The pressure is on for the rookie out of Georgetown, Greg Monroe. While the majority of the teams picking in the top ten of the draft this year have low expectations for their team, Detroit is in another situation that will require Monroe to contribute immediately.
The Pistons being in the lottery this year was little more than an aberration. They aren't the lottery regulars like the Timberwolves or Clippers. The Detroit Pistons are only two seasons removed from having a 50-plus win season.
Detroit was simply destroyed by injuries this year. Their free agent signings of Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva were both hit with the injury bug hard. Gordon, a proven 20 PPG player had his worst season ever. Villanueva suffered with a pulled hamstring, back spasms, a broken nose, and plantar fasciitis. Incredibly, Charlie only missed three games with all those injuries. Hamilton and Prince were banged up as well. Then there was Rodney Stuckey's mystery ailment that had him fainting mid-game against the Cavaliers. No, he wasn't just in awe of LeBron, Cleveland fans.
Looking at the Pistons roster this season, assuming they're in good health, this is a team that could cause some serious damage in the eastern conference. The guard positions will be held down by Stuckey, Gordon, Hamilton, rookie Terrico White, and possibly Will Bynum. The front court will have plenty of offensive and defensive players with Ben Wallace (everything indicates that he plans to return), Villanueva, Wilcox, Prince, Jerebko, and of course Greg Monroe.
Why is Monroe so important to this teams success? His ability to play well will determine if this is just a playoff entrant, or a team that can get deep into the playoffs. This is the player that Detroit has been in dire need of. He rebounds, passes, and plays with his back to the basket. His success this season will be the difference maker.
While fellow draftees like John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, and Derrick Favors are only expected to put up solid stats, The Pistons will lean on Monroe's unique skill set to win games immediately.
I've read many blogs and articles on Monroe, comparing him to David West and to the great Tim Duncan. While any opinion is little more than speculation, there are some comparisons we can draw there. Coming into the league, while Duncan was the unanimous number one pick, critics still doubted his athleticism at the NBA level and his killer instinct. While athleticism was never Duncan's strongest suit, his IQ and post moves more than made up for that. I expect Monroe to have the potential to be of that ilk. Also, all three players named can knock down the 20 foot jump shot.
With the Eastern Conference in such turmoil with the free agent bonanza, Detroit could capitalize on the disarray, and make a move. The biggest questions facing Detroit this season aren't "who can we trade?" but rather, can coach Kuester pull everything together and return the Pistons to the post season where they belong?
Monroe will be the key to this teams success or failures this upcoming season.