As reported by Yahoo Sports Shams Charania, the Toronto Raptors will be signing Greg Monroe to what looks like an NBA veteran’s minimum contract. It’s a solid acquisition for a contending team looking for big man depth and it shows the Raptors are serious this time.
Last year Toronto finished with the second best overall regular season record in the NBA at 59 wins, but no one saw that coming and Raptors president Masai Ujiri should be included in that group. If he had, he’d of given his now former head coach Dwane Casey one or two more veterans to ease the pressure on a very young and inexperienced roster that, unfortunately, completely fell apart in the second round of the playoffs against a veteran Cleveland Cavaliers team.
The overachieving 2017-18 Raptors roster featured just five veterans in Kyle Lowry (11 seasons), DeMar DeRozan (8 seasons), Serge Ibaka (8 seasons), C.J. Miles (12 seasons), and a 25-year-old Jonas Valanciunas (5 seasons). The rest of the crew started the season with three years or less in the Association including 3 rookies and three players with barely a year under their belts and more G-League experience between them than NBA time. If the very inexperienced OG Anunoby, Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam and Jakob Poeltl, hadn’t put up surprisingly strong seasons, it’s unlikely there would have been anything noteworthy about last year.
It’s been a summer of change in Toronto, in no small part because the 59 win regular season created expectations that were crushed in the playoffs. Casey was quickly fired, the long time face of the franchise DeRozan was traded and roster changes worthy of making the entire NBA community stand up take notice have happened. This year the Raptors have veteran depth to go with their young talent and that depth has been further bolstered by the addition of Greg Monroe.
The four returning vets from last year, Lowry, Ibaka, Miles and Valanciunas, have another year under their belts and Ujiri has added superstar Kawhi Leonard (7 seasons), Danny Green (9 seasons) and now Greg Monroe (8 seasons). That’s seven proven veterans to go with two fourth year guards in Delon Wright and Norman Powell plus the breakout young guys Anunoby, Siakam and VanVleet. Depth, including experienced depth, isn’t going to be an issue in October. There’s 12 players who will be looking for minutes in new head coach Nick Nurse’s rotation.
Guards: Lowry, VanVleet, Wright, Powell
Wings: Leonard, Green, Anunoby, Miles
Big men: Ibaka, Valanciunas, Siakam, Monroe
Reserves: Malachi Richardson, Lorenzo Brown*, Chris Boucher*
With the Monroe signing, the Raptors are getting very close to being $20 million into the league’s luxury tax and that’s not a place anyone anticipated Ujiri to ever get to, so it would not come as a surprise if the Raptors president has another move up his sleeve to reduce the burden. But, keeping this group together would send a strong signal that the Raptors are going all-in to land this franchise’s first ever NBA Finals appearance.
However, unless Ujiri makes another move or two, Nurse is going to have some tough decisions coming out of training camp. One or even two of the veterans and/or quality young guys are going to find themselves in the limited role of an injury-replacement player this season.
A 2010 lottery pick, Monroe put up a 15.9 point, 10.2 rebound, 2.1 assist season with the Pistons in 2014-15 that snagged him a three-year $50 million contract from the Bucks that, unfortunately, he never really lived up to.
Historically, one of the issues with Monroe has been a fairly blunt response when his team wasn’t living up to expectations. The big man has given off a fairly strong vibe that he believed he’s better than his teammates in the past. Now maybe at 28-years-old he’s matured. Maybe playing for three different teams last season after getting waived by the terrible Suns has helped him appreciate being in the NBA and just maybe being left hanging in free agency until August after a productive three month stint with the Celtics has put him in the right frame of mind to fill whatever role his coach assigns him to.
There should be no doubt Monroe can help a contending team, whether he’s in the regular rotation or just filling in as an injury-replacement player. This is a solid signing by the Raptors that could keep this team on pace for yet another franchise record for regular season wins and might just bail them out if a big man gets hurt in the postseason.