When the NBA’s free-agency period begins Wednesday, New Orleanian Greg Monroe will be one of the top big men available.
Monroe, an unrestricted free agent who played five years with the Detroit Pistons, joins centers Marc Gasol and DeAndre Jordan and power forward LaMarcus Aldridge as those available who could most bolster a team’s frontcourt.
Five teams have shown serious interest — the Boston Celtics, New York Knicks, Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers. Monroe said he’ll meet with those teams this week.
“I’m looking to be with a team that’s ready to win,” said Monroe during a timeout at his youth basketball clinic Saturday morning at the Delgado Community College gymnasium. “Hopefully it will be a team where I’m the missing piece.”
Monroe, who led Helen Cox High School to the 2008 Louisiana Class 4A state championship before playing two years at Georgetown, said he’d be a good fit with the hometown New Orleans Pelicans. Both of the Pelicans’ top two centers from last season, Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca, are unrestricted free agents.
However, Monroe said the Pelicans have not shown an interest thus far. He has career averages of 14.3 points and 9.3 rebounds per game, and last season averaged 15.9 points and 10.2 rebounds.
“I’d love to play and represent this city,” he said. “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.”
But the Golden State Warriors won this season’s NBA championship after an exciting season featuring a fast-paced style with Gentry the offensive mastermind. That cames one season after the San Antonio Spurs put ball movement and tempo back into the game in winning the title in 2014.
It appears the league is getting away from a post-up, plodding style of play that is less exciting to fans. That’s part of the reason Monroe is available. He played center initially for the Pistons, then moved to power forward when the team drafted athletic Andre Drummond in 2012 and put him at center. The two were the top offensive rebounding tandem in the NBA, but coach Stan Van Gundy wanted a change.
“Stan had smaller teams in Orlando (Magic) years ago,” Monroe said. “Dre is like Dwight Howard. So Stan wants to put good players around him. The team has different plans, and I respect that. I don’t want to be anywhere I’m not wanted.”
A move may be beneficial to both. Detroit went 145-249 (.368) during Monroe’s tenure.
But there’s much interest in Monroe (6-foot-11, 250 pounds), who’s been known as a skillful big man ever since his days at Cox. And a good low-post player, able to score a few feet from the basket, will never go out of style. He said he has no preference between playing center or power forward.
The Celtics have four free-agent forwards, need a big-bodied rim protector in the lane and have $25 million in salary-cap space. The Knicks, heading into the second year under General Manager Phil Jackson, would like a cornerstone big man around which to build.
The Trail Blazers are losing Aldridge and want an upgrade from former Pelicans center Robin Lopez. And the Bucks and Lakers each want a center to pair with a promising young power forward who suffered a season-ending injury last season.
Monroe signed Detroit’s tender offer of $5,479,933 before last season after a rookie contract of four years, $13,110,094. It was not lost on him that he may be an unrestricted free agent a year too soon. The NBA’s new nine-year, $24 billion television contract kicks in before the 2016-17 season. That will affect the type of contract Monroe signs, he said.
“(He and agent David Falk) are definitely looking at all our options,” he said. “You can see the trend is everybody’s taking shorter deals right now. So, most likely, I might take that route, too, and when the new deal kicks in, get a longer-term contract.
“I’m looking at a two-year deal plus an option” to become a free agent.
About 60 children, ages 6 to 14, participated in the basketball clinic, doubling the total of the first one last year.
“At this age, we focused on basic skills — dribbling, passing, defense and stuff,” Monroe said. “The older ones, we did some typical workouts and drills trying to get them better.”
He said his charitable foundation has funded “between 15 and 20” college scholarships for students in New Orleans and Detroit.