Coming into the 2014 off-season, the Detroit Pistons’ Greg Monroe was looked at as being the top big man in free agency. After all, in today’s NBA, it is fairly uncommon to find a traditional power forward/center who can serve as a double-double machine. After two months of free agency and no team prepared to bypass Detroit’s matching power, Greg Monroe realized that being a restricted free agent has him in the Piston’s trap. As a result, Monroe is expected to sign a one-year qualifying offer to stay with the Pistons for $5.5 million.
It has been a lengthy summer for Monroe and the Detroit Pistons. After hiring Stan Van Gundy as the coach and president of basketball operations, the Pistons have tried repeatedly to sign Monroe to a multi-year deal. The numbers being speculated on the proposed contract to Monroe have been inconsistent according to the big man. Last week it was reported that Detroit offered him a five year deal worth $60 million. This week, however, Monroe has stated that number is inaccurate.
Another scenario Detroit has toyed with is the idea of conducting a sign and trade with another team. The most popular rumor was to trade Monroe to the Indiana Pacers for Roy Hibbert. Due to Hibbert’s decrease in production last year though, Detroit denied the offer. Considering Detroit’s exploration into a sign and trade, it appears Van Gundy is okay with Monroe not necessarily being a part of the Piston’s future. The problem is that both sides are being picky. Monroe wants a large contract, while also being part of a solid franchise. Detroit wants pieces that will fill Monroe’s void on the glass and offensively.
What Monroe is unwilling to realize is that the lack of a significant contract offer has less to do with taking advantage of him, as it may have to do with his output. Over the last three years, he has put up solid numbers for the Pistons. The problem is that it is yet to be seen if he can improve. His numbers during the 2013-2014 season were 15.2 ppg, 9.3 rpg and 1.1 spg. During the 2012-2013 season, they were 16 ppg, 9.6 rpg and 1.3 spg. His numbers are fairly similar between both seasons, but his numbers actually dipped slightly this past season. Additionally, while he can be a great scorer in the post, and he has the potential to get double-digit rebounds, he may not be worth the max contract he is seeking. The biggest criticism about Monroe is his defense. For a power forward/center as big as he is at 6’11” and 250 pounds, Monroe is not the rim protector that Detroit or any other team desires.
It is his questionable worth that has put Monroe in this soap opera in which Detroit, mostly, has a choice as to where he plays next season. It is rumored that a few teams have offered Monroe max contracts. The problem is that Detroit has had the financial flexibility to match any offer he is given, particularly at this point in the off-season, where most teams have already loaded up their roster. This is also why Detroit has not upped their ante as it comes to Monroe. They know any offer he is given, they can match. More importantly, if they had dispatched him, they wanted something in return. It has frustrated Monroe, just like it has other restricted free agents, like Eric Bledsoe, this summer. As a restricted free agent, Greg Monroe has realized he is in the trap that many players his age go through. Because of this, it has been speculated that the big man is finally giving up, by signing a qualifying offer.
By Monroe signing a qualifying offer, he is stuck for the 2014-2015 season in Detroit, unless the franchise trades him for quality assets, which would be difficult considering he will be a free agent next summer. While he may not want to stick with the team, by him signing this qualifying offer, he will finally be in charge of his own destiny by becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2015.
Let Monroe’s free agency in 2014 be a warning to all future restricted free agents. While there is a chance for a restricted free agent to leave his team, during his first free agency period, it is often in the hands of the franchise to choose where he ends up. The exception to this rule are teams who are strapped for money. Another one are those players who are coveted by teams, who are willing to overpay, to thwart the home franchise matching the contract. Monroe is a good player, but he and others need to realize that, in order to garner a heftier contract, one must prove himself to be an elite player.
Free agency can be a complicated process for any player. Greg Monroe, being a restricted free agent realized this, and as such, it is inevitable that he will be signing a qualifying offer with the Detroit Pistons, after the negotiation trap they set on the big man. Now, Monroe has to up his game. If he truly deserves the max deal, like he says he does, he needs to prove it in the upcoming season. If he does not, he may be stuck with a similar contract, or worse, in 2015.
Commentary By Simon Mounsey