Tragedy in the making: How Josh Smith signing might lead to Greg Monroe’s departure

This offseason, the Detroit Pistons entered free agency with a willingness to commit a large chunk of cash to a high-profile free agent.

photo credit: Basketball Schedule via photopin cc

photo credit: Basketball Schedule via photopin cc

The end result:  the organization inked 27 year old power forward Josh Smith to a hefty 4 year, $54 million contract.

No, your eyes do not deceive you.  Detroit is seriously spending $13.5 million annually on an athlete who is worth $11 million at best (and quite frankly, even this might be a stretch).  The organization obviously got way too excited by the prospect of actually drawing in one of this summer’s top-tier free agents. As a result, they overshot J-Smoove’s true value.

It’s bad enough that close to 25 percent of the Pistons’ team salary will be landing in Josh Smith’s pockets for the next 4 seasons.  However, what makes this situation even worse is the fact the 9-year veteran was not even a necessary addition to the franchise’s current roster.  Before Smith was thrown into the mix, Detroit already boasted a youthful, up-and-coming low-post pair consisting of 20 year old center Andre Drummond and 23 year old PF/C Greg Monroe.  What this squad truly needed was a consistent, reliable small forward; instead, they opted to add a starting four man in Josh Smith onto a squad which already had this position covered.

Thanks to the Josh Smith signing, the Pistons now possess three high-quality post players.  While many fans may view this as some sort of an advantage for Detroit, Smith’s enormous contract proves otherwise.  As I mentioned before, the athletic forward will be receiving roughly $13.5 million every season for the next 4 years (why, Detroit, just . . . why?).  Despite this deal being extremely imbecilic, the reality is players who earn this much money annually are guaranteed to start every single night.  Josh Smith will likely never start games off the bench for the Pistons, and as a result, either Andre Drummond or Greg Monroe will undeservedly be excluded from the starting line-up.  Sadly, this will cause these rising bigs to spend less time together on the floor, and subsequently, the duo’s developmental process will suffer a significant setback.

Smith’s prodigious presence on the Piston’s payroll brings up another issue as well.  During the extent of the 27 year old’s 4-season stay, both Drummond and Monroe will become eligible for an extension of their rookie contracts (in fact, the latter can actually receive one this year).  With the high level of pure skill and talent these two players possess, it is obvious they will each earn themselves an immense increase in pay (I’m talking $12M+ immense).  However, with Smith’s salary eliminating close to 1/4 of the club’s cap space, retaining both of these ballers in the future will unfortunately be unaffordable.

This is where the ramifications of overpaying J-Smoove truly come to light:  his colossal contract will ultimately force Detroit to choose between trading a potential star in Andre Drummond or the best center, 23 years old and younger in Greg Monroe.

Naturally, this causes curious NBA fanatics to try their luck at rationally resolving this conflict of who the franchise picks.  Being the basketball geek that I am, I have already thoroughly thought this through.

My final solution: the Pistons must unfortunately rid themselves of Monroe.

There are 2 reasons that support my opinion:

1.  Greg Monroe will be great, but Andre Drummond has the potential to be even better

Don’t get me wrong, Greg Monroe is an absolute stud.  With solid averages of 13.5 PTS, 8.9 REBS, 1.2 STLS, and 51.2% FG through his first 3 seasons in the league, it is obvious “Moose” is well on his way toward developing into a consistently productive NBA center.  The Georgetown product is one of the most highly skilled offensive post players in the association, and it is extremely easy to envision him serving as a franchise’s star athlete in 2-3 years time.

It truly does seem crazy for the Pistons to trade away Monroe.  However, what’s even crazier is that Detroit boasts a center with an even brighter future ahead of him in 20 year old Andre Drummond.

On the surface, Drummond’s rookie season statistics of 7.9 PTS, 7.6 REBS, 1.6 BLKS, and 1.0 STLS do not necessarily stand out.  But dig a little deeper, and it becomes clear just how effective the UConn product really was in 2012/13.  Take a look at his advanced stats (via Basketball-Reference.com):

  • *Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of 21.6 (league average 15)
  • Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%) of 61% (2nd in NBA)
  • Offensive Rebound Percentage (ORB%) of 15.4, Defensive Rebound Percentage (DRB%) of 27.2, Total Rebound Percentage (TRB%) of 21.1 (3rd in NBA)
  • Block Percentage (BLK%) of 6.1 (5th in NBA)

*PER note:  In the words of John Hollinger – the creator of the PER – this rating “sums up a player’s positive accomplishments, subtracts the negative accomplishments, and returns a per-minute rating of a player’s performance.”

He produced these percentages during a season in which he was 19 years of age!  

While the 7 footer needs to work on developing his post game, the fact he had this much of an impact on ball games at such a young age verifies the amount of potential Drummond truly possesses.  His deadly mix of athleticism, length (7’6 wingspan), and size (6’11, 279) will take him far in this league, and as long as he focuses on improving his offensive skills, it’s reasonable to imagine Dre’ as a top 5 player in the NBA 4-5 seasons from now.

Both Drummond and Greg Monroe will shine as stars in the future.  But the reality is Andre will ultimately turn out to be the better all-around player.  As a result, searching to find a willing trade partner for Monroe is clearly in Detroit’s best interests (considering the situation, at least).

Speaking of finding a ball club with which to discuss a deal, my next reason behind why the organization must give up “Moose” is that . . .

2.  Monroe has high trade value, and the Pistons will likely gain quality talent in return

As I have made perfectly clear, Greg Monroe can flat out ball.  He has been absolutely exceptional through his first three professional campaigns, and barring some sort of tragic, uncontrollable occurrence, he will likely serve as a dominating force down low for many years to come.

Now tell me, what sane NBA general manager would not express intrigue in acquiring this type of talent via trade?  In a league where skilled offensive big men are scarce, why would any ball club lacking a top-tier PF/C pass up this kind of opportunity?

If Detroit made Monroe available in the trade market, the phone calls would begin pouring in non-stop.  Many possible scenarios would be created, and eventually, the Pistons would succeed in finding themselves a transaction in which they’d obtain sensible, valuable pieces in return.

A starting frontcourt of Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe possesses the potential to grow into one of the most dominant low-post duos in the NBA.  Tragically, this duo will never receive a chance to fully develop because the Pistons organization thought it was intelligent to bring Josh Smith aboard for $13.5 million annually.

Overall, signing Smith for this much dough was just straight up foolish, and with both Drummond and Monroe set to play through the conclusion of their rookie contracts during the length of J-Smoove’s deal, the ball club will end up suffering the consequences by being forced to split their rising stars apart.

What do you think, was signing Josh Smith a total disaster for Motor City?

Josh Haar

Josh Haar

NBA Writer
I cover all things trade, free agency, and Lakers related. The offseason is like Christmas to me. I write for Space City Scoop as well. Check the link: http://spacecityscoop.com/
Josh Haar

@JHaarNBA

NBA writer for @PickandRollAU and @SpaceCity_Scoop. The offseason is like Christmas to me.
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Comments

  1. Garth says:

    I think if managed correctly it could be great , im a huge fan of Drummond and Monroe and would hate to see a bad jump shot happy J Smoove to come between them. At 6’11 Monroe can play the 5 with Smith the 4 leaving Drummond a 25 mpg backup?? Keeping a truly dynamic frontcourt for 48 minutes

    1. Josh Haar says:

      This front-court rotation has the potential to be great, but the reality is Drummond will form into an all-star level center. When his contract expires, he will likely receive a big payday, and with Greg Monroe set to earn $12+ million in his next contract as well, Detroit will unfortunately have to split these bigs apart due to financial restrictions.

      Sadly, the likely candidate for a trade will be Monroe.