Will the Wizards Acquire Greg Monroe?

Updated: January 21, 2014

You may have seen this tidbit from NBA Insiders about the Washington Wizards making a play for Detroit forward Greg Monroe. The article notes the Wiz are definitely interested in Monroe, who will be a restricted free agent at the end of this season, and the Pistons front office is torn between sticking with the group they have in a weak conference or blowing their mediocre team up with a big deal.

One player who has been mentioned in trade rumors throughout this season is Greg Monroe, the young power forward who will be a restricted free agent this offseason since he couldn’t agree on an extension with the Pistons. It’s no secret that Josh Smith is better at the four, and it’s possible that Detroit moves the valuable Monroe to upgrade another position and slide Smith over to power forward.

One team is interested in Monroe is the Washington Wizards, according to multiple league sources. It’s becoming clear that Washington is planning to pursue Monroe, either through trade or free agency. [Emphasis added]

Obviously, Washington could try to sign Monroe in the offseason, but as a restricted free agent, the Pistons would have the right to match any offer the Wiz make and retain Monroe. The Wizards have two sizable expiring contracts in Marcin Gortat and Trevor Ariza, so with only $41,458,760 in guaranteed commitments for next season, Washington could just sign Monroe outright — if the Pistons let him go — or try to send some package of players/contracts/draft picks to entice the Pistons into giving him up.

Part of the problem for Washington, of course, is that they cannot offer their 2014 first round draft pick, since they gave that up in the Marcin Gortat trade. [The pick is top 12 protected so they could use it in the offseason if Washington gets one of the top 12 selections. Right now, though, that seems very unlikely.]

But should the Wizards even try to acquire Monroe, who will demand a hefty contract? That will require a 4-year deal at or near the max. That’s a  hefty commitment to make. Obviously, since he spent two years at Georgetown, he’d be very marketable and that matters. Even more marketable, however, would be a player who can help the Wizards make multiple deep playoff runs. Monroe is averaging 14.4 ppg on 50.3% shooting this year, but he’s been put out of his place by Josh Smith, who plays the quick-side forward, but really needs to play the four. With Andre Drummond at center the Pistons are top-heavy, making them quite good at rebounding, but not good at much else. In particular, Detroit is a terrible defensive team.

Some of Detroit’s problems on defense can be laid at Monroe’s feet — he’s a relatively poor defender at this point. However, a bigger issue is that other players are not good on defense either and the team appears to be very poorly coached on defense, as well. Monroe plays better defense when he’s in the pivot, something that would be available in Washington if he’s with the Wizards and Marcin Gortat is not.

Monroe isn’t without holes. His previously-mentioned defense needs work and he’s not a great shooter. However, he plays hard in the paint, is a solid rebounder and excels in the pivot. His efficiency numbers have declined slightly since his second year in the NBA, but a lot of that may be due to the makeup of the Detroit roster. In only his fourth NBA season and still only 23 years old, Monroe’s prime should be coming up just ahead, right when John Wall is also hitting his prime. Gortat, if re-signed, probably wouldn’t cost as much as Monroe, but he’d still cost at least $10 million a year and, at 30 already, Gortat will start declining soon.

If the Wizards do acquire Monroe that would probably be the last major move they’d make for several years, at least. The commitment required to get and keep Monroe would prevent Washington from making other moves and an argument could be made that the team would be better to wait and see what else comes on the market.

What would the Wizards have to give up for Monroe? Well, they could trade draft picks in the more distant future, but the Pistons would not likely be interested in an asset they cannot see for a couple of years. In addition, Detroit is unlikely to just move Monroe for expiring contracts — he’s more valuable than that. Washington could trade Otto Porter for Monroe [Hoya in, Hoya out]. However, Porter hasn’t done much to convince anyone he’s a truly valuable asset. On the other hand, Porter is very young and most talent evaluators were pretty high on him a couple of months ago, so it seems a bit early to give up on him.

The obvious solution would be to trade Bradley Beal to Detroit. I think the Pistons would be very interested in such a trade. Although they’d be moving big for small, Beal is a special player who is going to get better and he’d be under team control at a low salary for several more seasons. If I’m the Wizards I’d try to avoid dealing Beal since I think he’s a terrific player who will get better and is almost a perfect complement to John Wall.

This bears watching, though. I believe the Wiz are interested in Monroe and I believe they’re right to be. However, this is the NBA Season of Rumors and the Wiz may not have the ammunition to pull off a deal to get Monroe. Time will tell.