John Loyer’s offensive tweaks introduced more movement and more structure to the Pistons. That’s cut down the number of 3-point attempts from a team that’s spent much of the season ranked last in the NBA in accuracy significantly.
Some of those possessions that used to end in errant triples are now going to Greg Monroe. In the 15 games since Loyer succeeded Maurice Cheeks, Monroe’s numbers are up and that starts with opportunity. He averaged 11.1 shots in 50 games under Cheeks, but 13.6 – better than a 20 percent jump – under Loyer.
“It’s more just the flow of the offense,” Monroe said after Friday’s practice. “Running a little bit more movement plays and pinch-post or high-post plays with movement and cuts.”
Monroe’s numbers in 15 games under Loyer are 16.3 points and 10.8 rebounds, over his season averages of 14.7 and 9.2. He’s playing about three more minutes a game, nearly 36, than he was over the first 50 games.
“Greg, if you put him in certain spots, is a terrific low-post scorer,” Loyer said. “What we’ve tried to do with Greg is to get him out away from the basket – the elbow, 16-foot area. One, he can make that shot and, two, he’s a terrific driver from that spot. Having been around Greg for two years, we’re just trying to put him in spots that we’ve seen him be successful at and, two, that he works on every day.”
Monroe averaged 12.2 points and 9.7 rebounds as a rookie under John Kuester despite not moving into the starting lineup until late December and never having a play called for him. He became an increasingly big part of Lawrence Frank’s offense in his two seasons, especially after Tayshaun Prince was traded in late January 2012.
Under Cheeks, the offense mostly ran through Josh Smith. Now the greater motion involved in Loyer’s scheme spreads responsibility out a little more – and when those chances come, the coaches are urging Monroe to strike assertively.
“It’s been a little bit of an adjustment,” Monroe said. “I try to pick my spots where I can be aggressive without messing up the flow. They ask me to be aggressive – be as aggressive as possible. I’ve always been a guy to take good shots. I want the team to take good shots, so I’ve never really been for forcing it. But I understand I have to be aggressive.”
Playing almost exclusively center for his first three seasons – he slid to power forward for the final 10 games of 2012-13 after Andre Drummond came back from a back injury – Monroe spent the majority of his time closer to the basket. The move to power forward puts him in spots that invite mid-range jump shots. He knew it was coming and worked endlessly at it over the off-season, but feeling comfortable with the shot in games is an ongoing process.
“That’s something I’m working on,” he said of eliminating the hesitation before launching those open jump shots. “That’s a little bit of a habit from before. I’m comfortable shooting it, but it’s just old habits I’m trying to break out of, just catching the ball and shooting it if it’s a good shot.”
Monroe said he takes 200 to 500 mid-range shots daily depending on if it’s a game day or not.
“That’s just evolution,” he said. “I came in playing mostly center and now with the personnel, playing four and having the ball a little more away from the basket, I have to work on that a little more. I still get my work in in the post, but right now the mid-range game is the one that needs the most work.”
Loyer missed Monroe’s rookie year, but he’s seen his evolution for the past three seasons, first as an assistant under Frank. He’s come to appreciate not only Monroe’s skill, but his smarts and day-to-day consistency.
“Greg’s a steady player,” he said. “You know pretty much what you can put in the box score, what you’re going to get out of him every night, and as a coach that’s what you’re looking for.”
And when Loyer says “every night,” well, you can take that pretty literally. Monroe didn’t get off Kuester’s bench for the first two games of his career, but he’s been available to play in 294 of the 295 Pistons games played since he joined them in 2010, missing one game last season with a sprained ankle.
“You can pretty much pencil him in every night,” Loyer said. “It’s not just the games, it’s practices. It’s the individual workouts before the games, individual workouts after practice. It’s every day. If you don’t know what you’re going to get from a guy every day, that takes part of your time away. Greg’s terrific at that.”