For most of the 2000′s, Pistons general manager Joe Dumars was striking out in the draft. Besides Tayshaun Prince and Mehmet Okur in the 2001 and 2002 drafts, Dumars didn’t have another draft pick make an impact until Jason Maxiell in 2005.
He went another few drafts before Rodney Stuckey and Arron Afflalo in 2007 – and not much in between – but in the last three years, he has done extremely well. Using the last few drafts, we’ll be taking a look at the Pistons young core of players and best-case projections for each. We’ve already looked at Brandon Knight, Rodney Stuckey, Jonas Jerebko, Kim English, Austin Daye, Kyle Singler, and Andre Drummond; our final entry is Pistons cornerstone big man, Greg Monroe.
Monroe has gone from draft day question mark to bonafide starter in just two short seasons. He was picked behind fellow big men Derrick Favors, DeMarcus Cousins and Ekpe Udoh – and has surpassed all of them.
Favors and Udoh are no longer with the teams that drafted them (New Jersey and Golden State, respectively) and haven’t shown any real consistency yet. Cousins has become a tenacious rebounder and inside scoring presence, but not without serious motivation and attitude problems. From all indications, Monroe could easily be the best player from the 2010 draft, depending on how top pick John Wall develops. “Moose,” Monroe’s nickname, could even earn himself an All-Star spot next season; that’s how far along he’s come.
With his ability to play in the paint, in the high post and even off the dribble, Monroe has shown a deft offensive touch. He is shooting 53.3% for his short career so far, and has taken only two three-point shots in his two seasons, showing a discipline to play within his game and the team’s offensive scheme. He also has 51 double-doubles in 146 total games with Detroit.
One of the trademark aspects for most Georgetown big men – solid passing skills – has also translated to the NBA for Monroe. He averaged 2.3 assists in 2011-12, one better than his rookie year average of 1.3. With the rest of his team’s roster settling around him somewhat, and everyone knowing their roles, Monroe could once again see a boost in those numbers.
That’s not to say the 22-year old center can’t improve on his game. He has just 91 blocks in his career (average of 0.6) despite being 6’11”, and if he doesn’t establish position quickly, he can be pushed around. He’s surely been working on those types of things (athleticism, lower and upper body strength, jumping, etc.) in the offseason, so fans should see an improvement in 2012-13.
Best-case scenario: Chris Webber
Webber came into the NBA with much higher expectations than Monroe did, being the first overall pick to the Orlando Magic. He was traded to Golden State and had a tremendous impact, averaging 17.5 points and 9.1 rebounds per game on his way to the Rookie of the Year award. He didn’t last long with the Warriors, however, due to problems with head coach Don Nelson. He left the West Coast after just one season, but returned four years later when he became the power forward in Sacramento that many expected him to be when he was drafted.
For someone his size (6’10”, 245 pounds), Webber’s passing and ball-handling skills were unparalleled and helped him overcome defensive deficiencies. He had career averages of just 1.4 blocks and 1.4 steals in his career (just slightly better than Monroe thus far), but he did average 9.7 rebounds in his 15 seasons (10 or more averaged in six seasons).
Offense is truly where Webber shined, and it’s where Monroe is most similar to the former Michigan Wolverine. Being able to handle the ball and pass effectively means the ball can come to him and he’ll likely make the right decision. He can also play off the dribble, something that Webber was adept at before knee injuries slowed him. Webber’s shooting percentages took a hit when he began shooting more from beyond the three-point line, something that Monroe hasn’t and shouldn’t do thus far in his career.
Webber was definitely a more vocal player than Monroe has shown to be thus far, but with management essentially building the team around him, leadership qualities should come with time and experience. All in all, the direction that Monroe goes, so does the team.