Jan 20, 2014, 7:34 PM EDT
The Detroit Pistons have one month to determine whether they’re willing to give Greg Monroe a max contract.
There’s no guarantee Monroe will get that large of an offer as a restricted free agent this summer, but the possibility is high enough that if the Pistons aren’t willing to pay him max money, they nearly have to deal him before the Feb. 20 trade deadline.
Centers capable of averaging 16.0 points and 9.6 rebounds per game at 22 years old, which Monroe did last season, don’t grow on trees. Even though he struggles defensively and has taken a step back this season as he’s adjusted to playing with Josh Smith, Monroe is still extremely valuable.
Just not necessarily to the Pistons.
Detroit already has Smith and Andre Drummond, making Monroe at least somewhat redundant. In the short term, the Pistons need a wing shooter much more than they need Monroe.
Which teams have what Detroit covets and would trade for Monroe, though? Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insider:
One team that is interested in Monroe is the Washington Wizards, according to multiple league sources. It’s becoming clear that Washington is planning to pursue in Monroe, either through trade or free agency.
The Pistons are certainly a team to keep an eye on over the next month. Rival executives have said that there is “turmoil” within the organization and that they haven’t decided what to do as the deadline approaches.
The 20-20 Wizards seem to have leverage over the 17-24 Pistons.
Washington probably doesn’t need to make a move to make the playoffs this season, its primary goal. Detroit, which has the same ambition, might.
Plus, with the contracts of Trevor Ariza and Marcin Gortat expiring this offseason, the Wizards would probably have enough cap room to make a run at Monroe as a free agent this summer. Do the Pistons really want to match a max offer to Monroe made by Washington? That threat might entice Detroit to deal Monroe to the Wizards in the next month rather than face the dilemma of losing him for nothing or paying him max money.
At one point a Bradley Beal-for-Monroe trade seemed within the realm of reason, but Beal has probably played himself beyond that.
A deal structured around Monroe for Otto Porter might make sense. When Washington drafted Porter No. 3, he was more valuable than Monroe, but a slow start to his rookie year, even if injury related, has worn some shine off Porter. It’s way too early to write off Porter, which is why the Pistons might be interested. But a chance to get a player like Monroe – who would be an excellent pick-and-roll partner with John Wall – might convince the Wizards to let someone else bet on Porter’s future.
What about Martell Webster or Trevor Ariza? Acquiring either for Monroe would probably make the Pistons better right now, adding much-needed shooting to a roster that might also benefit just from losing one of its three primary bigs. But Webster is four years older and Ariza five years older than Monroe. A trade like that would definitely say something about how desperate the Detroit is to win now at the expense of the future.
If the Pistons have shifted gears toward the future – as Kennedy reports, they might not even know their desired direction – they’d certainly be interested in a first-round pick. But Washington, which traded a protected first rounder for Gortat, can’t deal another, per the Stepien Rule.
That still leaves several viable permeations of a trade that send Monroe to the Wizards. And the simper possibility, Washington signing him to an offer sheet this summer, still remains.
The ball is in the Pistons’ court for now, but if Monroe, a former Georgetown Hoya, wants to return to Washington, the Wizards might just have the juice to get it done.
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