The Monroe Dilemma

The Bucks are facing a growing issue at the pivot position.

Monroe was the Bucks big ticket free agent signing, he signed in Milwaukee to contend for the playoffs but so far this season the Bucks have been well a bit of a dud. Right now the Bucks are 20-29 and sitting in the 13th slot in the Eastern Conference. There have been a lot of reasons for the Bucks collapse this season, but their defense has definitely been one of them their previously top five defense has plummeted all the way down to a bottom five defense. It is hard to pin all the defense down to one person, the team as a whole has regressed. I don’t think Middleton has been the same defender as he was a year ago and Jabari Parker playing heavy minutes will not help any defense.

Greg Monroe replacing Zaza Pachulia has definitely been a major factor, Monroe has been touted as a plus offense – minus defense guy his entire career. He simply does not make good rotations and does not seem to have Zaza’s knowledge of positioning, since Monroe is not an athletic shot blocker as a result in order to build an elite defense with him manning the pivot he needs to give a great effort and play very intelligently. There is an argument that Monroe is only 25 and still has time to learn, but conversely this is his 6th year in the league. In a constantly evolving game Monroe’s value as a low post scorer is diminished, his field goal percentage is a solid 51.6%, which is solid, but not spectacular by any means. His efficiency is buoyed by getting to the free throw line at a steady rate, which is also one of my biggest faults with him. 

In Greg’s mind he has never attempted a shot where he did not get fouled. This leads to the referee’s getting mad and while he has not been a technical magnet, one cannot help but question whether or not the Bucks bottom five free throw rate is related to Monroe’s constant whining. That is at best speculation, but Monroe has been out of position defensively a decent amount of times in his short Milwaukee tenure. He needs to set aside his complaints with the referees and focus on his defense. He needs to spend more time in the film room to make himself truly a great NBA player.

On the season Monroe with the 4 other starters has an offensive rating of 109.1 and a defensive rating of 114.2 in 392 minutes. The 4 starters and Henson are at an offensive rating of 112.7 and a defensive rating of 83.3 in 61 minutes. These are merely per 100 possession rates not some advanced stats with modifiers and calculations just numbers that are scaled so they can be compared.

Henson could be the answer for the Bucks defensive issues.
Henson could be the answer for the Bucks defensive issues.

Henson on paper is a much better fit with the starters, his high level of finishing and relative quickness for the position means he needs to be guarded on cuts which can create spacing but not in the traditional sense like a JJ Redick or Kyle Korver does. Explosive centers can create space because their man doesn’t feel comfortable leaving them wide open to cut to the rim.

Henson is also a better fit next to Jabari Parker defensively because he can erase some of Parker’s miscues. Henson is 2nd in the league in blocks per 36 minutes he is a game changing shot blocker. Having a guy like that anchoring your defense is essential when you start a lesser defending power forward. (The way modern NBA defenses are structured emphasizes the 4s and 5s because of their help responsibilities)

If I were John Hammond, I would begin exploring Monroe trades, I know Portland was in the running to sign him. Maybe you could get their first or a solid rotational piece (Vonleh / Crabbe) bottom line get something longterm for Monroe before he walks next summer. His max will be 30m even if he signs for less, I don’t want to be the team paying him 20m+ when he has never been on a winning team and is a huge minus on the defensive end. Henson has proven he can fit well with the starters and is under contract for 4 more seasons after this one making him the clear cut center of the future. Waiting to trade Monroe only decreases his value, because the length of time the receiving team will get him will be significantly lowered if they wait until the summer. It might hurt the Bucks a bit in the short term as they transition to giving Giannis and Jabari most of Greg’s offensive possessions, but the way I see it that is more of a positive than anything else. Giannis and Jabari get touches to develop and the Bucks get a slightly better piece to add to their core.

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Alexander Juneau is a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a member of the staff at Cream City Central. Life long Bucks fan. Currently studying History and Political Science at UW-Madison. Just trying to enjoy the teams in this beautiful state.


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