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Should the Trail Blazers Chase Greg Monroe?

Milwaukee might be looking to move the talented big man. Should Portland show interest?

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

On Thursday word came down the pike that the Milwaukee Bucks may be interested in shopping Greg Monroe. The 6'11" forward-center is averaging 16.5 points and 9.6 rebounds in 30 minutes per game this season with an estimated salary of $16.4 million. The Blazers have cap space to burn and a severe need for frontcourt talent, plus they reportedly chased Monroe as a free agent this summer before he signed with the Bucks. Should Portland be interested in picking him up via trade? The Blazer's Edge staff weighs in.

David MacKay @DavidMacKayNBA

Here we have a high-level, back-to-the-basket forward-center (a lot of hyphens, I know) and there is this thought that he’s not worth a look. I disagree. Sure, Monroe is most effective when paired with the sort of rim protector the Blazers do not have, and sure, his offensive game is relatively tied to the post, but you know what? That could be said of several Blazers with much lower ceilings. Besides, what has this restructuring been about if not making so-called incomplete players truly viable in Terry Stotts’ system? If the Blazers were trapped in the best fit "right now" this wouldn’t be an actual rebuild and they certainly would not have offered Enes "De…fense…?" Kanter max last summer. They are prepared to add and grow as necessary.

Monroe is already more than viable. He’s a gifted low-post scorer, he’s one of the best interior passers at his position, and he’s one of the best offensive rebounders in the league. I think people forget that last one sometimes. Overshadowed by Andre Drummond in Detroit and practically forgotten in Milwaukee, his ability to clean the glass (a talent the Blazers covet) goes overlooked. He currently ranks 10th in offensive rebounds per game (3.0), 0.1 rebounds behind Hassan Whiteside and Rudy Gobert.

On top of that, Monroe is only 25 and his contract is pretty manageable. He is owed about $17 million next season and has a player option for about $18 million the following season. With the cap projected to reach $90 million in 2016-17 and $107 million in 2017-18, Monroe’s escalating contract would actually take up a sliding percentage of the Blazers’ overall salary. If he doesn’t exercise his option, the Blazers get a nice chunk of change back to allocate as they please; if he exercises his option, the Blazers are only spending an enviable 17 percent of their salary on a stud whose contract expires just in time for them to adjust for deflating cap regulation in 2018-19 (while others overpay on bloated long-term deals).

All that being said, I am not interested seeing the Blazers trade either piece of their starting backcourt, which begs the question: What is their asking price? I’m willing to listen on a 17-and-10, 25-year-old big man that can make plays. That’s a yes from me.

Eric Griffith (@DeeringTornado):

In addition to everything David said, I'd emphasize that Monroe would add a new element to the Blazers' offense that we haven't seen since Greg Oden and his nascent dropstep departed - a truly effective low post scorer. Portland is fourth overall for percentage of points scored with three-pointers, but 27th overall for points in the paint. Additionally, no Blazers player has more than 49 post-ups on the season. Basically, the Blazers rely more on outside shooting than almost any other team and they run virtually zero plays to get their big men in scoring position.

By contrast, Monroe does virtually all of his work in the paint. He has 277 post-up possessions for the season, compared to just 159 for the entire Portland roster. The relevance of his inefficiency with Detroit has been mostly overstated; this season he's in the 58th percentile for points per possession out of post-ups and shoots 55 percent within eight feet of the hoop. That shooting percentage is on par with Andre Drummond and several points ahead of DeMarcus Cousins.

Additionally, the Blazers wouldn't need Monroe to have an elite efficiency. They just need him to provide a credible low-post threat that takes pressure off the outside shooters. LaMarcus Aldridge's less than efficient mid-range game worked wonders to free up Blazers shooters within the vaunted Stottsfense. Adding an offensive rebounding monster, who also averages three assists per 36 minutes, would possibly provide even better spacing thereby raising the team's overall offensive rating.

It's also worth noting that while the Blazers do have a lot of cap space, it is yet to be proven if they can actually draw a free agent to Portland with it. Teaming Monroe up with Lillard and McCollum would mitigate the need to hit a homerun by signing an all-star, and instead Olshey could focus on filling positional needs with underrated or overlooked difference-makers. That strategy has been his MO for the Blazers in the past and with Monroe on board it could work again.

Dan Graves @inKelso

The above comments are convincing and great food for thought, but reflecting back to my first impressions when I first read that Monroe might be available?

The timing just doesn't feel right....

Last year, Neil Olshey considered Greg Monroe a "high profile player acquisition", and at that time, it felt like it. He would have been a major part of the building pieces. You get Greg and then go after the complimentary players. The problem now is, the core group is established and Monroe almost feels like the proverbial square peg in a round hole. So for me.. right now, I gotta say no.....

Dan Marang @DMarang

Greg Monroe is a solid player. I don't think there's any argument there. As David has noted he's going to be a solid value on his contract when the cap goes up. He's a very solid rebounder. He's a solid low post scorer. Solid. Solid. Solid. I don't think the Trail Blazers need a solid move, I think they need to make a big league move. It all sounds so simple, of course they need to make a big move, and Greg Monroe is a "big" move in a sense, but is it the right big move? The Trail Blazers find themselves at a potential crossroads, where they have some ver nice assets in CJ McCollum, Allen Crabbe, and even Meyers Leonard, that if they wanted to could package up and move for either an even higher potential player or all-star caliber player. In that group of potential laden or all-star level players that could be available, is Greg Monroe really a name that pops up on the first draft list? In my opinion, he's maybe on the 3rd list after I've scratched off 15 other names.

As far as specific fit, there's two reasons why I'm not riding the Monroe train. First, while he may be a sufficient low post scorer, his range is limited to 10 feet. His career averages place him at about 15% of his total shots between ten and twenty feet, where he's shooting roughly 35%. How much more dynamic are the pick and rolls going to be with Monroe than they are now with Ed Davis or Mason Plumlee? While he's got a bit more range than either Plumlee or Davis, Stotts' flex offense requires well, more flexibility from a player who's going to be fed a decent amount of possessions. If you're going to feature a guy, and if you're making that kind of money you're being featured, shouldn't that player be dynamic and/or dominant somewhere on the floor? If you go up and down Monroe's play type ratings available on NBA.com he rates in the 50-60th percentile range in everything but the "cut" play where he's at the 70th percentile. There's nothing about him that screams "elite" on that end of the floor. Solid? Yeah. Elite? No.

Secondly, the defensive side of the ball is screaming for help. Monroe is not the guy that's providing that help. He put up decent numbers in Detroit alongside Andre Drummond, which I don't think speaks volumes. If you're only putting up decent numbers next to Drummond, who do you have to be next to to put up good numbers? Zach Lowe of Grantland fame actually said this about Monroe after he signed his deal in the summer: "There will be opponents suited to exploiting Monroe's issues on D, and on those nights, the Bucks can shift some of his minutes to Pachulia..." You're telling me that a guy who's getting paid $17million is ceding minutes to Zaza Pachulia? Pachulia is a solid player (there's that word again). But, you're not paying Monroe to be a match up player. He's not a left handed pitcher that you bring in off the bench in the 7th inning because the numbers say you should. If you're prefacing your $17million big with "yeah there are opponents that can exploit his issues, so don't play him..." I think at that point it's safe to say he shouldn't be a guy you give $17million to.

My final note on this is touching back on something Dave said the other day that sums up my feelings on any moves the Blazers are making going forward. If you're not building towards being the apex, but instead settling for deals/moves, what's the purpose? This seems like a move that's much more lateral than it is towards any kind of apex. Unless the Bucks came in with a Godfather like offer I'm not interested in what they're selling. In politi-speak: "Just say no, to Monroe!"

Brandon Goldner @GoldnerPDX

Trading for Greg Monroe wouldn't be a great idea for three reasons: 1) the Blazers don't have the defensive anchor in the middle to counterbalance Monroe's lack of defense. If you think the Blazers have a middling interior presence now, think about who they'd have to trade to get him (assuming the Bucks would want at least one big back) and start cringing. 2) His contract would eat up a large chunk of cap flexibility the Blazers have worked hard to preserve. Is THIS the guy you'd want to blow your wad on? Which sorta melts into 3) which is that the Blazers already took a stab at him in fee agency and failed. It wouldn't just be a perception issue that they were doubling back on a player that (kinda sorta) spurned them. It's that the pieces of the team have better fallen into place since then. Whereas before you could look at Lillard and Monroe and be able to place pieces around them, now it would be taking Lillard and McCollum (and Crabbe and role players like Aminu and Davis) and trying to jam Monroe in there somehow. Is he a good enough player to take touches away from CJ and Dame? Maybe. But probably not.

Ryan Rosback @RyanRules21

If Monroe really is available, just months after signing one of the largest free agent deals in Bucks history, that in itself should be a red flag.  Milwaukee was just coming off a surprise 41-41 season, largely fueled by the league's no. 2 ranked defense - in the offseason, Monroe spurned Blazers to join what looked to be a young up-and-coming squad with a bright future.

How the tables have turned.  Although the future still looks bright in Wisconsin, Bucks brass might have already decided that it will not include the services of Monroe, whose skill set may be stuck in the wrong era of basketball.

Monroe is an old school, plodding, back-to the-basket bruiser who needs the ball in his hands to be effective.  Offensively, Portland's engine is already running on premium - throwing Monroe into the mix would be like trying to jam a V8 into a Japanese import; all the power you can imagine with absolutely nowhere for it to go.  The Blazer attack is predicated on quickness, precision, movement and crisp passing - none of which are defining traits of Monroe's game.  Defensively, while not fully attributable to his arrival, this season the Bucks have fallen entirely from the pantheon elite all the way to 27th in the league in defensive efficiency according to NBA.com.  Taking on a max-contract center who's not a rim protector is a risky proposition in today's NBA.

And that's not even considering what it would cost to get him.

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What say you? Would you pick up Monroe? At what price? Weigh in with your comments below.

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