Last night's game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Detroit Pistons concluded a three-game stretch in which the Lakers' opponent has been one of their much rumored 2015 free agency targets. The Miami Heat and the trade-to-the-Lakers-demanding Goran Dragic, the Dallas Mavericks and Kobe Bryant Bagel Buddy Rajon Rondo, and Detroit and Greg Monroe.
Like both Dragic and Rondo, Monroe is an unrestricted free agent this off-season. Unlike those other two, for Monroe this is by virtue of signing his qualifying offer of $5.4 million after he and the Pistons could not come to terms on a deal over lengthy off-season negotiations. Given Dragic's age and the fact that Miami can offer him the most money and Rondo, well, being Rondo, Monroe could arguably be the most desirable of the three.
With that said, on a scale of 1 to 10, how hard do you think the Lakers should chase Monroe this off-season? Why?
6.5? He's a good player, no doubt about that, but as for fit with the Lakers, I'm a bit hesitant. With Julius Randle as the likely power forward for a long time, Monroe would have to slot in at center. The Lakers probably would like to have a rim protector in that spot, and Monroe only gets about 0.5 blocks per 36 minutes. However, as with my stance on most free agents at this point, if you can get a nice asset without giving up anything but money, Lakers should probably pull the trigger and worry about moving that asset later if you need to. Of course, this is all assuming the Lakers don't get Jahlil Okafor, Karl-Anthony Towns, or Willie Cauley-Stein in June.
I'll say 7, but a year ago it would have been a 4. Monroe certainly looks better paired with Drummond this year than he did in last year's rickety three-headed monster with Josh Smith in the mix. Momentum is huge when you are in a tear down like the Lakers, so winning a borderline max player in the open market (like NYC did with Amare in 2010) can help build the critical mass to attract other stars. He's worth taking the gamble. Still, I have my concerns about Monroe's fit next to Randle, who is not a shot-blocking traditional center like Andre Drummond. You can't see those two forming the frontcourt of the future without more rim protection. In today's NBA, the Lakers need to start accumulating more assets before they get in the business of figuring out how they work together.
Jayne Kamin-Oncea, USA TODAY Sports
5? If you can forgive the spinelessness of the number, I'll explain. If you're asking me straight up, do I think the Lakers would be wise to offer Monroe a contract in the neighborhood of 4 years, at $12-16 million per year? After a great deal of internal waffling, I'd have to say no. While the money itself certainly isn't outrageous considering where the salary cap is headed, and sure, 6'11" centers with refined post games that can average nearly 16 and 10 don't grow on trees, I merely question Monroe's fit, both with his presumed front court partner in Julius Randle and the league at large. While there's little doubt that Monroe is a great talent, the market for a back to the basket big who makes his living in the paint just isn't what it used to be, and while I'm all for zigging when the rest of the league zags, his efficiency as a go-to guy and offensive fulcrum isn‘t great. Furthermore, while his defensive effort isn't awful, he occupies a murky middle ground for a big man in that regard given that he isn't nimble or fleet of foot enough to blow up pick and rolls, nor is he physically imposing enough to shut down the paint with his length and strength, which will be of utmost importance playing alongside a guy like Randle, who isn't known as a defensive stalwart himself.
However, I fully understand the counterarguments, at some point you have to start actually building a team as opposed to rolling over your cap space year after year in hopes of throwing a king's ransom at a truly transcendent player that may or may not become available. I also get that in a vacuum, you always want to acquire talent, especially if you're as deprived as the Lakers currently are; but unlike the draft, where it's typically good policy to take the best available player, in free agency, fit is of paramount importance. Ultimately, the direction the Lakers went last year with their draft pick, this year's looming lottery selection, and the evolution of the game at large would give me serious pause about tying up long-term money in a Monroe deal. That being said, if the Lakers were going with a guard or wing in this year's draft and the price was right, I might just do it. Yep, feeling good about that 5.
4 at most. For all the arguments about the Lakers needing to acquire talent and worry about fit later, I still would still lean away from Monroe. Worrying about fit when it gets to that point sounds great until you get to said point. NBA history is littered with struggling players who were stolen from their teams for a pittance before flourishing in a better situation. If Monroe and Randle struggle next to each other, then the Lakers front office is stuck dealing with a bad team and would be dealing one of them from a position of weakness. That type of transaction could result in the Lakers being on the wrong end of another one of those aforementioned success stories.
The Lakers already have Randle slotted in at power forward, and he is not a floor spacer or someone who can cover up for Monroe's defensive deficiencies, and the same goes with Monroe for Randle. I would be much more interested in retaining Ed Davis (a much more snug fit next to Randle who fought Monroe to a standstill when they shared the court last night) than backing up the Brinks truck for Greg Monroe.
Scale of 1-10 Consensus Average: 5.63
How hard do you think the Lakers should go after Monroe? Let us know in the comments.