Mirotic Without Monroe Doesn’t Matter

In adversity, you have to think outside the box and on your feet. The loss of DeMarcus Cousins was a huge blow for the New Orleans Pelicans. It was a singular basketball tragedy that had a trickle down effect. Would Anthony Davis get tired of the New Orleans experiment and flee to Boston? Would Dell Demps lose his job? Would Alvin Gentry rejoin Steve Kerr? How much is DeMarcus Cousins worth after suffering the worst injury a NBA player can get? All the questions proved how quickly the NBA can change. Like, on a dime. One day you have the most prolific one-two big man punch in the game. And the next day, sackcloth and ashes.

But no time for looking back. Desperate, the Pels went Hail Mary, well, as much as they could with the slim pickings in the free agent market. Money was an issue too becasue the Pels have to pay Cousins in July. So with all that background periphery, acquiring Nikola Mirotic was a good pick up. Mirotic will  stretch the floor and be a good compliment to Davis’ inside presence. Plus Mirotic is having a career year (16.8 points, 42% 3-pointers). He strong armed the Pels into picking up his option for next year so he’ll be happy. Well, as happy as the gloomy Mirotic can be. He is an asset even as Mirotic can be an annoying teammate. He carries a chip on his shoulder 24-7.  But a change in scenery will be a good thing. Everyone tried to bury the broken face by a teammate Mirotic endured but it hung in the background. Mirotic said he wasn’t holding a grudge but he needed a new home.

But Mirotic alone is just a scorer. Nothing more. He’s having his worst year playing defense but that’s not what you are paying Mirotic for in the first place. Which is why just getting him and no one else means absolute nothing. He’ll add more points to the board but will give up more points. So a draw.

Greg Monroe is a big Pels get if he decides to sign with New Orleans. Just bought out by the Suns, Monroe is in an enviable place. A lot of playoff teams need a big man. The Cavaliers, who needed a center anyway, and without Kevin Love, they are desperate. But so are the Pels, absent DeMarcus Cousins.

Career Games Points Rebounds Defensive Rating PER
DeMarcus Cousins 535 21.5 11.0 104 22.5
Greg Monroe 563 13.9 8.7 106 20.1

If the Pels find a way to lock up Monroe for the rest of the season, they will stop the DeMarcus Cousins bleeding. But let’s not lose our minds. Monroe isn’t DeMarcus on his best day. He’s not versatile, isn’t particularly long, doesn’t have great lateral speed, is average in pick and roll defense. But he plays big around the rim, has offensive skill and can score. He is also a big body. He and Boogie are the same age, 27.

To stabilize the offense, the Pelicans need Davis to go back to his forward position and have Monroe be the center. Remember, Monroe played in Detroit with Andre Drummond in a nice combo so he knows how to play with another big. In Milwaukee, Monroe came in off the bench and Gentry has that as an option as well, someone who can play valuable minutes when Davis is on the bench.

Sure, the Pels will have to convince Monroe he’s better off in New Orleans than in Cleveland. The Pels are also rumored to bring back Tyreke Evans. But with Monroe, the Pelicans can be a difficult out in the playoffs. Too much size up front. Without him, teams will just double Davis and let Jrue Holiday or Mirotic win games, which brings zero fear to anyone. You may get one win out of it but not much else.

So give the Pels an A for pivoting so quickly. Monroe or bust NOLA.