More Motivation

Monroe misses All-Rookie first team by 2 points in coaches’ voting

Greg Monroe's All-Rookie first team snub could be a motivating factor for next season.
Allen Einstein/NBAE/Getty Images
On a day the Pistons rightfully should have expected to be toasting Greg Monroe for being voted to the NBA’s All-Rookie first team, they instead wound up quietly having further cause to celebrate his future.

It will be left to others to suggest that Monroe was snubbed – he averaged a double-double post-All-Star break, showed remarkable consistency for a rookie and steady improvement over the course of a season that saw him rooted to the bench for the first two games and ended with him routinely leading them in minutes played – when he wound up one spot out of the running for first team.

Here’s what Monroe said. “It’s not a disappointment. I don’t believe in individual accolades at all. I never played for those. I just play to win. Anything that comes with that, I’m grateful for. I take all the extras, but my focus has always been on winning.”

Remarkably mature for a player still not legally able to sip a beer in Michigan, right? But wait. It gets better. Asked if he believes that the fact San Antonio’s Gary Neal and New York’s Landry Fields beat him out for the first team reflects the importance that NBA coaches, who vote for the All-Rookie teams, put on team success, Monroe’s answer revealed more than maturity and provided another window to his mind-set

The knee-jerk response – even among veterans with far more experience fielding media lines of questioning – would have been, sure, when a team has success, there is a lot more credit that gets spread around to everybody. But Monroe instinctively knew that such an answer might be interpreted as a slight of Neal and Fields, so he said …

“I wouldn’t say that, necessarily, because I can’t say they didn’t do a good job this year. They both had very good seasons for their teams. I think winning does affect certain things, but I wouldn’t say that it affected this voting.”

Wow. Monroe gets it on so many levels, and for as giddy as the Pistons were to land him in the draft, everything they’ve come to know about him since – as a player and as a man – has heightened their belief for what he can become and what he will mean to the franchise going forward.

The Pistons walked into the night after last June’s draft feeling great that they came out of it with Monroe, in part because they had felt a little helpless as draft day neared. They viewed DeMarcus Cousins, Derrick Favors and Monroe as the big men who stood apart from a deep crop – the three guys who could step into the rotation and offer significant help as rookies – and didn’t think it was likely one of them would fall to No. 7.

Monroe didn’t think it was likely, either. That’s why he didn’t work out for the Pistons. He thought he’d go no later than fifth or sixth. Monroe didn’t outwardly show signs that it was an affront to be taken after Ekpe Udoh, but the Pistons have come to learn that Monroe’s fires burn pretty hot, belying a calm exterior.

Pistons staffers who worked behind the scenes every day with Monroe consistently saw in him the desire to become a great player – not just a guy who makes the All-Rookie team, not someone who’s happy to make the occasional All-Star game or two. They saw someone who wants to be the anchor for an NBA title contender and, beyond that, is willing to put in all of the work that such a quest entails.

If he responds as well to the All-Rookie snub – our word, not his – as he did to his mini-fall on draft night, the Pistons will be the happy beneficiary. Somebody tried prodding him one more time, asking even if he values team success above individual success if he wouldn’t have rather made first team than second.

“I guarantee, every rookie wanted to be Rookie of the Year,” he said. “But that wasn’t possible, of course. I would have loved to be on the first team, but to get on the second team, I don’t say it was a disappointment or that I was snubbed. It’s just something I’m very grateful for.”

Monroe was one of just three players – Rookie of the Year Blake Griffin and 2010 No. 1 pick John Wall were the others – to be named on all 29 ballots. (Coaches can’t vote for their own players.) But while Cousins was a first-teamer on all but two of the 28 ballots on which he was listed, Fields went 28-for-28 and Neal was first team on 18 ballots and second on eight, Monroe had 13 votes for first team and 16 for second.

Monroe finished with 42 points in the voting, two behind Neal and 12 behind Cousins for the final two berths on the first team. Rounding out the second team along with Monroe were two players picked ahead of him – Wesley Johnson, the No. 4 pick of Minnesota; and Favors, the No. 3 pick of New Jersey, now with Utah – plus Indiana’s Paul George and Eric Bledsoe of the Los Angeles Clippers.

Monroe thus missed becoming the second Piston since the man who drafted him, Joe Dumars, to make the All-Rookie first team. The other was Grant Hill, who was co-Rookie of the Year in 1995. Jonas Jerebko was a second-team pick a year ago and Rodney Stuckey also was a second-team pick in 2008 despite missing the first 27 games of his rookie season with a broken hand.

“I would be lying if I sat here and said I didn’t think Greg could make first team,” Dumars told me as the season ended, when I asked him about what appeared to be the likelihood of Monroe cracking the first team. “Yes, I did. We all did. There was a reason that kid was being talked about with the second pick, the fifth pick, all the way to us at the seventh pick. It’s hard to find young big guys with his skill set, his professional approach, with his versatility. It’s hard to find 6-11 guys who can do that.

“It was just a matter of how long it was going to take for him to make the adjustment from college to the NBA and he did a great job of making the adjustment over the course of the season.”

Pistons coach John Kuester made Monroe earn everything this season – first a spot in the rotation and eventually a place in the starting lineup. By season’s end, Monroe was playing major minutes.

In the season’s final 48 games – two games before Monroe moved permanently into the starting lineup – his numbers rose dramatically. His averages for those 48 games were 12.5 points and 9.3 rebounds in nearly 33 minutes a game. He shot .587 from the field and .662 from the foul line, averaging 1.6 assists and 1.4 steals. After the All-Star break, Monroe averaged a double-double over 25 games.

For the season, Monroe averaged 9.4 points and 7.5 rebounds in 28 minutes a game.

The list of Pistons who have been voted to the NBA’s All-Rookie team. (Until 1988-89, only first-team selections were recognized.)

First Team

  • Grant Hill, 1994-95
  • Joe Dumars, 1985-86
  • Kelly Tripucka, 1981-82
  • Isiah Thomas, 1981-82
  • Terry Tyler, 1978-79
  • Bob Lanier, 1970-71
  • Dave Bing, 1966-67
  • Tom Van Arsdale, 1965-66
  • Joe Caldwell, 1964-65
  • Dave DeBusschere, 1962-63

Second Team

  • Greg Monroe 2010-11
  • Jonas Jerebko, 2009-10
  • Rodney Stuckey, 2007-08
  • Zeljko Rebraca, 2001-02
  • Lindsey Hunter, 1993-94