Monroe’s summer to-do list starts with fine-tuning jump shot
“The main focus will be to get him game-fatigue shots,” the Pistons’ player development coach told me. “We worked the whole year on spot-up shooting, on his form, getting his shot down. But that is nothing compared to a game where you have adrenaline pumping and fatigue comes into play. I told him before he left, when he works out on his own, he needs to be doing a lot of conditioning and shooting drills so that he maintains his form when he’s tired.”
John Kuester said it often last year. Joe Dumars has talked about what’s next for Monroe. The key, all agree, for Monroe to take the next step in his ascension to a staple of the Pistons’ half-court offense will be his ability to develop a consistent 15- to 18-foot jump shot.
“He’s banging with big guys – that’s one of the most fatiguing things imaginable, banging with a guy close to 300 pounds and then, all of a sudden, you have to be poised to take a jump shot,” Hetzel said. “We worked everything this year on form and balance, and then when he got into a game, his shot looked a little bit different than when nobody was here and nobody was watching.”
Hetzel said he saw significant improvement in Monroe’s jump shot over the course of the season, especially in the first three months – before Monroe moved into the starting lineup and started playing 30 minutes a night – when they could devote extra pre- and post-practice time to shooting drills.
“He improved so much,” he said. “He became a very consistent spot-up jump shooter when nobody else was on the court. That’s encouraging, because it wasn’t a roller-coaster ride where one day he was bad and another he was good.
“We spoke on very specific things: where his feet should be, where his shoulders should be. He really took to that. He could feel it. He would tell me, if I told him he was doing something wrong or, ‘Hey, did you feel this?’ The next day, it would be, ‘Yeah, I felt that.’ That’s what you want from them – to be able to know what they’re doing wrong.”
Hetzel expects that next year, the coaching staff will broaden Monroe’s responsibilities, and then it will be up to Monroe to expand his game.
“He’ll get a lot more post touches,” Hetzel said. “He has to be more aggressive initially. He has to be a threat, because once he’s a threat, his ability to pass will multiply two or three times. Now they have to pay attention to him as a scorer, guys cutting and slashing, he’ll be able to pick them apart. His No. 1 strength is his ability to pass the ball. Now he has to have confidence and be aggressive when he has the ball in the post to be a scoring threat.”
The Pistons didn’t run plays specifically for Monroe this year, but they did gradually find ways to incorporate his passing skills into the offense by frequently stationing him at the elbows – or the “pinch post” area – and have cutters work off of him from there. Around the NBA, Rick Adelman is seen as a coach who has turned that into an art form and had great success using players like Chris Webber and Brad Miller in that spot – players to whom Monroe has drawn comparisons for passing skills.
Once he starts dropping the jump shot from that area, as Hetzel suggested, the threat of Monroe as a passer will open up more opportunities for teammates. And if he can develops a signature move or two in the low post on top of that, then Monroe will emerge as one of the NBA’s most versatile offensive big men.
About that signature move: “I think his bread and butter will be to go middle and spin back and shoot his hook shot, right or left,” Hetzel said.
Hetzel believes that a big part of Monroe’s rapid improvement during his rookie season was the confidence he gained once his spot in the rotation, and eventually the starting lineup, was secure. Likewise, as he returns next year an established starter and huge piece of the future, Monroe’s confidence should be revealed in a higher level of offensive assertiveness.
“The jump shot is something that will come with playing time and seasoning,” he said. “When he comes on the court and teammates trust him. A lot of the pressure of a rookie is, ‘I don’t want to let my teammates down. Should I be taking this shot? What are they thinking? Is it my place or am I just out here to rebound?’ As it becomes his team and everybody comes to develop that trust … that’s what makes a good basketball team: trust.”
The Pistons – and that includes everyone from the front office to the coaching staff to his teammates – came to trust that whatever Greg Monroe’s future could possibly hold, he’ll invest whatever is necessary to fulfill that potential.