As our summer mainstay, Aaron's going to be writing a 370-part series discussing almost every notable player who was -- as of last season -- getting minutes in the NBA. Intent is to get you talking, thinking, and appreciating the myriad of wonderful folks who play in our favorite sports league. This afternoon's three players, in our second installment: Greg Monroe, Tristan Thompson, and John Salmons. Below the fold.
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Follow Greg Monroe on twitter at @MooseGM10.
Greg Monroe is one of those rare cases of a primarily offensively focused player who's yet to be ridiculously overrated by everyone around him. This is not to say that this is all Monroe will be -- I'm of the strong opinion that a man his size and steadily-strengthening frame will develop into a very positive defender, if only we give him the time (and the organization) to help him do it. Someday. It won't necessarily be soon, and it may not even happen in Detroit. But I have a lot of faith in Monroe. Perhaps it's because, early in his career, I thought Roy Hibbert somewhat shiftless on defense as well. But he grew into his frame, and I'm not eager to make the same mistake of overlooking an enormously talented Georgetown alumni twice. Just won't do it. But, for what it's worth, what Greg Monroe does well he already does extremely well. And efficiently, too. Given their similarly terrible defensive "skillsets", it's actually starting to become an open question -- which player from his class (barring Griffin, who will always be considered a 2009 rookie to me) is really better than Monroe?
It's an open question, and if I had to answer it, I don't think I'd be able to really pick anyone out of the crowd. Monroe's sophomore season was incredibly impressive, and I felt he was about a dime and a rebound short of a deserving all-star berth. It's not just the numbers he got, it's the sense that he could've done a lot better if the Pistons schemes didn't consistently freeze the poor man out. There were games this season -- take this soon-to-be-forgotten close loss at the Boston Garden early in the season -- where Monroe essentially destroyed all-comers. He obliterated Garnett every time he touched the ball (he shot 9-12 against Kevin Garnett as his primary defender -- I watched the game in its entirety, and for the majority of the game, Garnett was covering Monroe), using a wide and dizzying array of post moves and grit. He did this despite playing only 33 minutes in the game, and -- more ridiculously -- shooting zero shots in the entire fourth quarter. He shot 75% from the floor against Kevin Garnett and the Pistons didn't think to go "hey, wait, maybe we should... try to leverage that matchup, per-haps?" Never really crossed their mind?
This brings us back to the opening notation -- Monroe is an amazing offensive player. He's an incredibly solid rebounding presence, as well -- he only played 31 MPG last year, but his per-36 averages were a somewhat absurd 18-11-3-2-1 on an even more ridiculous 14 field goal attempts per game. He fills the stat sheet like virtually none other, and if you can pick him up in your fantasy league, by all means, do so. I'd imagine, though, that this offensive talent would've led him to become overrated at some point. Just another overheralded offense-first big man -- the next overhyped Brook Lopez in a long line of the sort. But, well... he hasn't. If you mention Greg Monroe -- even among many really awesome NBA scribes -- the only thing most people know about him is that he's a bad defender who plays for Detroit. I'm serious. So, there's my confusion. Every time I watch Monroe play I see a player that's statistically dominant from the center position but woefully, woefully underutilized by his team.
I also see -- as everyone else does -- a player whose defense last season was even worse than his somewhat iffy rookie defense. He needs to work on his lower body strength so he doesn't get pushed around so much on the block, and he absolutely needs to develop better footwork. He's got nimble hands and a good first step, which helped him be not-quite-terrible at defending the pick and roll (at least to my eyes) but his overall defensive game does need some improvement. Still, I wouldn't ever classify Monroe as some shiftless, incompetent defender. I'd classify him as a young and slightly embryonic defender whose offensive game is extraordinarily advanced for his age and whose overall command of the floor is mightly impressive when you consider the weak pieces around him. He's their only consistent threat, and as a result, he gets doubled constantly -- it doesn't matter. He still gets it done. Monroe may not be in a great situation, but don't let that obfuscate the weight of his contributions. The kid's got a grown-man game, and he's a month separated from his 22nd birthday. He has time. He's already impressive, and he's a singular bright spot for a franchise that's been something of a dark practical joke since the misbegotten Billups trade and the awful dual Villanueva/Gordon signings. And if you're going to have a singular bright spot, you might as well try to make it as bright as a guy like Monroe -- the 10th Moose GM of the year*.
* ... also, to clear this up. I'm serious. His Twitter handle is "Moose GM #10." I will never cease to find this amusing. Later in his career, when Greg Monroe starts a professional Moose-jousting league and serves as General Manager of its star franchise, millions will lament that they didn't see it coming. You, having been now forced to pay attention to his Twitter handle, will know. You know the score. You're welcome.
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Follow Tristan Thompson on twitter at @RealTristan13.
Okay. I don't generally watch the draft. I know, kind of ridiculous. I was raised, to some extent, a Cavs fan -- I certainly had my choice of who to root for (which led to my love for Tim Duncan, David Robinson, and my eventual developed love-from-afar for the Spurs), but my grandfather loved Cleveland teams and I loved my grandfather. So, therefore, I'm a Cleveland fan. And last year, Cleveland had the first and fourth picks in the draft. For once -- only the second time in 5 or 6 years -- I considered watching the draft. Really mulled it over. The answer was decided in an executive decision by my girlfriend, however -- it was not a night for the draft, it was date night. Alas.
I was clever, though. I got my mom, a die-hard Cavs fan -- love you, Mom! -- to agree to text me our #1 and #4 picks after the #4 was chosen. I figured I'd get the picks at dinner, internalize an opinion on them, and talk about them with Alex later. Well, draft night comes. We go out to her favorite burger joint. We're eating fried green tomatoes, when my phone goes off. I glance at it. #1 Kyrie Irving, yay! #4 Tristan Thompson... wait, do you know who that is? My face -- content as I read Kyrie -- turned to stone as I finished the text. I stare at my girlfriend, aghast. "WE CHOSE TRISTAN THOMPSON?!"
"Huh?" The waitress stares at us. Everyone could hear me. I do not notice.
"TRISTAN THOMPSON! Dude had a free throw percentage UNDER 50%. IN COLLEGE."
"I... wait, what?"
"We passed over Jonas Valanciunas! He's amazing! I watched so much tape!"
"... are you talking about basketball? We agreed, no basketball. Aaron, this is date night."
The damage was done. The date was ruined. Not even the waitress incorrectly asking whether I was talking about a new Jonas brother could make things right. Alack. Unfortunately for my stress level watching the Cavs, I was proceeded to be proven somewhat right and somewhat wrong, in his rookie season -- Thompson has a tenuous grasp on the concept of "how to shoot a basketball", and his talent for creatively goaltending shots would make Serge Ibaka and JaVale McGee blush with vicious envy. However, it wasn't all bad. He was the best non-Kyrie player from the rather disappointing lottery, even if Kawhi Leonard, Isaiah Thomas, and Kenneth Faried were 10-20x better than he was. His talent for offensive rebounds translated relatively effectively to the major leagues (even if his defensive rebounding was godawful) and his defense -- while shaky -- shows some promise. Still kind of wish the Cavs had picked Big V, especially watching more recent footage, but I'd welcome the chance to be proven wrong by a vengeful Thompson. Which, yes, is an invitation. Openly. I will say this aloud, for all to hear. Tristan Thompson: I ruined a date because of shock and awe at your selection.
Please make me look like a fool for doing so.
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Follow John Salmons on twitter at @bucsalmons.
Alright. This is the first player on this list whose on-court play I unequivocally cannot stand. It's not that the theory of John Salmons is all that bad. As a player, he's relatively average -- he's your everyday three point gunner with a penchant for taking foot-on-the-line long twos that make fans of his team anguished and fans of their opponent happy. I don't tend to like those players -- not really my cup of tea -- but if you're cool with that style than you'd probably be OK with John Salmons. And it's worth noting that Salmons is legitimately a solid person. He's a family man, and a seriously devout Christian. Betting you didn't know that. Regardless, my issues stem not with Salmons (who I'm sure is a great guy in real life). The issue with Salmons is all on-court. And for me, it's mostly that he's ridiculously overpaid to be "that guy" -- he makes, believe it or not, $8.5 million dollars a year to throw up long twos, dole out a few tertiary assists, and snag a few rebounds. Why, you might ask, does John Salmons make that kind of money? Because he's smarter than us. Because John Salmons is better than you or I at peaking at the right time.
Look. I'll stop being snide and cut to the chase. John Salmons -- nice guy though he may be -- is a contract year player, through and through. He redefines the concept. He is the world's leading practitioner at it. He puts in some effort during off years, sure -- enough to have a game or two every year where he does a lot of good things and makes General Managers feel better about themselves for signing him to the ridiculous deals he's lived off for his entire career. Like this one, last year. But for the most part, Salmons has spent his entire career playing ridiculously good basketball when he's on the verge of signing a new contract and ridiculously poor basketball otherwise. The greatest trick Salmons ever played on the world was when he shot a contract-year powered 38% from behind the arc for 2010's surprising Milwaukee Bucks. The greatest trick he ever played on the world was... well, it wasn't really a trick, it was more a General Manager's awful decision to give him his current mess of a contract. STILL.
That thinking is what's led to our current situation -- one where John Salmons, the basketball player, has made $40,000,000 in his NBA career. This means that John Salmons has made more in his NBA career than the Gross Domestic Product of the island nation of Tuvalu. Just putting that out there. At least he has a cool beard. Also, he's the first NBA player I've seen who actually has fewer followers than I do. Granted, it's not a confirmed account, but if that actually is Salmons that's hilarious and ridiculous.
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For the uninitiated, I'll continually restate this -- at the end of each post, I'll be scribing riddles for the next batch of players. Whoever gets the most riddles right will get a shout out at the end of the next post. Tweet me your answers at @docrostov, or post them in the comments. If several people tie, I'll post everyone who tied. No overtime in this riddle-guessing competition, guys. For the last post, the winner of our respect goes to @krishnanwarrior, who got 2/3 of these players correct. (And no, I'm not sure how he did it.) Five players to guess for next Monday, which should be entertaining. Gentlemen, start your thinking.
- Player #7's perilous descent into his own inferno would have been a really popular storyline, if he was a less marginal player.
- The potential and promise in Player #8's game could start a war... though probably only if Noam had a warship.
- If I was to assess the probabilities that a current NBA player would pull a Kermit Washington, Player #9 would head the leaderboard.
- Short, stocky, dealt with a heart problem. Still a pretty solid center, though, that Player #10.
- I don't think we're ever going to forget Player #11's 2009 playoff run. Which is good, because beyond that, he's been awful ugly.
See you on Monday, folks. Have a good weekend.