NBA trade rumors: Are Wizards hot after Greg Monroe?

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

One report suggests the Wizards are definitely going to pursue the fourth-year Pistons forward, whether via trade or free agency.

It's trade rumor season, which means you should believe everything and believe nothing. Believe everything because there's too much chatter from front-office personnel and agents at high and low levels for a rumor to come completely out of nowhere. Believe nothing because most of it is just talk and it's extremely hard to actually complete a trade.

I'm burying the lede. Here's something Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders, the former HOOPSWORLD, wrote today that is of interest to us:

One player who has been mentioned in trade rumors throughout this season is Greg Monroe, the young power forward who will be a restricted free agent this offseason since he couldn't agree on an extension with the Pistons. It's no secret that Josh Smith is better at the four, and it's possible that Detroit moves the valuable Monroe to upgrade another position and slide Smith over to power forward.

One team is interested in Monroe is the Washington Wizards, according to multiple league sources. It's becoming clear that Washington is planning to pursue in Monroe, either through trade or free agency.

The chatter isn't surprising. As Kennedy notes, the Pistons are in a weird place. Their three-big lineups aren't working, Smith is under contract for three more years, Andre Drummond is eventually due a big payday and Monroe is about to become a restricted free agent. The Wizards, meanwhile, need one more blue-chipper eventually to pair with John Wall and Bradley Beal, and they have cap space this summer to get that player (though it'd likely mean the departure of Trevor Ariza and/or Marcin Gortat). I'd be surprised if the Wizards weren't looking into Monroe's availability.

There are a couple things to consider here, though:

Do the Wizards even want Greg Monroe?

Obviously, Monroe is a very good player, but is he worth the cost and opportunity cost it'll take to get him? In order to get him away from Detroit, the Wizards will likely need to give him a four-year maximum contract or close to it at the very least. (Realistically, it'll cost cap space and assets. We'll get to the latter shortly). Is that too much money for Monroe?

That's a tough question to answer. Monroe's numbers have remained steady at best since his second year; if anything, they've gotten worse. He's a less efficient scorer than he was as a sophomore because he's had to play more out on the perimeter, where he isn't as good. This year in particular has been a struggle, as Monroe's scoring efficiency, rebounding, assists and shooting percentage in the restricted area are all down from last year. His defense, never a strong suit, has not improved either. Monroe is still slow-footed and unaware in pick and roll situations, though he'll try harder on post ups.

And yet, we might need to throw those numbers out because the Pistons are a very rough situation for him. Smith has assumed the lion's share of the scoring and playmaking, leaving Monroe with just a few post-ups and offensive rebounds to get his points. The team is poorly coached defensively, with late rotations and embarrassing miscommunications across the board. Monroe's also been much better as a center than a power forward this year, posting a 56.4 true shooting percentage while lording over a defense that allows just 100.1 points per 100 possessions when paired with Smith and without Drummond, per NBAWowy. This season does not feel like the best measure of Monroe's ability.

Ultimately, Monroe is a big man that can be a load inside and has nice passing instincts, but isn't the best shooter and needs work defensively. I think his array of positive skills outweigh his negatives and I would feel OK breaking the bank for him myself. If the Wizards don't sign him for, say, $13-14 million, they'll just end up paying $10 million or so for Gortat or someone else. Monroe is several years younger and already much better than Gortat, so his prime dovetails nicely with Wall's.

But I am not too firm on that opinion, because there's also the future to consider. Monroe at that price is certainly tradeable, but he'd also be the Wizards' big free-agent splash over the next couple years. There's an argument that it's better to wait for something better to come along.

The bigger issue, though ...

What can the Wizards give to entice Detroit?

Obviously, it'd be ideal if the Wizards could just sign him outright without the Pistons matching, but that rarely happens with restricted free agents. Even Tyreke Evans, who was never going to stay in Sacramento, was ultimately exchanged for assets that proved to be important down the road (Greivis Vasquez, Robin Lopez).

What are those assets for the Wizards? Good question. It'd be very useful to have a 2014 first-round pick to trade now, but the Wizards don't because of last October's Gortat trade. (Remember what we've constantly said about the future complications of that move? Here you go.). The Wizards could deal Otto Porter, but would Detroit even want him? If so, would it be too soon to give up on him?

Past that, there's not much Detroit wants. Trevor Booker is playing well, but he seems like a last resort acquisition. None of the other existing members on the roster really have much value. Trading Beal would probably be too extreme, though I'd be curious to hear out any arguments suggesting otherwise. The Wizards technically can trade a draft pick with the language that it'll be conveyed two years after the selection from the Gortat trade is, but that's a couple years down the road, and Detroit is likely looking for a better fit now. A third team could perhaps be brought in, but that usually adds more complications.

The Wizards, sad to say, just don't have that much to offer in a trade.

***

While lots of weird stuff leaks out around this time of year, it certainly seems plausible that the Wizards would be going after Greg Monroe. But wanting him, deciding it's worth it to acquire him and then actually acquiring him are three totally different things.

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