The conversation around the Raptors acquiring Kawhi Leonard transcends the trade itself – it makes cosmetic moves like adding Greg Monroe a hot topic. Would you have cared that Bebe Nogueira was out in favour of Monroe if the Raptors hadn’t made that blockbuster trade? Well, now you do.
A deep-bench pickup like Monroe can be deemed successful if he proves remotely playable. If recent scoring numbers are any indication – double figures at north of 50% from the field over the last couple seasons – the move looks promising. The only problem is how he gets his points. The Raptors were 3rd in three pointers attempted last season, averaging about 33 per game. Monroe has attempted 12 threes over his 8-year career. Even if the Raptors offence is struggling in a random game in February, will Nick Nurse actually run multiple postups for Monroe?
Maybe he should. Monroe is only two years removed from averaging 15.3 points on 52% shooting for Milwaukee. He also shot well above the league-average inside the restricted area last season (68.1% vs LA of 63.1%, per NBA Savant). Maybe Monroe can be used as an offence-balancer – obviously it’s most efficient for the Raptors to shoot a lot of threes, but perhaps they’ll be harder to defend if they can utilize an interior scorer off the bench. Sounds plausible, but in today’s NBA, integrating Monroe in this fashion would be rather unique. Scrolling through power forwards / centres that plays under 20 minutes a game (my arbitrary, but conservative number for the maximum I foresee Monroe playing), you won’t find many players that are regularly used in postups / isolation (I see you, Al Jefferson). That, and over the last two seasons his teams averaged around 0.9 points per possession when he posted up, which would easily be last in the NBA for teams.
This is all before discussing Monroe’s generally poor, non-versatile defence. When you can’t switch, you can’t stay on the floor against good teams. Couple that with losing Nogueira, and Jakob Poeltl in the Kawhi trade, and you’re left with scant rim protection in (gulp) Serge Ibaka and (double-gulp) Jonas Valanciunas.
This is the real failure of this pickup. The Raptors add a player that makes them worse defensively, and given the team’s breadth and depth of talent on the perimeter, it appears inefficient to ever run the offence through Monroe. So what is he? A rebounder, I guess, which isn’t nothing. And a capable finisher. But was there not a quasi-capable rim protector out there for the same money ($2.2 million)? Nogueira isn’t the greatest depth piece, but he’ll challenge shots and eagerly moves the ball on offence.
I don’t see how Monroe plays a role on this team. The 15th man is marginal, but not meaningless. Nogueira provided a spark in Game 1 of the Wizards series (let’s ignore his minus-10 in 2 minutes against the Cavs in Game 4. Obviously he had no business being out there). And Lorenzo Brown, the reining G-League MVP, could tread water when any of Kyle Lowry, Fred Vanvleet and/or Delon Wright were battling injuries. While the needle is likely not moved by Monroe’s addition in one way or the other, it seems there must have been at least a potentially better option.