Bucks land free agent big man Greg Monroe
As one of the most coveted big men on the free agent market, Greg Monroe had his choice of destinations.
The big-market Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks wanted him. So did the Portland Trail Blazers.
In the end, Monroe wanted the best chance to reach the playoffs for the first time in his career. For the first time in a long time, the Milwaukee Bucks provided the surest bet on that front.
Monroe agreed to terms on Thursday with the Bucks on a three-year deal worth $50 million, his agent David Falk said. The deal gives the 25-year-old Monroe a chance to become a free agent again after two years if he so chooses, and it also surrounds him with one of the best young rosters in the league as he chases that elusive playoff berth.
Monroe spent the first five seasons of his career in Detroit, and the Pistons ended up in the lottery each time. He was so tired of the losing that he rebuffed any attempts by the Pistons to lock him into a long-term deal before last season, choosing instead to accept a one-year qualifying offer of $5.5 million so he could become a free agent this summer.
During another trying season in Detroit, Monroe continued to solidify himself as one of the best young offensive centers in the game. He averaged 15.9 points and 10.2 rebounds while playing the kind of throwback style of low-post banging that is so hard to find in a league where small ball is in vogue.
The Bucks were in the market for a legitimate presence in the middle after Larry Sanders had to be cut loose last season because of off-the-court issues. Monroe was near the top of their list, along with veteran Tyson Chandler, and they sold him on a young, athletic team with a savvy coach in Jason Kidd and deft general manager in John Hammond.
A new ownership group has breathed life into a lagging franchise, energizing the community as it pursues a new arena in downtown Milwaukee. Hammond has assembled a roster teeming with young talent, including Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker (who is coming off a torn ACL), point guard Michael Carter-Williams, newly signed Khris Middleton and power forward John Henson.
Kidd has molded the long, athletic group into a defensive well equipped prepared to help minimize Monroe’s weaknesses on that end of the floor. And Monroe offers the Bucks a proven, reliable offensive focal point to take the pressure off of a team that struggled to consistently score last season.
The Bucks made the playoffs last season, but didn’t have the scoring punch to keep up with the Chicago Bulls in the first round. With Monroe’s muscle inside now, the complexion of their offense has changed dramatically.
Falk said Monroe had similar offers from the Knicks, Lakers and Blazers, but none of them could match Milwaukee’s talent and potential to make a push in the mediocre Eastern Conference. The deal also gives Monroe the potential to hit free agency again at just 27 years old and take advantage of a salary cap that will skyrocket when the league’s new television deal kicks in for the 2016-17 season.
The Pistons teamed Monroe with Andre Drummond in a massive frontcourt for several seasons, but decided to break that pair up. Drummond remains in Detroit and the Pistons acquired former Bucks power forward Ersan Ilyasova in a trade earlier in the offseason.