation” at the conclusion of the season – created a logjam at power forward that led to some odd offensive game plans by former head coach Maurice Cheeks who really had no clue how to best play two power forwards together. A frontcourt of Smith, Monroe, and Drummond became a spacing nightmare and one that failed to move the ball efficiently or create high percentage shots for the rest of the team. It is not too far off to believe that Monroe’s potential and effectiveness are being stifled by the presence of Smith who was forced into the small forward role which all but encouraged him to jack up an impossibly bad rate of inefficient shots, a tendency he had even when playing his normal position. Meanwhile Monroe’s usage rate (20.6) remained low even though his sweet spot – shots right around the basket – offers the highest percentage made shots on the court. Between Smith and point guard Brandon Jennings’ dual ball domination Monroe’s gift as a capable passer (he had an assist percentage of 18.6 in 2012-13; a rate rarely seen among big men) barely showed up in his game last season.

The Sacramento Kings have long been interested in trading for Smith (it’s really not possible to discern any kind of sense from the Kings’ long term plan or if they even have one at this point) which would only be to the benefit of Monroe. However that may be what is causing some of the holdup with getting a deal done with Monroe. Detroit is not sure what to do about Monroe until they have the Smith ‘problem’ resolved. New president and Coach Stan Van Gundy is well aware that the pairing of Smith and Monroe did not work last year. Still it is hard to get a feel for Van Gundy’s true feelings on Monroe as he has alternately claimed that Detroit has no intention of trading Monroe, only to state in the next breath that they “either want him back or we want good value for him.” That statement doesn’t exactly sound like that of a team overly committed to a player. And even though Monroe has never publicly complained about playing alongside Smith, tying himself to Smith for at least another three years may have been why he was hesitant to sign the 5 year/$60 million offering that may or may not have been on the table.

 

Recent reports have the Phoenix Suns entering the mix for Monroe recently. The Suns do have money to spend.  In fact when the initial interest was reported the Suns had $15.2 million in available cap space, enough to extend a max offer sheet to Monroe. That was before they signed Anthony Tolliver to fill some of the void created when Channing Frye left for Orlando. Some even theorized that they would attempt to sign both Monroe and Bledsoe. If they did so they would lose long term cap flexibility – retaining such flexibility is very much a top priority of young GM Ryan McDonough and thus would not fit with their team building model. In any event Monroe doesn’t fit in with the Suns’ current roster and head coach Jeff Hornacek’s up tempo offensive philosophy. Monroe is not an efficient pick-and-roll screener and he can’t open driving lanes for aggressive point guards who can get to the basket at will – of whom the Suns now have three. Just as he can’t set screens on the offensive end, Monroe also hasn’t been very successful in containing the pick and roll on the defensive side of the ball. At times he almost appears as if he’s anchored to the ground and just is not very mobile. The Suns may need another true starting big man but Miles Plumlee was solid for them last year and comes at a greatly discounted rate in comparison to what Monroe is seeking and second year player Alex Len may finally be healthy and ready to contribute at a higher level. Waiting on the development of both of these young players seems to be a more sound decision than bringing in another team’s still developing player at a much more expensive price. If the Suns bow out it is growing increasingly clear that Monroe will remain with the Pistons at least through December.

In Greg Monroe the Pistons have a still developing big man with a solid offensive game in the low post, the willingness and energy to crash the boards at a high rate, and a skillful passer. Conversely they also have a player that has trouble protecting the rim, is limited to a small area of the court from which he can effectively shoot, is subpar in several defensive areas, and cannot space the floor for 3-point shooters. After just four seasons in the NBA and at only 24 years of age his game still has room to grow and the potential is there. But it’s not going to show itself on this particular roster which is why if nothing materializes on the open market soon Monroe would be better off signing his $5.5 million qualifying offer and trying his hand at unrestricted free agency next summer…..while hoping that the Kings really are dumb enough to take on the remaining three years of Josh Smith’s deal. This is asking Monroe to leave an awful lot of money on the table and may be the reason it probably won’t happen. But as the days until the start of training camp get shorter in number Monroe’s other options do as well.