The free agent market is heating back up. And Greg Monroe is the name to watch.
The 6-foot-10 former Helen Cox standout is a prime target for the New Orleans Pelicans in their search to fill the gap left by injured All-Star DeMarcus Cousins.
Monroe hits the open market after clearing waivers on Saturday, thanks to agreeing on a buyout with the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night. And in an instant, the Harvey native became one of the NBA’s most discussed topics.
He’ll have his pick of many suitors, thanks to his inside scoring and rebounding abilities, and the most likely destinations are the Pelicans and Boston Celtics, league sources told The Advocate.
Look closely between that rock and the abutting hard place.
ESPN also reported on Thursday the Pelicans have gained “significant momentum” in pursuit of Monroe.
While Boston is likely able to offer more money and a potential pathway to the NBA Finals, there a number of advantages Pelicans’ general manager Dell Demps has at his disposal in luring the big man.
Primarily, Monroe has openly spoken about a fondness for his hometown and the ability to play in front of family and friends at the Smoothie King Center. He’s hosted local camps nearly every summer since arriving in the league in 2010 and even expressed a desire to play for the Pelicans previously.
“I’d love to play and represent this city,” Monroe said in the summer of 2015. “Obviously, they have a guy like Anthony Davis who is a superstar already, and he’s only going to get better.
“I think I could really play well with him. Our games complement each other. I’m a low-post scorer. Obviously he’s a great midrange player.”
Demps can also pitch Monroe on an increased role compared to most playoff contenders, considering he’d be grabbing starter’s minutes left behind by Cousins.
After starting 401 of his first 457 NBA games, Monroe’s playing time diminished greatly, averaging just 22.3 minutes over the past two seasons. Now, as another free agency period approaches, Monroe needs playing time in meaningful games to audition his skills to the league.
New Orleans would likely try to make room for him by clearing at least one player and some money from their roster. While the Pelicans could squeeze in under the $1.2 million threshold left before the hard cap by waiving one of their expiring contracts (like Tony Allen or Jameer Nelson) and signing Monroe, sources indicate they’d like it come as part of a larger move.
Ten days before the NBA's trade deadline on Feb. 8, the Pelicans are in discussions to trade center Omer Asik and their first-round pick in th…
A trade could accomplish this, and Demps has been active in the market, nearly dealing Omer Asik, some expiring contracts and a first round pick for Bulls’ forward Nikola Mirotic earlier this week.
A similar move would allow the Pelicans to add a piece via trade and provide room to add Monroe.
But, first, Monroe has to choose New Orleans.