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Celtics Free Agency 2015: Should the Celtics pursue Greg Monroe?

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Moose is no rim-protector, but he offers things that the Celtics need.

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Ice is cold.

The sky is blue.

Nomar Garciaparra is a fun name to say with a Boston accent.

The Celtics need to improve the talent level on their roster.

There are some things that we all know to be true. Getting swept in the first round of the 2015 playoffs was just further proof that the Celtics don’t have enough talent on the court to contend for a championship yet.

In the past year, we took a big step forward by drafting Marcus Smart, and trading for Jae Crowder, Tyler Zeller, and Isaiah Thomas (to say nothing of the signing of Brad Stevens, who is proving to be an elite coaching talent). We can take another step forward this off-season in free agency.

There are a lot of talented free agents who will hit the open market this season. We are all drooling over the possibility of bringing in Marc Gasol, Deandre Jordan, or Kawhi Leonard. However, it is very likely that most top-tier free agents re-sign with their current teams (Deandre Jordan might be an exception, but if he leaves LA, Dallas seems like a more likely destination than Boston). Even when looking at the ‘second-tier’ free agents, it seems that re-signing with their current team often looks like an appealing option.

Greg Monroe is a notable exception. He is a poor fit on his current team, is an unrestricted free agent, fills a position of need for the Celtics, is a very good player, and could realistically decide to come to Boston.

Cue the uproar, the wailing, the gnashing of teeth, and the indignant cries of "We don’t want him, he can’t protect the rim!" It's true; Greg Monroe will never be confused with a rim-protector. However, he offers the Celtics several things that they don't currently have.

First of all, Monroe represents a low-post player who can get his own shot. If he gets the ball on the block, he has a number of polished moves to create high-quality looks. He can hit the jump hook over either shoulder, and boasts a quick spin move that can punish lazy defenders. He has shown that he can finish his post moves reasonably well, shooting 63.1% within 3 feet last year.

More importantly, Monroe is aggressive on the block. He got to the line almost 5 times per game last year, and prefers to take most of his shots around the rim. He has been pushed out of the paint somewhat over the past couple of years to allow for the development of Andre Drummond, but has still found a way to be successful, even out of his comfort zone.

The more I watch Moose, the more I think that his game is what Jared Sullinger's could be if he stopped doing all of the things that Celtics fans currently complain about. He’s an offensively-minded big who rebounds well, has a polished post game, and overcomes below-the-rim athleticism. However, he has more size, prefers to shoot around the rim, and has a better total rebounding percentage (17.9% vs. 15.4% this past season). Additionally, he is very durable, and has only missed 16 games throughout his 5-year career.

On top of that, Monroe is a capable passer, especially out of the high post. In Brad Stevens pace-and-space offense, Monroe could be an inside threat that would improve the quality of the deep-balls that make up so much of the Celtic’s offense. A one-in, five-out offense has been effective for some teams in the past. In fact, Stevens already uses that strategy with Tyler Zeller in the starting lineup, featuring high pick and rolls and a high-post presence with dives to the basket. Monroe thrives in the high post, and has the mobility to drive past slower defenders. He could slide right into that lineup with minimal stylistic changes, but appreciable quality improvement.

The knock against the Moose has always been his defense. He doesn’t have the strength or athleticism to be a true rim protector, and that has hurt his image. However, he is holding opposing centers to a PER of 19.9, which is marginally better than the PER of centers who play against our current starting center, Tyler Zeller (21). Furthermore, while he doesn’t block very many shots at .6 per game, he does create turnovers in the form of steals. Monroe notched 1.1 steals per game this past season, which would be tied for second among Celtics players. The man he’d be tied with; defensive stalwart Avery Bradley.

At this point, although he is still young, we have a very good sense of who Moose is as a player. He is an offensively polished post player who rebounds well, but doesn’t block shots or shoot the long ball. He may not give us the floor-spacing or the rim protection that are at the top of our shopping list, but he does give the Celtics something that they truly need; an upgrade in talent.

Hold out hope that the C’s trade up for Cauley-Stein, or Myles Turner. Keep your fingers crossed that they can hit a home run by recruiting Deandre Jordan, or a double by bringing in Kostas Koufos. However, if the Celtics don’t bring in any of the high-profile rim protectors, don’t be put off by a potential acquisition of Greg Monroe.

Make no mistake, the Moose would move the needle in Boston.

All statistics from 82games.com and basketball-reference.com