Camp Questions: Power Shift

Monroe’s move to Pistons power forward runs counter to NBA trend

Greg Monroe
(Editor’s note: We’ll count down the remaining days until the opening of training camp with a critical question the Pistons will be looking to address during the preseason. Today: How will Greg Monroe handle the transition from center to power forward?)

A generation ago – indeed, as little as five years ago – Greg Monroe’s conversion from center to power forward wouldn’t have been all that big a deal. In the conventional NBA, there wasn’t much difference in the skill set required to play one position over the other. In today’s NBA, a power forward is more likely to be in his comfort zone facing the basket and launching 3-pointers as opposed to bullying on the block and muscling for rebounds.

Monroe will never be labeled a “stretch four” and, in some measure, the success of his transition will come down to how much of an advantage the Pistons gain from Monroe’s size and scoring ability around the rim over the edge opponents figure to have in that matchup in perimeter skills.

The Pistons don’t want the conversion to rob Monroe of what he does best, but there’s no getting around the fact that it will require him to stretch his boundaries.

On offense, Monroe first and foremost will need to become a more credible mid-range shooting threat. He understands that fully. Shooting was his No. 1 on his off-season to-do list. Hand in hand with that goes forcing the defense to respect his ability to score off the dribble from the wings and elbows, giving him space to shoot when defenders back off.

But when teams go small or play a stretch four against him, that’s when things get interesting. Just as undersized power forwards are going to have to prove they can guard Monroe on the low block, Monroe will be forced to show he can guard them 22 feet from the basket.

Monroe got an encouraging taste of what he can expect defensively as a power forward when he camped with USA Basketball in late July. Forced to guard a variety of players – a prototype stretch four in Ryan Anderson and small forwards masquerading as power forwards in Harrison Barnes and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist – Monroe came through with flying colors. Stiffer tests are ahead, of course, as NBA teams will game plan in ways that wasn’t the focus at a national team camp and make Monroe prove his ability to guard well outside the paint.

Among the many reasons the Pistons are confident Monroe will succeed is their faith in his work ethic and basketball IQ. One more pretty good reason: The growth of Andre Drummond – the reason the Pistons are shifting Monroe in the first place – and the attention he’ll command from defenders to keep him away from the offensive glass will prevent defenses from focusing as heavily on Monroe. We’ll get to that in Friday’s Camp Questions: Can Andre Drummond expand his game without lessening his potential to be a dominant defender and rebounding force?