Essay: Projecting Future Value, Centers
Rising: Greg Monroe
In college, he was the unselfish friendly big man, always hanging out at the high post making sure everyone’s comfortable, like a big brother who protects his little siblings by standing taller than everyone else in the neighborhood. His technical skills were vast, and the way he made the Princeton offense sing made every first time viewer aware of the team’s best player before a basket was even scored.
Either due to the depressing team he played for or the slow-but-steady-wins-the-race style he exudes, last year Greg Monroe went through one of the most delightful rookie seasons a center has had in years, and very few noticed. (Monroe was “awarded” sixth place in the running for Rookie of the Year.) Former coach John Kuester dialed up just a handful of plays for arguably his team’s best player—one of the many reasons he no longer works there (“I probably could count them on my hand, the plays that were called for me throughout the year,” Monroe said last May.)
From month to month, his statistics were a natural crescendo in almost every major statistical category—after the All-Star break his points and rebounds spiked by six and four, respectively. He had more assists in the final 25 games than in the first 55. Despite the sluggish start Monroe finished sixth in the league in field goal percentage, third in offensive rebound rate (one ahead of Dwight Howard), and eighth in offensive rating (120 points per 100 possessions!). It’s rather easy and completely uncontroversial to say that behind John Wall and Blake Griffin, Monroe was the league’s most impressive rookie.
He’s 6’11 and is smart enough to know where a man his size belongs on the court. He attempted pretty much all his shots at the rim, despite spending his collegiate career a good distance away.
In 2010 the Detroit Pistons were cataclysmic. The individual players and coaches existed apart from one another as a friction filled pile of waste. Monroe was the first round pick with limited expectations…until he crashed his way into the starting lineup with consistency and an ability to keep possessions alive. He was drafted as a top shelf role player, but if he continues down the road he started on, Monroe might find himself as THE essential piece existing at Detroit’s core; the motor that gets their engine running, no pun intended. It’s only a matter of time before people begin to notice.
Honorable Mention: Brook Lopez, DeAndre Jordan, Andrew Bogut
Lopez can’t get any worse as a seven-foot rebounding presence than he was last season, but if Kris Humphries leaves in free agency then the numbers should increase. Also, Lopez must be taking all the Dwight Howard to Brooklyn talk as a direct insult. While he’s nowhere near as dominant a player as Howard, Lopez still has the offensive skill set and the physical characteristics to be an effective, back to the basket presence, and a more than suitable piece on a champion should Deron Williams stay.
Last year Lopez took almost as many jumpers a game as shots at the rim, which is an absolutely terrible trend he’ll need to reverse if he wants to join the league’s more consistent big men.
Jordan is a free agent with incredible potential on both sides of the floor, and Bogut—fully healed from his wrist injury—should finally break through to the all-star level he was projected to see by now.
Falling: Tyson Chandler
Comparing a player with nonexistent independent offensive ability to Kevin Garnett is poisonous, especially when people start believing it.
Tyson Chandler helped Dallas win a championship, and being that it was his first season on board a team that was always very good yet could never get over that final hump, he’s seen as the final lump of clay they needed to do it; the player Mark Cuban’s spent millions upon millions of dollars in search of all these years. In reality, several players played their roles to perfection in supporting the alpha male Dirk Nowitzki, and to say Chandler’s was any more important than, say, Jason Kidd and Shawn Marion’s sweltering perimeter defense or J.J. Barea’s advantageous trips to the paint is disputable. Did Chandler change Dallas’ culture? That’s an exaggerated statement, but he definitely altered it. The fact is, though, what he offers alone is insufficient to winning basketball games. Insufficient and in need of so many other factors in order for him to thrive and allow his numerous weaknesses to be masked.
When Chandler’s name arose before Dallas’ championship run the first thing people thought was bust. On draft night in 2001 the Chicago Bulls traded their best player, Elton Brand, for Chandler with the dream that one day he’d become the next David Robinson. What they got instead was five years of single digit scoring and the not-quite-paramount trade that landed P.J. Brown and J.R. Smith.
99 people out of 100 might deem Chandler a relatively uncoordinated individual. He’s incapable of creating any offense on his own, or tying his shoes in under 30 seconds. Chandler has proven he can contribute on a world champion, but from this moment forth some will confuse “contribute” with “lead”. Chandler declared it impossible for the Mavericks to resign him if the collective bargaining agreement that’s currently being debated is set in place, meaning the value he’s placed on himself is astronomical. Whenever the lockout ends and dump trucks filled with cash are unloaded on his front lawn, the expectations for Chandler to suddenly become an all-around reliable player will sprout, and disappointment will follow close behind.
Honorable Mention: Kendrick Perkins
For all the same reasons that were listed for Tyson Chandler, Perkins follows in the growing trend of over compensating to grab a defensive big man. Not that this position isn’t important (it is vital), but if teams keep overpaying for guys who can only excel in one area, they’ll be spreading their financial flexibility too thin and other important areas will go left unnoticed. (For example, scoring the basketball.)
Perkins and Chandler both play for teams with elite scorers, but the fear here is that they’ve unnecessarily raised the market price for fellow big men who will eventually land on teams that don’t have a Kevin Durant or Dirk Nowitzki to make everyone else look good.