What is the No. 1 thing Greg Monroe can do to step up and help the Pistons make the playoffs?
Defend the post
Andre Drummond and Josh Smith have potential to be the NBA’s best shot-blocking duo, but for those two to have the freedom to fly around and contest shots, it would be a huge help if Monroe fortified the Pistons’ man-to-man post defense. Rasheed Wallace’s ability to guard the opponent’s top interior threat one-on-one was a huge part of Ben Wallace’s off-ball success. He doesn’t have to defend as well as Sheed, but if Monroe holds his own defensively, the more-mobile Drummond and Smith can roam and help everywhere.
Realize that winning will cement his status as a max-worthy player
Monroe is likely to get a max contract when he hits restricted free agency next offseason. But with such a big moment in his career looming, it could be easy to get distracted, under-perform or focus too much on his individual performance. Plenty of players before Monroe have been affected by contract year worries and plenty will continue to be. Monroe should be at ease knowing that all he has to do is play the way he always has while the new talent on the team leads the Pistons to a much better season. The exposure that comes with a drastic improvement of the team will inevitably lead to praise and attention for Monroe for what will surely be his significant role in that scenario.
Competence on defense
Monroe’s a really good offensive big man. He’s developing a little bit of range as well, and he’ll be an asset on that end of the floor. On defense, however, Monroe has been a liability. If he can develop into even a mediocre defender this year, the Pistons will get much, much better.
Prove he’s a max-player
Monroe obviously has other strengths, but for this team to succeed, he needs to come into the year with a confident 15-foot jumper and some refined defense. There’s no reason he shouldn’t have improved in those areas since last season. If he has, everything should flow more smoothly for Drummond, Smith and every other Piston – and someone who makes his teammates better is often rewarded come contract-negotiation time.