Enjoy him while you can, Detroit Pistons fans, because Greg Monroe is probably going to be traded.
Unless things go incredibly poorly with Josh Smith or Andre Drummond this season, there probably isn’t room in the big picture for Monroe. This doesn’t mean he is a bad player, but it does mean that he will be worth more than the Pistons will probably be willing to give him this offseason. If the Pistons aren’t willing to give Monroe a max contract, their best option is probably to deal him before this year’s trade deadline.
Monroe will be a restricted free agent next summer, and his agent David Falk has indicated that he will be seeking a max contract for his client. After the deal DeMarcus Cousins just pulled from the Sacramento Kings, Falk would be a bad agent if he didn’t pursue a max contract for Monroe.
Cousins and Monroe have been tied to one another throughout their NBA careers thus far. They both have plenty of talent, play the same position, were drafted in the same year and appear to be polar opposites, so it is only natural that they are constantly being compared against one another.
Whether it is fair or not, they set the standard for each other. So Cousins’ four-year, $60 million max contract deal from the Kings has set the market for Monroe.
Prior to this summer’s draft, Joe Dumars indicated that Andre Drummond was the lone untouchable on his roster. However, league sources also said that the Pistons received lots of interest about the availability of Monroe, and every caller was met with a crystal clear “no” as the answer.
Since then, Josh Smith and his $14 million per year contract have entered the equation. So has Brandon Jennings. So has Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. What was once a team lacking talent and athleticism, the Pistons suddenly became a quick, young, athletic team with a possible logjam in the frontcourt. Monroe’s playing style might not mix well with the rest of the Pistons’ new roster.
Additionally, Drummond appears to have become the top priority for the Pistons, and they will find themselves in this same situation with him in just a few short years. They probably won’t be able to have three max, or near max players in the front court without some serious depth elsewhere (unless they want to venture deep into the waters of the luxury tax).
If the Pistons don’t trade Monroe and won’t pay him the max amount, there will be several teams lining up to give him the deal that the Pistons aren’t willing to. That means the Pistons will either have to suck it up and pay him the max, work a sign-and-trade deal that they have no leverage in, or simply let him walk away.
However, if they trade him before the trade deadline, they should be able to get a worthwhile return on Monroe’s value and possibly even open up some cap space to spend on free agents next summer.
It’s not imminent that they trade Monroe. They could trade Josh Smith instead and achieve roughly the same type of savings. They could keep all of their bigs and eventually take a luxury tax hit. However, if they aren’t willing to pay Monroe max dollars, Dumars may have little choice if he wants to retain value from his current team.
I wouldn’t particularly love seeing Monroe get traded. He marks the beginning of the Pistons’ hopeful resurgence, and he has an inoffensive attitude that makes you want to cheer for him. However, if the best way for the Pistons to become a better team is by trading Monroe, then it’s hard to argue against it.