Milwaukee Bucks: The Greg Monroe Situation

Oct 8, 2016; Madison, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks center Greg Monroe (15) against Dallas Mavericks forward Dwight Powell (7)  at the Kohl Center. Milwaukee defeated Dallas 88-74.  Mandatory Credit: Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

With Greg Monroe earning his way back in to the rotation after a tense start to the season, where do the Milwaukee Bucks go from here?

The relationship between Greg Monroe and the Milwaukee Bucks turned sour very quickly.

Just more than a year ago (July 2015) Monroe signed a three-year, $50 million contract with a player option in the final year, something that has become incredibly important when analyzing this situation.

With Monroe’s minutes being reduced each season in Milwaukee (he’s down to a career low 21.3 MPG) and the Bucks previously shopping him on the trade market, it’s clear that this marriage will have an ugly end.

When Monroe signed with the Bucks, it shocked teams such as the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers, who assumed they would be able to sign the big man due to the big market they play in.

But in the end Monroe chose Milwaukee of all places, and looked to be another significant piece in the young core of the Bucks. Oh, what a difference a year can make.

In his first season in a Bucks uniform, Monroe started the majority of games (67 to be precise) and put up his typical performance: 15.3 points, 8.8 rebounds and nearly a steal and a block per game.

However, down the stretch of the season as #PointGiannis took over, the Bucks moved Monroe to the bench in favor of guys such as Miles Plumlee and John Henson.

Monroe became frustrated and rumors quickly circulated that the Bucks had quietly put him on the trade market, less than one year after signing the big man.

Fast forward to today, and Monroe has played less than 10 minutes in four games this season and has even received a “DNP-Coach’s Decision.” This is a strange situation, one that I don’t even think coach Jason Kidd knows the solution to.

When Monroe has been on the court, he has been very productive. He has nine double-doubles so far this season, and is posting 10.9 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.2 steals and 0.5 blocks per game.

Translate those numbers to per-36 minutes and you get 18.5 points, 11.7 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 2.1 steals, and 0.8 blocks. Those are extremely impressive numbers.

Also, Monroe boasts a 22 Player Efficiency Rating, 2.5 box score plus/minus (boosted by a 2.0 defensive box score plus/minus) and a 2.17 Real Plus-Minus, good for 11th in the league among centers.

It’s clear that when he’s given the chance, Monroe has been producing in his role this season.

So this begs two questions: what are the Bucks (and Kidd specifically) doing with Greg Monroe and where do the two parties go from here?

It’s easy to understand moving Monroe to the bench- he is slow on both ends of the floor, inconsistent on defense, and doesn’t space the floor.

With Giannis Antetokounmpo turning in to the Bucks de facto point guard and a one-man fastbreak, the Bucks need all the floor spacing they can get around him.

Monroe works out of the post, something that would slow down the Bucks and cramp the lane for Giannis’ drives to the rim.

However, it’s also clear that Monroe can still be very productive in the right role. We’re not talking about a player that is past his prime (Monroe just turned 26 in June), but rather a player that doesn’t fit his team’s plan. Just look at one of Monroe’s best games as a Buck:

Monroe can score in the post, provide competent defense (above average most of the time), and make the right pass out of a double team. Those are skills plenty of teams in the league can use.

Monroe can also play alongside Giannis at times, provided the Bucks space the floor effectively around them. In fact, Monroe is a part of the three most effective lineups (in terms of net rating) for the Bucks that have played at least 50 minutes together.

The lineup of Antetokounmpo, Malcolm Brogdon, Mirza Teletovic, Jason Terry and Monroe is boasting an astounding 132.5 offensive rating and 96.7 defensive rating in the 61 minutes it has played.

It is clear that staggering the minutes of Monroe and Antetokounmpo effectively can be done and will be important for the Bucks this season.

So that takes us to where we started. It’s not a matter of if Monroe and the Bucks will divorce, but rather when. Monroe is too talented of a player to be receiving “DNP-Coach’s Decision” on a .500 team that could use his skills.

Moving forward

However, there are two potential roadblocks in this situation that make it a little more murky. First, Monroe has fought his way back in to the rotation, as he has played 27.6 minutes per game in January, potentially signaling a new direction for his role on the team.

If Monroe continues to receive that amount of playing time, it is easy to see him sticking around next year as a go-to option off the bench.

Second is the fact that the Bucks have openly shopped Monroe for almost a year now and have received little to nothing in responses from other teams. Whether or not Monroe is still on the market, it isn’t exactly a good signal to be sending a player when you openly shop him.

It is also unclear if the Bucks truly want Monroe to opt in next season. It was no secret that the Houston Rockets were privately wishing Dwight Howard would opt out last offseason and this could be a similar situation.

Whether the Bucks just get desperate and trade Monroe for little to nothing in return in fear of Monroe exercising his player option or Monroe just opts out and moves on this offseason, it’s clear the pairing of Monroe and the Bucks – once a move that shocked the league – is running out of time.

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