The Detroit Pistons and Greg Monroe are taking a qualified risk

The Detroit Pistons and Greg Monroe are taking a qualified risk

Detroit Pistons forward Greg Monroe isn’t taking an unprecedented step, respected and/or high end lottery picks like Ben Gordon, Michael Olowokandi, Stromile Swift, Spencer Hawes and Raymond Felton (amongst others) have all signed the qualifying offer with their incumbent teams, but only Hawes eventually re-signed with his team the following summer as an unrestricted free agent.

At this point, we’re not sure if either side is looking forward to such a re-committing in the summer of 2015.

This hardly matters in the interim. The Pistons and Monroe have decided to agree to a qualifying offer of nearly $5.48 million for the 2014-15 season, as first reported by Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski. Were Monroe an unrestricted free agent this summer, he likely would have signed for a contract starting at around twice that on the open market. As a restricted free agent during this offseason, however, teams were likely scared off at the idea that any offer sheet they approached Monroe with would be eventually matched by the Pistons, costing the moneyed approach-ers crucial time during the busiest days of the NBA’s free agent summer.

We’re now in the dullest weeks of the NBA’s free agent summer, and the Pistons have won out. Reportedly, the team never offered a deal to Monroe, preferring to let restricted free agency play in their favor. As a result, they’ll be the beneficiaries as they watch one of the league’s top scorers at the power forward position plays for less than half the league’s average salary in 2014-15.

The question from here is, will Greg Monroe eventually win out?

Yes. A thousand times yes. Unless something goes terribly wrong, and even then, probably … yes.

Monroe has his faults. He improved defensively last season and the season before, and diligent low post defense isn’t as sorely need at his position as it was in years past, but on the whole he has serious issues with help defense both near and away from the rim in the screen and roll game. He is far from a stretch four, though you still have to mind his 15-footer, and he clashed terribly with former power forward Josh Smith in a massive Pistons frontcourt last season. If my favorite team signed Greg Monroe to an eight figure yearly contract, I’d be uneasy.

I’d also talk myself into it, though. And this is what NBA teams will do next summer, when the other obvious free agent candidates move to other teams, and an aching general manager/ownership combo will throw scads of dollars at Monroe, who didn’t even turn 24 this year until Detroit’s season had been over for nearly two months.

Monroe has yet to play in the playoffs, less a function of his lacking play and more of a result of the massive upheaval that Pistons fans have had to watch as player after player and coach after coach (nine of them!) have come and gone under former president Joe Dumars. Dumars was ahead of his time when he put together the cap-flexible and quite versatile Pistons squad that eventually won the 2004 championship, but he’s skipped over a series of missteps in the years following, and the Pistons haven’t made the playoffs since 2009.

Dumars was let go by new’ish Detroit owner Tom Gores after 2013-14, and though the widely-respected Jeff Bower is the team’s ostensible GM, coach and president Stan Van Gundy will be making all the final calls as the Pistons look to emerge from the clutches of Dumars’ mostly-misspent moves. Van Gundy has said nice things about Monroe, even calling him prior to any other NBA team as the free agent negotiation period officially began in July, but it’s clear that he didn’t want to bid against himself to commit big money to Monroe in his first months on the job – and proof of that philosophy is in this qualifyin’ puddin’.

Monroe will likely be staying with the Pistons the entire season. If Detroit does develop a midseason deal involving the scoring forward, he has veto power and can decline the trade. If Greg does decide that he wants to end up where the Pistons want to send him, he’d better think twice – Monroe will lose his Bird Rights with the new team, meaning that he’d have to be dealt to a squad with significant 2015 cap space in order to re-sign a contract set to what he thinks he’s worth. Such a move would also hamper that hypothetical team’s other offseason pursuits.

There’s also the fear of injury, as Monroe is banking on 2015 and beyond while hoping that he doesn’t back into a career-altering malady. As we’ve written before, though, many teams would line up for the shot to sign an injured Monroe next summer, knowing that he might not be at his best in his first season with his new team. Teams, in the summertime, can talk themselves into anything.

If Monroe has a terrific season? Then Detroit can offer more money spread out over more years next summer in unrestricted free agency in order to lure him to return. If Monroe finds the return an uneasy one, and another team swoops in following the season? Those are the breaks: Van Gundy would likely move the borderline (unless Sacramento has something up its sleeve that we don’t know about) untradeable Josh Smith up to power forward, and retain his cap flexibility moving forward.

It seems like a win for all sides, even if Monroe is rightfully unhappy at the moment, and even if the Pistons still lose more than they win in 2014-15.

Greg Monroe and the Detroit Pistons are taking a qualified risk

- - - - - - -

Kelly Dwyer

is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!