Greg Monroe could showcase hidden skills in tonight’s Rookie Challenge

I know I shouldn’t care. The game will probably be pointless.

But I’m a little excited to watch Greg Monroe in tonight’s Rookie Challenge (9 p.m., TNT), because there’s still so much we haven’t seen from the Detroit center.

Oh, we know he’s good. He’ll probably become the first Piston to receive a Rookie of the Year vote since Grant Hill split the award with Jason Kidd in 1994. But we obviously don’t know how good Monroe will become – and I don’t think we even know how good he is right now.

I was thrilled the Pistons drafted him, but I was a bit annoyed with them picking Terrico White in the second round. Monroe appeared to function best in the half-court, and White’s athleticism will shine most in transition. If you’re investing in Monroe, why pick someone like White, who likely can’t succeed next to him?

But in the summer league, Monroe didn’t just handle an up-tempo game better than I expected. He handled the ball in an up-tempo game better than I expected, showing he could actually lead a fastbreak, dribbling the ball up court and passing to open teammates or finishing at the rim himself.

That’s just one element of Monroe’s game the Pistons have yet to unleash. As Joe Dumars alluded to earlier, Monroe can also make mid-range jumpers. He can pass out of the high post. He can create his own shots in the low post. He can do a lot of things the Pistons haven’t asked him to do.

I love that Monroe has focused on the elements most necessary to win games – defense and rebounding – but tonight isn’t about winning. It’s about showing off and having fun as an individual. I hope in the wide-open format of the Rookie Challenge, we see signs of the next stage of Monroe’s game.

Or maybe nobody will try at all and the game will just waste a couple hours.

Tags: Greg Monroe