Greg Monroe is 28 years old. He is in the prime of his career. He is 6-11. He has NBA experience. But he could only wrestle a one year contract out of the Toronto Raptors, a paltry $2.2 million. Three years ago, a free agent Greg Monroe signed a max contract with the Milwaukee Bucks. Other teams wanted to sign him but he chose Milwaukee and not the Lakers and Knicks. Three years later, he has taken a $15 million pay cut because he had to, if he wanted to remain in the league. Greg Monroe is that cautionary tale of a man without a country. And now he is playing out of the country.
He was drafted by the Pistons and was a tag team partner with Andre Drummond. Drummond was inside and Monroe was the mid-post scorer. Drummond hid all of Monroe’s flaws. He lacked explosion and he couldn’t’ defend his position. He was worthless at the rim as a protector. The faster the game became, the slower he seemed. He was one of those players that seemed plucked out of a generation before and just didn’t fit. Once he left Drummond and signed with Milwaukee, Monroe’s flaws were exponentially exposed. Sure, on some nights he could get you 18 points and 9 rebounds. But it was how he got those points that counted. Playing with athletic Giannis Antetokounmpo and athletic Jabari Parker exposed just how plodding Monroe’s game was. Playing 33 minutes in his second season dwindled down to 15 minutes in his 8th season before Milwaukee traded him for draft picks.
The game has gotten faster and it has made players like Monroe expendable. He doesn’t stretch the floor. And he isn’t a shot blocker. In today’s NBA that translates into irrelevancy, regardless of Monroe’s size. He played 5 games for Milwaukee before they passed him to an awful Phoenix team. Phoenix waived him and he signed with the Celtics but got very little playoff time. Now he is in Toronto.
The Raptors don’t play particularly fast. Last season they were ranked 14th and that should help Monroe somewhat. He is the backup center but the second Toronto team with Pascal Siakam, Fred Van Vleet, C.J. Miles and Delon Wright is athletic. Monroe doesn’t exactly fit but all they are asking him to do is to grab rebounds and make the occasional shot.
All of this feels a little bit peculiar, how far things fall in the NBA. Everything is fluid. In Detroit, Monroe was applauded. Drummond was featured and Monroe wanted more of a stake in the offense. But three years later, the bitter truth is unavoidable. He was better served by staying in Detroit as the Drummond sidekick. It’s not that leaving Detroit made the Pistons better, it didn’t. But Monroe arriving in Milwaukee didn’t make them better either. Frankly, he barely matters.
Monroe has a limited skill set. He was ranked the 66th best center last season, better than only 13 centers. It is a Karl-Anthony Towns, Joel Embiid world. They can pop out and drain threes and are athletic enough to guard their position plus have leadership intangibles. Monroe can’t do either. He is slow. It’s tough to integrate his game anywhere. Often, he is a liability. He doesn’t do one thing extremely well. And he doesn’t lead.
He is a backup even though he doesn’t think so. Nerlens Noel was more coveted this off season despite the headache Noel is and his mediocrity. But Noels is athletic. Monroe can’t add that to a front court.
Greg Monroe was 6th in Rookie of the Year voting in 2011. He was on many teams radar, a big man lottery pick who produced. But awards in the first year have to be tempered with a wait and let the career play out patience. Over time, in different systems, Monroe couldn’t make an impact. His skills just don’ t line up.
He has all the makings of a NBA second tier center, someone coming off the bench. This year he has the opportunity to prove he can be impactful in that role and then flip that for a team that can give him more minutes and find a way to keep him on the floor. Regardless if he stays in Toronto, which just may happen, or if he goes somewhere else, you won’t find Monroe on the court in the last two minutes of a tie game. He is a weakness a team would exploit and expose.