Greg Monroe has quietly become one of the top big men in the NBA. The fact that he plays for the Detroit Pistons, a team that has struggled for the last several years, can explain away his low profile. Many casual followers of the sport may not even know who Monroe is, but the decision makers for the 29 other NBA franchises are not casual followers. He has shown up on radars throughout the league, and the fact that he will carry the status of a restricted free agent makes that significant at this point.
If the Dallas Mavericks can only choose one position to upgrade this offseason, it unquestionably has to be the center position – the place Monroe calls home. Samuel Dalembert proved serviceable during the 2013-14 season as a starting center for the Mavericks, although there were some hiccups along the way in the form of sleeping through shoot-around and spans of time where he exhibited low energy on the floor. Some of the population of Mavericks nation seems to have a soft spot for Dalembert, and other portions of that group do not think he belongs in Dallas. Like him or not, there is no arguing that Dalembert would be a better option as a backup center than as a member of the starting lineup.
Monroe enters the nearing season of free agency with 2013-14 averages of 15.2 PPG and 9.3 RPG – both good numbers that pale in comparison with the intangibles he offers as an intimidating rim-protector. Opposing players have to think about the athletic Monroe every time they see an opening to the basket, and that goes a long way in this league.
Monroe might have some reported character issues, but Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle has a track record of bringing the absolute best out of the most unlikely players and his upside more than balances the scales against potential behavior problems. Translation: Offering Monroe a big contract might be a gamble, but he’s a gamble the Mavericks and most teams throughout the league have to consider.
The one major problem that could come up here is that the Pistons said earlier this year that they would match a max-level contract offer to Monroe, which means he may never actually become available. That statement did come out months ago, though, so maybe things have changed since then.
The verdict: The Mavericks need to do a little character investigation and, barring any major red flags, offer Monroe the biggest contract they reasonably can. After that, hope for the best.
Brian Ogle is a Dallas Mavericks writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @TheOgle.