It made all the sense in the world for the Milwaukee Bucks to sign then free-agent Greg Monroe last summer.
After all, the Bucks were coming off a first-round playoff series loss to the Chicago Bulls, a series in which it was amply apparent the Bucks desperately needed a low-post scorer and rebounder like Monroe.
But Monroe’s brief tenure with the Bucks is seemingly about to end. Just like they did prior to the February trading deadline, the Bucks have let it be known in NBA circles that they’re willing to unload Monroe at the right price. “Everybody knows he’s available,’’ an NBA executive told me the other day about Monroe.
So, why are the Bucks, who practically gloated about signing Monroe, now so willing to dump him? The company line is that he just doesn’t fit in with the team’s offensive and defensive schemes.
You mean to tell me Bucks general manager John Hammond and head coach Jason Hammond didn’t know this when they applied a full-court press to land Monroe last summer, when they beat out such mega-market teams like the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers for his services?
Of course, they did. Kidd and Hammond knew all of Monroe’s shortcomings. They knew he wasn’t a rim protector. They knew he wasn’t the world’s greatest man-to-man defender. They knew that more often than not when the ball was fed to him it was never passed again.
Yet, Kidd and Hammond were willing to overlook those deficiencies because the Bucks didn’t have anyone remotely close to being the low-post presence Monroe is. The fact of the matter is there are few players in the league who are more proficient inside scorers and rebounders than the 26-year-old Monroe.
Even despite being yanked from the starting lineup after the All-Star break allegedly for more bench scoring, and despite averaging only 29 minutes a game – his lowest since his rookie season in Detroit — Monroe fashioned some pretty decent numbers: 15.3 points and 8.8 rebounds.
He also continued to be a double-double machine, just like he was in Detroit. He accumulated 32 double-doubles this season, tying him with Atlanta’s Paul Millsap for 17th place in the league. Monroe had four fewer double-doubles than New Orleans star Anthony Davis and just one fewer than Golden State standout Draymond Green.
Monroe even had more double-doubles than LeBron James (28) and Kevin Durant (27). And he had 11 – count ’em, 11 – more than his much-more highly-touted teammate Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Publicly, the Bucks brass claims they’re satisfied with Monroe, Privately, some league officials say, that’s not the case. Multiple league sources said the Bucks are eager to move on from Monroe, so much so that one official emphatically stated, “They don’t want him.’’ And because the league is well aware of the Bucks’ hopes of moving Monroe, that same official said, Monroe doesn’t have “much trade value.’’ And that comes at a time when Thursday’s draft is devoid of quality centers.
“They not going to get a lottery pick for him, not even a late lottery pick,’’ a general manager said of Monroe.
Added a Western Conference executive: “I can’t see anyone giving up a lottery pick to get Greg Monroe. Nobody’s going to do that; he’s not a prized possession.’’
The best the Bucks could do in terms of a draft pick for Monroe, some NBA officials claim, would be a middle first-round pick, somewhere in the 16-to-22 range. If that is indeed the case, would it make any sense at all for the Bucks, who are coming off a debacle of a season and have to show marked improvement before moving into their new arena, give up an established player like Monroe for an unproven draft pick in what most NBA scouts are calling a mediocre, at best, draft?
A major factor the Bucks aren’t likely to get significant compensation for Monroe, NBA officials point out, is his contract. Monroe signed a three-year deal with the Bucks, one that paid him $16.4 million this season and would pay him $17.1M next season and $17.9M the following season.
The third year of the contract has an opt-out clause. And that is what concerns potential Monroe suitors, who are nervous they could have him for just one season before he bolts.
“His contract isn’t bad for where the league is going,’’ said an executive, referring to the NBA’s impending gargantuan TV contract. “But he can opt out after next season and that’s hard for GMs to get their arms around, knowing that they could just be renting the guy.
“When you consider all those things and the way the game is going away from the big man, you’re not going to get a high draft pick for him and you’re not getting someone good like an Al Jefferson for him. He’s got very limited value.’’
Monroe’s value was quite high last summer. A spate of teams courted him, including the Portland Blazers who Monroe said he came close to signing with instead of Milwaukee. Sources said the Trail Blazers are no longer interested in Monroe. Ditto for the Knicks, who signed Robin Lopez after Monroe snubbed them.
Yet, it’s a given some teams have more than a passing interest in Monroe. New Orleans could be a destination for Monroe, if the Pelicans can dump Omer Asik, who struggled mightily last season. The Lakers are still centerless, and Houston could be without a man in the middle if Dwight Howard doesn’t re-sign, which seems likely.
An NBA official also said he wouldn’t rule out Chicago as a party interested in Monroe, especially if free-agent in-waiting Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah decide to relocate this summer as expected.
Whether the Bucks trade Monroe straight up or package him with a draft pick, the growing sentiment around the Association is that Monroe’s days in Beer Town are numbered.
Said an agent, who is quite familiar with the Bucks’ hierarchy: “I’d be shocked if Monroe was on the Bucks’ roster next season.’’