Why Greg Monroe to the Milwaukee Bucks Is a Perfect Fit

Monroe snubbed the Lakers and Knicks for the Bucks. Why?

When big-name free agents in the NBA are ready to be wined and dined, two destinations always seem to come up, regardless of team needs: the Lakers and the Knicks.

Each franchise has its perks, be it weather, arena, culture, history, or something less tangible.

So when a player entering his sixth year in the NBA, a player who has no All-Star selections to his name, gets offered max money from both teams and turns it down, we have to question his state of mind. Right?

Well, it turns out that Greg Monroe spurned the max deals with the two storied franchises in favor of the deal offered by the recently hapless Milwaukee Bucks for a very logical reason.

That stands to reason, as the Bucks both made the playoffs and had stronger analytical showings in 2014-15 than either the Knicks or Lakers. According to our nERD metric, which measures a team's efficiency and is predictive of that team's winning percentage, the Bucks were just a tad bit better than league average, posting a score of 50.1, indicating they'd win just a hair over half of their games based on their efficiency last season. That ranked them 16th in the league.

The Lakers ranked 27th with a score of 30.6, and the Knicks were last in the NBA at 19.4.

Of course, this doesn't account for the offseason moves and draft picks each team has made, but Monroe simply didn't want to wind up stuck on a reeling squad. And while he will stay out of the national spotlight, moving over from Detroit to Milwaukee, his consistent play might be appreciated on a bigger stage come playoff time.

Monroe's Metrics

Monroe was just one of 10 players to average a double-double in points and rebounds last season while qualifying for the minutes leaderboard, according to Basketball Reference. Monroe had maintained an average of at least 15.2 points and 9.3 rebounds in the three seasons prior, constantly flirting with double-double potential.

Monroe has actually maintained an average of 15.6 points and 9.7 rebounds per game in his past four seasons. Only 13 players have met the 15.0-point, 9.0-rebound baseline in the past four seasons. If we exclude Andrew Bynum, who played in just 86 games in that span, then it's an even dozen.

But if we bump up the baseline to that 15.6 points and 9.7 rebounds, then only seven guys -- including Monroe -- have done that. Here they are, sorted by cumulative nERD score in those four seasons.

Kevin Love22.211.90.50218.51161040.20234.038.6
LaMarcus Aldridge22.49.70.48114.81091050.14830.321.5
Dwight Howard18.012.50.58420.1107990.15426.919.6
Pau Gasol17.010.30.49216.41091040.14125.415.3
Greg Monroe15.69.70.49916.91081050.12825.612.5
Zach Randolph15.810.30.47218.41061020.13523.512.1
DeMarcus Cousins20.411.30.471201041030.12722.66.6

I know the cut off is a bit arbitrary, but that's some good company to keep as a frontcourt player in the NBA. Monroe actually ranks fourth in Win Shares in the group -- but is sixth in Win Shares per 48 minutes. Still, he's the third most efficient scorer, based on Effective Field Goal percentage (eFG%).

He also has the lowest Usage Rate (23.4%) of the group in that four-year stretch. His 10.9% Offensive Rebounding Rate, which ranks third behind Zach Randolph (12.2%) and DeMarcus Cousins (11.5%) to help make up for his role as a non-primary option in his own offense.

Monroe is tied with LaMarcus Aldridge with the worst Defensive Rating in the bunch (105), but is he really a minus defender on the floor?

A Two-Way Player?

Being a "reverse-splits" player is a baseball term, used when, say, a right-handed batter hits right-handed pitching better than he hits left-handed pitching, which is uncommon. It doesn't technically apply to Monroe, but his on-off splits similarly indicate some things that we probably wouldn't have expected based on his profile as a solid offensive player without a penchant for defense.

Last season, the Pistons were a better offensive team with Monroe on the bench and a better defensive team with him on the floor.

On Court213647.5%51.3%105.250.6%48.7%105.7
Off Court183049.1%49.5%105.449.8%50.5%107.9

The team shot a better eFG% without Monroe but did gather fewer boards overall -- and fewer offensive rebounds for sure (just 26.2% without him compared to 29.0% with him). Overall, their offense was a rather negligible 0.2 points per 100 possessions better with him off the floor.

Still, the results are surprising given his offensive ability and the fact that the Pistons were a below-average team in terms of Offensive Rating (their 105.3 points per 100 possessions ranked 15th and was slightly below the league average of 105.6).

Defensively, the squad played right around league average in terms of Defensive Rating, allowing 105.7 points per 100 possessions with Monroe on the floor (the league average was 105.6, of course). The Pistons sans-Monroe would have ranked 25th in Defensive Rating in the NBA last year, at 107.9 points per 100 possessions.

A Mutually Agreeable Deal

Monroe is one of the league's most likely candidates to be a double-double threat during the course of the season, and that type of frontcourt stability has eluded Milwaukee in recent years. Plus, Monroe will no longer need to share the floor with fellow double-double machine Andre Drummond.

Monroe maintained a Defensive Rating of 103, his second-best mark to date, and an Offensive Rating of 110, tied for his second-best output in his short career, so he certainly deserved the free agent attention from multiple teams.

He offers the Bucks frontcourt stability to pair with Jabari Parker when he returns, and odds are, his Usage Rate will climb as he becomes a more featured option in his new offense.

The Bucks offer him a chance to make the playoffs and possibly contend in the East, though the Cavaliers, Heat, and a few others will be tough outs come playoff time. Still, Milwaukee offers him something that the Knicks and Lakers can't promise in 2015-16: a chance.