Bucks: Does Greg Monroe make Milwaukee legit?


The Milwaukee Bucks haven’t generated as much buzz as they have in the past calendar year since reaching the Eastern Conference Finals in 2001.  Pair the front office/coaching changes and Jabari Parker pick of the 2014 summer with stealing Greg Monroe from the Lakers and Knicks in the summer of 2015, and you have a relevant Milwaukee Bucks team again.

Ironically, their rise to relevance and potential promise comes amidst an off-the-court battle to keep the team in Milwaukee.  This is the best roster this franchise has put together in 14 years, and the city might not even get to enjoy it for very long.

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As you all have heard by now, elected city and state officials are not completely sold on the Bucks’ arena plans yet, and time to get a deal done is not exactly abundant.

But whether this roster is known as the Milwaukee Bucks, the Las Vegas Pit Bosses, or the Seattle Sallybacks, it will be a roster that needs to be taken seriously in the NBA.

Milwaukee went from a league-worst 15-win team in 2013-14 to earning a surprise 2014-15 playoff berth thanks to coach Jason Kidd‘s defense-first approach and some young talent.  Guard Khris Middleton used last season to show Milwaukee’s front office and fans that not only is he their most consistent player, but one of the best two-way guards in the NBA.

Re-signing Middleton was close to, if not, Milwaukee’s top priority in the offseason, and he was rewarded with a five year, $70 million deal because of it.

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With Michael Carter-Williams, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker, and Khris Middleton making up four of the five starters, Milwaukee was looking to make another big splash in the offseason.

Once the Bucks dumped Ersan Ilyasova and his $8 million off in the abyss known as Detroit to open up even more cap space, it was obvious Milwaukee wanted to spend money elsewhere.  Re-signing Middleton and drafting shooting guard Rashad Vaughn made it pretty obvious that the Bucks were going to pursue a big man.

Who that big man was going to be was very much up in the air.

Reports linked players like Brook Lopez, Tyson Chandler, DeAndre Jordan, Enes Kanter, and Greg Monroe as possibly coming to Milwaukee.  But then Lopez re-signed with Brooklyn, Chandler signed with Phoenix, Jordan was ruled out, and Monroe seemed unlikely.

It was made known that both the Knicks and Lakers were interested in Monroe along with Milwaukee, but when the hell was the last time a.) a big name was even interested in coming to Milwaukee? and b.) would choose them over franchises like New York or Los Angeles?  A long time for the former, probably never before for the latter.

That was until Monroe decided to come to Milwaukee on a max three-year, $50 million deal with a player option in the third year.

Apr 8, 2015; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Detroit Pistons forward Greg Monroe (10) talks to forward Anthony Tolliver (43) during the third quarter against the Boston Celtics at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Celtics beat the Pistons 113-103. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Monroe is the piece to kick the Bucks over the edge of Eastern Conference mediocrity.  In a conference that is so wide open, there is no reason Bucks fans shouldn’t have relatively high expectations for this squad.

MCW has had a full offseason with Jason Kidd’s staff and anyone who can see him past that looming shadow of Brandon Knight in the background can feel good about what he can bring both offensively and defensively.  There’s a reason Middleton got paid $70 million this offseason, and his consistent two-way play can only help.

Giannis is probably one more year and a jump shot away from being one of the more dominant players in the league.  It’s one of the more obvious things to see on this roster, but seriously, get that jumper down and be Milwaukee’s favorite human for years to come, Giannis.  Jabari needs to protect that knee of his, and now has a low-post scorer in Monroe by his side to learn from.

When it comes to Monroe, he adds a wrinkle to the Bucks they haven’t had in quite some time; low-post scoring.  Monroe is one of the best young low-post talents in the NBA.  Imagine these moves below coming from Zaza, realize it isn’t humanly possible, and get excited that his low-post elegance is going to be in a Bucks uniform next year.

Now you’re going to hear about Monroe not being a great “rim protector,” if you haven’t already.  There are two things fans should realize about that statement.  Milwaukee needs a proven post scorer more than a defensive presence because that’s too much pressure on Jabari, especially coming off an ACL tear.

Putting a defensive-minded center next to Jabari puts pressure on three individuals to score, which was the same spot the Bucks were in last year.  MCW and Giannis need to prove they can consistently score from the perimeter before the Bucks can feel relaxed about scoring.

The second thing comes from Grantland’s Zach Lowe, who I think sums up the whole idea pretty well in one line from his triangle piece a week ago:

"… (A)ny big man can at least be a mild deterrent at the basket if he lifts his arms and jumps a little."

Monroe is a natural center and has enough intelligence, size, and coaching to make sure he’ll be more than just a mild deterrent down low.

The Bucks don’t need a David Robinson defensive presence to make Kidd’s scheme work or to be a force in the East.  Monroe makes the Bucks a legitimate Eastern Conference Finals contender.  You may roll your eyes after reading that, but just remember, there’s a reason he picked Milwaukee over New York and Los Angeles.

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