Greg Monroe: Rookie of the Year (not named Blake Griffin)

J.J. Barea: "I've made a huge mistake."

I can’t help but be amazed at how far Greg Monroe has come this season. The guy has gone from being almost completely useless on offense — he shot 35% from the field and a Ben Wallace-esque 46% from the line in November — to averaging 14 and 10 (plus 2 steals and 2 assists) on almost 60% shooting after the all-star break. Monroe didn’t get his first double-double until January 4th. He’s had 18 more in the following 43 games, including five 20-10 games.

I was optimistic about how Monroe would develop, but he’s far outstripped where I thought he’d be by now. To be honest, I was pretty disappointed when the Pistons walked away from the 2010 draft with Monroe as their 1st round pick. I’d prayed for some sort of divine intervention that would send DeMarcus Cousins to the Pistons, and I had some lingering concerns about Monroe. His rebounding at Georgetown, especially his offensive rebounding, was a bit suspect, and he turned the ball over a lot. So naturally, it’s been a pleasant surprise that my two biggest concerns have been two of the strongest aspects of his game. Monroe is averaging only one turnover per game (exactly), and he’s 8th in the league in offensive rebounding rate among players playing 20 mpg or more.

Watching Monroe play is fun if you’re paying attention to him, but he has the Tim Duncan-like ability to produce consistently without attracting too much attention. He’ll disappear in traffic, only to grab an offensive rebound, stonewall a posting opponent, or force a turnover. He’ll surprise you with big halves that just seem to slip under the radar. He doesn’t utilize his athleticism too much — he plays more like Bill Laimbeer than Ben Wallace — but he’ll occasionally throw down a sick dunk or ally-oop (his steal and dunk on J.J. Barea comes to mind) that seems to come out of nowhere.

Blake Griffin is the rookie of the year, obviously. I’m not dumb enough to argue Monroe has had a better season, because he hasn’t. He’ll be lucky to ever reach Blake’s level, frankly. But has Monroe had the best season of this year’s draft class? I’d have to say yes. John Wall and Landry Fields are in the running, but Wall’s shooting efficiency has been pretty bad (41% fg, .491 ts%, 99 ortg), and he turns the ball over a lot (4 per game). Wall’s defense has been pretty spotty, as well, although it’s hard to fault him when he’s playing on the same team as Andray Blatche. Fields is one of my favorite players in the league, but the only edge he has on Monroe is three point shooting. He’s had a great season — I’d rank him third from this year’s class — but his numbers have fallen since the all-star break, and they’re inferior to Monroe’s across the board.

I don’t really know what Monroe’s ceiling is. What I do know is that he’s been phenomenal this year, and he’s practically the only thing keeping me watching the Pistons. Blake Griffin is going to win RoY, and I’d be willing to bet Wall is going to finish in 2nd. I’d like to see Monroe in the discussion, but ultimately that isn’t what matters. Greg “Moose” (“Monroad Warrior” and “Monrobo Cop” are also acceptable) Monroe is my rookie of the year, and I look forward to watching him for the rest of his career.

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