Greg Monroe could be the biggest sleeper free agent signing this year. His move could affect the NBA landscape for years to come, especially for lottery teams that hope to land or keep Monroe. Why is he so special? Well Monroe is only 23 and is already becoming a dominant big man. Last year, he averaged 16.7 points and 10.2 rebounds, appearing and starting in all 82 regular season games for Detroit. Monroe is what all teams want: a capable offensive big man that is young, healthy, and has room to improve further. Any team that acquires him will gain a valuable player that could be the central focus for the future of their organization.
As his home for Monroe’s short NBA career, Detroit is one of the more likely options. With Stan Van Gundy becoming the head coach, Detroit is moving in a new, better direction. However, they also may need to start over… again. Van Gundy inherited the J-Smoove spacing problem and the Smith/Jennings shooting issues and will have to work these out in order to allow Detroit to compete. Also, Monroe’s offense has not been as significant to Detroit’s play since Smith and Jennings joined as Monroe may like; he could leave and be a more central part of another team. Monroe has publicly stated his hope for multiple suitors as well as spoken about his communication with Van Gundy. Overall, he seems to be interested in moving, but definitely capable of staying in Motor City. The fact that he is a restricted free agent could come into play because the Pistons may not be able to afford to keep Monroe if he can find enough money elsewhere.
The Mavs have the cap space to sign Monroe, something the Pistons may not have the luxury to do. The Mavs are also in need of a capable big man, and Monroe could bring some youth to an older team. However, Dallas is in a win-now mode, and older and cheaper options (such as Zach Randolph) could be better for the team this upcoming season. I expect the Mavericks will at least talk with Monroe as he would be a great pairing along with Dirk and would add a bigger presence down low.
San Antonio Spurs
I feel like the Spurs are always discussed as a landing spot for every free agent, but for Monroe, this could be a legitimate possibility. The Spurs are known for their development of players, and with Duncan playing less and less, Monroe would be a star coming off the bench for them, potentially playing more than Duncan. In a few years, Monroe could take over as a key for the team’s future with Kawhi Leonard. This still seems like kind of a long shot however. It might require a significant drop in money or a sign and trade for players Pop and RC Buford may not want to give up. Still, if it would happen, it would be the ideal place for Monroe to develop and grow into a star role where he could be a key for a dynasty of the future.
This has been discussed in possible destinations for Monroe, but I just cannot see it happening at all with Beantown’s desire to get Love from Minnesota. If they don’t get Love, Boston could pursue Monroe and potentially do a sign-and-trade with Jeff Green – they need Monroe’s offense. Still, the chance of this happening are very low, and Monroe may not want to be the second choice.
Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers are trying to quickly rise back from the dead, and they could benefit from Monroe’s power forward play. With Pau Gasol likely leaving, the Lakers have a gaping hole at the big man positions, something they may not be able to fully address through the draft. Even if they get one big man with their seventh pick, another one would be critical to getting them out of the lottery and into the playoffs. Monroe’s offensive production fits perfectly with LA’s needs, and he could be a key piece in the revival of LA. This suitor has not been discussed much yet but is one of the most ideal places for Monroe to land in.
New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans have already been reported to be in talks with Detroit about a sign-and-trade for Monroe. Cap space issues will limit their ability to pursue him through free agency, but the Pelicans would love to pair offensively-capable Monroe with Anthony Davis, probably the best young big in the NBA. This could be championship material for the future and could bring a new dynasty to the Western Conference. However, most of this option depends on what’s in the trade. The Pelicans may not be able to offer what the Pistons need to get this done, and one can only shudder at the prospect of a Tyreke Evans, Brandon Jennings, Josh Smith combination in Detroit. This does have some potential as a legitimate landing place for Monroe as long as Detroit can realize that its better to get something for Monroe if he decides to leave.