Greg Monroe struggled with pick-and-roll defense in opener


After a lengthy lock-out it is  good to be finally back to watching Detroit Pistons basketball and breaking down plays from their games. It is hard for any fan to be deprived from watching a sport they love. I had to look out for other hobbies to pass my time with, such as watching Bundesliga soccer or building miniature planes. Against the Pacers, we finally got to watch whether Greg Monroe and the rest of the squad passed their free-time during the extended offseason improving their basketball or Halo skills.

I am looking forward to seeing what Lawrence Frank can get out of this team. After all Monroe, Brandon Knight, Jonas Jerebko and Austin Daye are supposed to be young talent helping the team advance into the playoffs. Ben Gordon, Rodney Stuckey and Jason Maxiell supposedly suffered under the coaches the past few years and are better players than they have shown. The alleged rotten apple Richard Hamilton is gone, plus the team finally has an owner in place to start a season, so the excuses of the past few seasons are gone. After the first game, though, the results haven’t changed much.

After looking at ways to get Gordon going yesterday, today I’ll focus on Monroe’s pick and roll defense from game one, which wasn’t good against the Pacers.

Monroe was possibly the lone bright spot last year, so naturally, this year, fans expect him to be a leader for the team. I don’t think he is a polished player and might not be for a couple of seasons. I think if he gives the team energy and hustle he will be fine and a very good center. Against Indiana, I was missing the energy. The Pacers killed Detroit on the boards, Monroe looked a bit slow and was often just overpowered by strength (David West), size (Roy Hibbert) and hustle (Tyler Hansbrough). What I found the most lackadaisical, however, was his P&R defense. Here is an instance from the first quarter with about 8:10 to go.

You can see Hibbert setting a screen, not a very good one at that, for his point guard Darren Collison. You can see Gordon should not have a problem fighting over the screen, which is usually your preferred defensive strategy. Nonetheless, Monroe is supposed to show for a split second so he can buy his teammate Gordon a little more time to recover. You do that by taking one strong step, acting as if you want to steal the ball, and then you move back to your own player. Collison would be forced to move back a little bit or at least hesitate and delay his decision. .

Here you can see how far Monroe backs off. Instead of making Collison hesitate, Collison just got to the spot he wanted to get to with ease. Monroe did not show at all. There is of course the possibility of not showing at all and letting the ballhandler try to create off the dribble, but Collison is more of a playmaker and not a big scorer. He wants to find open teammates. Letting him create offense for himself is fine with me, but you need to close down the passing lanes then. As you can see after the screen, Hibbert just runs towards the basket and has a clean lane. Even if Jerebko decided to come over and help he leaves his guy wide open. Monroe needs to put more pressure on the ballhandler and then recover quickly so he closes down the pass. The P&R wasn’t executed very well, yet it killed the Pistons throughout the game. I don’t mean single Monroe out since the entire team did poorly defensively, but I expect that Monroe can improve this part of his game.

As the play unfolds, Collison hits Hibbert with a bounce-pass, Stuckey rotates over and is forced to foul — a 6-foot-4 guy can’t to much more than that against a 7-foot-2 center on the move.

I’ll keep an eye on how Monore performs in the pick and roll the next few weeks. I was pretty thrilled when Monroe hit his first jumper, it really looked as if he had added it to his repertoire. His foul problems might have taken his confidence away, but as I have explained before, he doesn’t need to score 20+ points per game, he needs to show constant defense and then he can improve on offense. I wouldn’t consider the Collison-Hibbert tandem to be a premier P&R team in the league, so if the Pistons struggle to guard those two, how is the defense going to handle Chris Paul and Blake Griffin?