This NBA offseason has been chock-full of big splashes, from LeBron James going back to Cleveland to Chris Bosh spurning the Rockets to Chandler Parsons heading to Cubanville and many more as well. However, some of the most intriguing news has been the non-news for some free agents — namely Eric Bledsoe and Greg Monroe.
I realize both are restricted free agents so their current team can match any offer sheet they sign, but it is still weird to me that there is quite frankly no buzz regarding these two young players.
ESPN’s Marc Stein changed all of that on Wednesday when he issued a report that the Detroit Pistons and Portland Trail Blazers had been in serious talks of a sign-and-trade involving Greg Monroe.
“Sources said the Pistons also seriously discussed various sign-and-trade scenarios this month that would have landed restricted free agent Greg Monroe in Portland, but the Blazers ultimately pulled themselves out of the race for Monroe by signing free-agent big man Chris Kaman to join Robin Lopez in the Blazers’ center rotation.”
There had been previous rumblings of the Blazers’ interest in Monroe almost as soon as they were booted from the playoffs by the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs last month, but nothing this concrete.
The interesting piece that the report and Stein’s sources left out was what Portland would have sent back to Detroit in such a deal. One could pontificate and assume that Nicolas Batum would have been the valuable asset the Pistons would have wanted in return, and maybe that’s why Portland decided to go the route of Kaman instead.
If that was the case, then I applaud the front office in Portland. Batum has been the focus of much criticism ever since the Blazers matched the offer sheet he signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves on July 18, 2012. The criticism is not due to Batum’s poor play but mostly due to the high salary he has been receiving as a third option — and sometimes fourth — which strapped the Blazers’ future cap space as well. Batum is heading into the third of four years on this deal and will make roughly $24 million over the next two seasons.
If you are one that is on the other side of this argument and think that Batum for Monroe would be a good move for the Blazers, then my first response would be, “Umm, what?!” There would be a massive hole to fill at the small forward position for Portland and it’s not like there’s a small forward incumbent sitting on their bench.
Even worse, the Pistons don’t have a small forward to send back in the deal to even remotely fill that need, and with LaMarcus Aldridge and Robin Lopez already on the roster Monroe would create the same issue the Pistons had last year — three starters for two spots.
Your answer might be to replace Lopez with Monroe as the starting center and then still have Lopez (who has shown to be decent off the bench in the past) off the bench, but I would disagree there as well. Let’s compare their 2013/14 seasons:
Sure Monroe scored more points but he was much less efficient than Lopez both from the field and from the free throw line as well. The Blazers don’t really need more scoring, however Monroe’s presence on the block would be a nice change of pace from the mid-range game of Aldridge and the gunners on the wings in Lillard, Matthews and Batum.
Would he create even better spacing for those snipers? It’s possible, but at what price? Robin Lopez is slated to make approximately $6.1 million next season, is still only 25 years old, and was better than the 23-year-old Monroe in almost every aspect of the game last season.
The other downside to adding Monroe is he would certainly command nearly double (if not more) than what Lopez makes and although Lopez will be in the last year of his contract this upcoming season, that added salary is not something that the Blazers need with Lillard’s impending max deal to come.
While I think Greg Monroe is a very solid piece for any team moving forward, the Blazers’ front office made the right decision here by holding firm with their core from last season and choosing to add some savvy veterans in Chris Kaman and Steve Blake instead.
Where Monroe ends up is beyond me, but I for one am thrilled to know that it will not be in Rip City.