What comes next for Greg Monroe?

One of the summer’s big free agent pieces finally got moved  leaving us with just Eric Bledsoe remaining before the offseason can officially close.

Greg Monroe signed his qualifying offer last week ending his restricted free agency and taking one of the last big free agent names off the board. Monroe probably thought he would get a massive payday, but the reality of restricted free agency and the fear that the Pistons would match any offer (even with their glut of power forwards and post players jockeying for minutes).

So Monroe is back with the Pistons for one more year. Publicly he is excited about it (maybe a little too bit excited since he got hit with a 2-game suspension for being arrested for driving under the influence).

This year though will be something different for Monroe.

He has already proven to be a solid player — averaging at least 15 points and 10 rebounds per game each of the last three seasons. Andre Drummond has seemingly eclipsed his star, but Monroe is a versatile big man with solid hands and good passing ability from both the high post and low post. He does not change the game much defensively, nor is he a great shot blocker, but he remains a uniquely skilled big man that can provide a lot of versatility on offense.

This year though becomes a year of uncertainty for the young big man. He went out into the market expecting to get a big contract — maybe in line with what Larry Sanders made at $44 million over four years. Teams obviously shied away from talking with Monroe because of the Pistons’ ability to match any offer and their stated desire to do so.

Along with Eric Bledsoe, Greg Monroe played restricted free agency and lost. Photo by Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Along with Eric Bledsoe, Greg Monroe played restricted free agency and lost. Photo by Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

So Monroe signed his qualifying offer. There was no sign-and-trade, no offer sheet and no big payday. He will make about $5.5 million next season. That is a bargain price. But that will not last and Monroe may not be happy that the Pistons did not just pony up the money up front. He is going to want to see what he can get in the truly free market.

That makes this a very important contract year for the young center. He has to find himself and define himself and his career this year. Monroe has to start cashing in on that promise (literally).

It will be tough in Detroit. The Pistons are not likely going to be able to move Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings to free up the basketball some. Detroit is probably also going to build its offense around Andre Drummond more as he continues to develop. Stan Van Gundy is probably envisioning a rebirth of his Magic teams.

It is going to be tough to have Monroe showcase in the way he probably wants — or probably wanted, or maybe even expected before the Pistons took Drummond and shifted away from having Monroe be a centerpiece.

Monroe is not a player that a championship team should be built around, but he is certainly more capable of contributing to a strong team in a more featured role than he is now. Defense is still his big issue, but he has never been on super talented teams or teams that had any chance at a Playoff berth (maybe, until last year, but it did not work at all). Monroe’s career has been plagued by constant coaching change and little consistency.

He will surely be looking for that in free agency and maybe an expanded role. It still seems unclear how Stan Van Gundy will use him.

It would not be surprising though to see Monroe become the big trade target for the NBA Trade Deadline. His expiring contract and the opportunity to impress him even for 20 games before re-signing him (not to mention retaining his Bird Rights). Monroe is a player worth possibly making that kind of investment for if you are a team in need of a missing piece.

It was no surprise that several teams expressed interest in a sign-and-trade deal with the Pistons to get Monroe. The Thunder were one of those teams as were the Suns. There are certainly several teams who could use a player of his skill and caliber.

The rumors will probably heat up for Monroe. He will have to earn those rumors just like he will have to earn his contract.

It is really unclear what the Pistons will do with Monroe this season. They have said he is a key part of their team moving forward, but the roster says otherwise. Monroe is the easiest to get rid of, and barring a ton of faith in what Van Gundy is building and the willingness to stick things out while the Pistons deal with their glut of power forwards and forge an identity, he is probably prepping to move on.

He has a lot of motivation to play well though. Monroe’s future starts there most of all.

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily