Greg Monroe could get off to a slow start offensively this season. The entire Detroit Pistons team could, for that matter. They have a revamped roster with plenty of new faces, many of whom will be playing a different position than they are used to. It’s going to take time for this version of the Pistons to get used to playing with one another.
Monroe could be one of the early victims of this experiment as he has spent the majority of his NBA career learning to play center. While he played a handful of minutes at power forward last season, Andre Drummond’s emergence and likely increase in playing time means Monroe will probably be playing at the four more often than not. On the surface, a move from center to power forward may not seem like that big of a deal, but there are reasons why we have categorized five separate positions in the NBA, especially since the advent of the “stretch four.”
One of Monroe’s greatest strengths through his first three seasons was his speed. The man commonly known as “Moose” has an exceptional first step for a man his size. On offensive possessions, Monroe would often receive the ball near the elbow and use his quickness to get by opposing centers to draw a foul or get a good look at a layup.
Monroe’s most frequent partner in the front court last season was the smaller, more athletic Jason Maxiell. This presented somewhat of a mismatch for Monroe as he would typically be defended by the opponent’s largest player on the floor, often a bigger, slower center he could easily maneuver around. Because he doesn’t possess a great jump shot, this was vital to the success of his offensive production. Because of this, perhaps Lawrence Frank was afraid he would severely marginalize Monroe by playing Drummond alongside him more often last season.
Putting Monroe and Drummond on the floor together means Monroe will no longer be facing slower players he can take advantage of. Frequently he will be matched up against faster, more athletic players who could have a size handicap against him. Simply put, Monroe will need to learn to use his size to his advantage rather than his speed. This could be a substantial adjustment to have to make, especially since he has probably been conditioned to do the exact opposite after being manhandled regularly while attempting to defend larger centers.
On the flip side, this could present a great opportunity for Monroe on the defensive side of the ball. Guarding smaller players and sharing floor time with block factories — Andre Drummond and Josh Smith — should help his defensive efficiency. (I stress the word should in that last sentence. Simply saying Monroe needs improvement on the defensive end would be an understatement.)
Making room for another young big, as well as an almost entirely new starting five, on Detroit’s roster is going to take some adjusting. Monroe will need time to learn how to use his talents differently than he has been used to so far in his NBA career, which probably means a greater emphasis on his passing skills. With such changes, Monroe could see an early regression in his production. Be patient though, Pistons fans; the first 20 to 30 games will be a sort of “testing phase” in Motown, and Monroe is one of the smarter players in the league. He should have things figured out sooner rather than later.