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How does Greg Monroe fit with the Raptors?

With a need for a big man to fill out their roster, the Raptors signed Greg Monroe to a one-year contract. What now?

NBA: Playoffs-Cleveland Cavaliers at Boston Celtics Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The Raptors found the final piece to their roster a few days ago when they inked big man Greg Monroe to a one-year $2.2 million deal, making Toronto his fifth NBA team. It wasn’t a particularly splashy signing for the team or the player — but it does the job.

Monroe, now heading into his ninth season, is in a peculiar position career wise. At 6’11 265 lbs, Monroe is essentially part of a dying breed of big men. This is a fact, even though he did average 10.3 points and 6.9 rebounds last season. If this were the 80s or 90s, Monroe would probably be a highly sought after commodity — unfortunately for him, it’s 2018. The NBA has developed into a league where versatile athleticism and lights out shooting ability are premium and in-demand skills. Unfortunately, Monroe has neither of those. (In fact, he has only attempted four 3s in his eight-year career)

But there is good news!

At $2.2 million, you can’t expect Monroe to bring a whole bag of tricks to the table, but that doesn’t mean his services and intangibles can’t be highly useful to the Raptors this season.

What Does Monroe Bring to Toronto?

On a basic level, Monroe provides some frontcourt insurance to the Raps. The crafty lefty brings a low post presence that only Jonas Valanciunas can compare to on the roster, and is more than serviceable off the bench. If Valanciunas does get injured, I don’t see Nick Nurse having a problem starting Monroe and playing him around 20 minutes a game to fill the load. He and JV aren’t the same player, but they cover a lot of the same ground.

This shot chart should give you an idea of exactly what kind of player Greg Monroe is:

Over his career, a whopping 86 percent of Monroe’s shots have come inside the painted area, so it’s pretty apparent what you’ll get from him on offense. When he’s not shooting, Monroe is known for his ability to facilitate from the high post. Even though he’s averaged just 2.3 assists per game over his career, Monroe is extremely efficient moving the ball around and finding open shooters from his low post position. It’s these two abilities — finishing at the rim and passing — that have kept him relevant on the NBA landscape.

Monroe also brings a brand of toughness with him, or should I say a “No BS” attitude — it’s something always needed when forming an NBA team. He’ll be an enforcer of a sort for the Raptors, an efficient pick-and-roll big for the guards, a low-post threat, and someone who can clean the offensive glass for you in efficient minutes off of the bench. It’s old school, but it works.

However, with the good, there is some bad.

Weaknesses on Defense

For all the effective low post play you’ll get from Monroe, his defense is definitely questionable. Monroe’s defensive efficiency rating from the 2017-18 season was 110.9. For reference, the best defenders in the league rank somewhere around 100, and the “average” defenders are around 104-106. Some of this is who he played with — e.g. a terrible Suns team — but some of it is on him.

His career defensive efficiency rating is 107.2, so you get what you get in terms of his defensive capabilities. For a guy at 6’11, 265 pounds, no one is really shocked he struggles on that end of the floor, as it’s just tough to have the athleticism when you’re that big. Monroe, like JV, isn’t go to switch assignments on the fly and guard wings effectively in space out on the perimeter. Coupled with that though, is that fact that Monroe is also not much of a shot blocker. Despite his size, he’s only averaged 0.6 blocks per game for his career. It’s something of a double-whammy for a big man on defense in today’s NBA.

All that being said, this isn’t news to the Raptors, and they have plenty of perimeter defenders to surround him with to hopefully allow him to hide somewhat defensively.

Full Circle

Ultimately, the Raptors didn’t bring Monroe to Toronto to play 30 or more minutes a night and guard the Anthony Davis’s of the world. Masai Ujiri knew what to expect when he signed Monroe, and for those minutes off the bench, I expect him to play well.

Monroe’s combination of finishing ability, offensive rebounding, and mental/physical toughness should help the Raptors in the long run — even if it’s just for one year. Monroe can be seen as a glue guy, and with where the Raptors should be headed (deep into the post-season) you never know what match-up might arise for him to showcase his true worth.