SVG sees Monroe-Drummond as 'an ideal pairing'
Ron Hoskins (NBAE/Getty)
The first major decision on Stan Van Gundy’s plate: How to handle Greg Monroe’s foray into free agency. That decision, to the extent the Pistons can control the process, is the one that likely will dictate most of what happens for the rest of his first off-season as Pistons president of basketball operations, before he coaches his first game.
He must allow for the possibility that the Pistons ultimately might have to go forward without Monroe as part of the mix – even as a restricted free agent, Monroe has some leverage to dictate the outcome – but Van Gundy isn’t mincing words when he speaks to how he hopes the situation is resolved.
In talking about the team he hopes to build with Andre Drummond at the core of it, Van Gundy said, “It could be two big guys playing together, like with Greg Monroe. We’ve got another very, very talented young big guy who’s a restricted free agent but who we would love to get back here. There are so few good big guys in the league – even fewer under the age of 25 – and we’ve got two of them.”
Monroe spent his first three seasons exclusively at center – with the exception of the final 10 games of the 2012-13 season, when he and Drummond started together – but last season Monroe started at power forward, essentially splitting time at the two positions.
Based on Van Gundy’s videotape impressions and his study of the numbers, he has no reservations in his belief that Monroe and Drummond can work very well together. He’ll need to find evidence, though, that the Pistons would be best served by playing all three of Monroe, Drummond and Josh Smith as a unit.
Here’s how Van Gundy responded when I asked him if he views a Monroe-Drummond combination as either (a) something that should give the Pistons an advantage nine games out of 10 at the offensive end or (b) not an ideal pairing, maybe, but one he can make work:
“I think it is an ideal pairing,” he said. “If I look at just the film I’ve watched now and looking at the numbers, you would say that Greg and Andre together were great offensively. That was a great combination on the offensive end of the floor, especially when the three guys around them were shooters – more conventional perimeter types. That worked very, very well. Now, it didn’t work very well defensively. I think it puts a lot of responsibility on Greg Monroe to have to guard out on the perimeter.
“But I think there are things we can do in terms of schemes and things that would make it a little easier on Greg to make that unit better defensively and then take advantage of the offensive end of the floor.
“In the things we’ve studied – when you look at our three frontline guys, there’s your strength – but when you study it, when you play two of those three guys together, the Pistons were a very good team, at least last year. When you played all three of them together, they really struggled.”
It doesn’t mean he’s determined to move one of the three – more realistically, one of Monroe or Smith, since Drummond, 20, isn’t likely going anywhere. “I think you can make some adjustments there if all three of them are back – again, Greg’s situation is up in the air,” Van Gundy said.
It might not be quite as high up in the air, Van Gundy hopes, as July 1 draws nearer. He intends to use the time he has before free agency opens to convince Monroe that it’s in his best interests to stay with the Pistons, who drafted him No. 7 in 2010.
“Greg Monroe doesn’t know me, and so part of it is using the month that you have to build the relationship to talk about our vision for the team and for Greg and how he fits in and what we envision putting around him. And then we see where he is and we go from there.”
The sales pitch Monroe hears is probably going to be a little more emphatic than it might have been two weeks ago, before Van Gundy really delved into the makings of his roster.
“I love Greg Monroe,” he said. “I liked him before. Now, as I get into more film work and look at things, I like him even more. Highly skilled, high-character young big guy. Those are very, very hard to find. But free agency, even restricted free agency, you can’t predict exactly what’s going to go on.”
He’ll have his contingency plans in place, but it sure sounds like Stan Van Gundy hopes he doesn’t have to use them.