Greg Monroe demands an increased role, gets it, looks smart

Greg Monroe, you sly minx. I see what you did there. Just a reminder, here were Monroe’s comments earlier this week:

“My number is not getting called, and we run the offense through other players now, so I got to work to get shots other ways, but I don’t think it’s anything the defenses are doing.

I won’t accuse Monroe of peaking ahead at the schedule to see that the next game those comments would coincide with would give him a heavy dose of Byron Mullens or D.J. White guarding him, but if he did do that … bravo sir. A lot of players get frustrated when they aren’t getting the touches they should and a lot of players suggest that that should change in the media. On losing teams, those players often end up looking a bit silly if they follow up comments like that by not performing well when they do get the touches. Detroit’s next opponent after Monroe’s comments virtually assured that he’d have a good game and thus prove to the coaching staff that the Moose should be getting well fed every game.

Monroe shot 11-for-14 and had 25 points, 11 rebounds, four assists a steal, a block and no turnovers in 26 minutes. Charlotte’s incredibly soft defense certainly was a factor, but Monroe also played energetically. His energy level hasn’t been that consistent over the last couple weeks, but he had it back tonight. He obviously played great, but he was also doing something I wish he’d do more of: run the floor. The knock on Monroe since he came into the league is that he’s not supremely athletic, but that’s a bit of a misconception. He’s not an explosive leaper, but he is actually pretty fast, faster than a lot of big men in the league, in fact.

Against Charlotte, he routinely turned and sprinted down the court, beating his man and resulting in easy dunks. Getting those kinds of opportunities is contingent on a few things. Smart teams get their guards back on defense to prevent fast big men like Monroe from beating people down the court. Charlotte is not a smart team, so that was out the window. And it’s also dependent on Detroit’s guards pushing the ball, getting penetration and looking for Monroe filling lanes. If Monroe is sprinting past his man while a guard is walking the ball up, that doesn’t really do much good. But tonight, everyone on the Pistons’ roster was aggressive, Brandon Knight and Rodney Stuckey looked to run on just about every possession and the results were good for Monroe.

A lot of Pistons had pretty statlines tonight. They played hard and clearly wanted to atone for some lackluster performances over the last week. But I can’t stress enough that this Charlotte team is one of the worst in recent NBA history. The Pistons have a much tougher challenge against a Milwaukee team that still has playoff hopes. Tonight’s game was fun to watch (if you’re not a Charlotte fan), but nothing all that revelatory came out of watching the Pistons run for uncontested layups and take advantage of some of the latest defensive rotations I’ve ever seen. If Monroe can carry over his dominance from tonight into tomorrow, I’ll be much more impressed, not that he wasn’t great to watch tonight.

The problem with Prince

I was about to respond to a comment from prolific commenter and president of the Tayshaun Prince fan club (I kid, I kid) Max here, but since tonight’s game so perfectly illustrated the issue, I’ll do it here instead. Prince shot 3-for-14 tonight, in a game where Monroe made 11-of-14 shots and Knight was 8-for-12. People have off games, whatever. I don’t care so much about that. What I care about is that, in a game like this where two guys clearly have it going and are getting whatever they want, Prince doesn’t defer. He just doesn’t. In fact, based on his comments earlier in the week, he doesn’t have any interest in a non-primary role. And I’m sorry, but for this team to grow, he has to. He has to realize that Monroe is a much better, more efficient offensive player. He has to realize when no one on Charlotte’s team can stay in front of Knight. He has to realize that when his shots aren’t falling (and it’s not like he was just missing open, good shots tonight … I counted four that weren’t great looks and there was still time on the shot clock to get a better shot).

This isn’t about defending Austin Daye, either. I have no problem with the team sending the message to a young player like Daye that he won’t see big minutes until he’s capable of out-producing a veteran who has middling production like Prince. I wish Daye played more and I wish that Prince didn’t lead the team in minutes. That seems unnecessary to me, but at the same time, he still takes decent care of the ball and he’s still an intelligent defensive player. Those things are enough to keep him as the starter at his position simply because the Pistons have no one else on the roster who can do those things.

But you know what they DO have on the roster? Players who can efficiently score — Monroe and Stuckey, in particular. Stuckey didn’t have it going tonight, and guess what? He deferred to the guys who did. He didn’t force shots. Prince is not a superstar-level player who must get his requisite number of shots up whether he has it going or not because YOU JUST NEVER KNOW WHEN HE’LL GET HOT AND START NAILING LONG TWO AFTER LONG TWO! He was re-signed in Detroit for his basketball IQ and leadership ability. I won’t scoff at those things, if the front office and coaching staff is around him every day and believes those things are a commodity worth paying him what they’re paying him for as long as they’re paying him, I won’t debate that decision. They clearly have access to information that I don’t have. But watching Prince play like he played tonight, shooting far too often at the expense of teammates who were working themselves into great shots all night, is not playing smart basketball. Not being ready to take a reduced role, and he said in those comments linked above that he isn’t, is not displaying leadership and trust in rapidly improving young teammates like Monroe and Stuckey. The Pistons are going to have Prince around for a while. My biggest hope for the offseason is that he develops more of a willingness to become less of an option on offense. Him being phased out of the offense, settling back into a role as a third or fourth option at all times, is a good thing for Monroe and Stuckey and a good thing for the Pistons.

I don’t care that much about Knight’s points

The Pistons noted on Twitter that Knight had his ninth 20-point game tonight, tying him for second with Lindsey Hunter (behind Grant Hill) for the most by a rookie. I’m not really excited by that though.

What I am excited about? Knight had three steals tonight. Anyone who has read PistonPowered for a long time now knows how big a proponent  Dan Feldman is of the steal (“they lead to more easy scoring opportunities/good shots than any other turnover! Blah Blah Blah!” – Feldman, probably, while also coming up with an elaborate graph to illustrate how much he loves them). One of the more frustrating things for me about watching Knight this season is he looks like a guard who should get a lot of steals — really fast, really long arms, always around passing lanes — yet that hasn’t translated in the stats. He’s averaging just .7 steals per game.

Against Charlotte, he had three. I’m sure he was aided by Charlotte’s sloppiness with the ball and the fact that they’re a turnover prone team, but that’s the one skill I think Knight could develop that would silence some of his critics out there. He might not ever be the traditional distributor, half-court point guard, but if he can add ball-hawking defender to his outside shooting ability and his ability to push the ball, then that’s the start of a pretty good player.

Knight getting steals also helps him as a passer. He’s a better and more willing passer in transition than in the halfcourt, and getting steals launches him into transition and allows him to either attack the basket or find teammates for layups.

A lot of players on the Pistons need to improve defensively. Knight is one guy who has the mix of work ethic and physical tools to make a big jump on defense if he works hard at it in the offseason.

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Tags: Austin Daye Brandon Knight Greg Monroe Lawrence Frank Rodney Stuckey

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