Greg Monroe-Tim Duncan comparison showcases Detroit’s dwindling defensive devotion

Pistons.com’s Keith Langlois’ latest article, which I mentioned earlier this morning, compares Greg Monroe to Tim Duncan. Before you flip out, Langlois doesn’t say Monroe is as good as Duncan, will become as good as Duncan or will even near Duncan’s level.

Langlois’ point – and I think it’s a good one – is both players have similar styles. They both have low-key personalities and don’t play above the rim, but impact the game with their knowledge, size and body control.

I thought the topic itself was interesting. It’s a missing detail that irks me.

How can you write an entire article about a young player attempting to follow as closely as he can in Duncan’s footsteps and not mention defense?

Duncan is one of the best defenders in NBA history. He’s made an All-Defensive team each of his 13 years, including eight first-team selections. He won the 1998 Defensive Player of the Year, too.

If Monroe is going to model himself after Duncan, defense better be a huge part of that plan.

I don’t mean this post to single out Langlois. His article was just the most recent example of a top-down problem in the organization.

Sure, Joe Dumars and John Kuester pay lip service to defense. But actions speaks louder than words, and Dumars’ recent roster moves – acquiring Tracy McGrady, Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva, Allen Iverson and dumping Arron Afflalo – haven’t reflected a commitment to defense. (Although Kuester’s rotations don’t always reflect a commitment to defense, I’ll cut him a break because he’s working with a roster full of defensive liabilities.)

Even when Dumars talks, he doesn’t emphasize defense as much as he once did. In the last couple years, he’s often brought up a desire for a team that can score from all five positions, attack the rim and overwhelm an opponent with offensively skilled players.

Before – when the Pistons were winning – Dumars talked more about players who could help Detroit win without needing the ball in their hands. That’s how it should be – especially here.

Defense in Detroit

As the narrative goes, the Pistons drafted Isiah Thomas, got rid of talented players like Kelly Tripucka because they didn’t defend well and started winning. It’s basically accurate.

Since then, defense has become a staple of the Pistons’ identity. I hate how that’s slipping away.

You can see how sharp the decline has been since 2008. The blue line represents the Pistons rank in defensive rating, and the black line represents the number of teams in the NBA each year.


Sheet 1

Besides a few years around the time they left the Bad Boys era and entered the Grant Hill and late in the teal years, the Pistons have been an excellent defensive team during the last 25 years.

I love that.

Defense isn’t appreciated. It’s gritty. It’s tough. It’s ugly

That resonates in a city like Detroit (and you better believe I just linked the Chrysler commercial there).

I really hope the Pistons re-establish their defensive identity. That begins with talking about it.

Tags: Ben Gordon Charlie Villanueva Greg Monroe John Kuester Tracy McGrady