Is Greg Monroe Soft?
But does that fact enable or justify the idea Monroe would be a "soft" center in the NBA?
One of the ways to resolve such questions is by looking at defensive rebounding. For big men, rebounding is a central defensive responsibility. If you're paper-thin but can rebound defensively, you're of value. If you're built like a truck and can't rebound defensively, that's a problem. Results, production -- that's what matters. Not the look on your face or the size of your bicep. When we talk about "soft" big men, we're really talking about big men who can't rebound or defend in the paint.
Monroe was the 26th best defensive rebounder in college this season, up from 430th last year. The only likely first-round pick with a better defensive rebounding rate than Monroe was Cole Aldrich at 25.7 percent versus Monroe's 25.2. (That's an extra rebound for Aldrich every 200 opponent misses.) The only second-round prospects higher than Monroe are Morehead State's Kenneth Faried (tops in the nation at 36.7 percent) and Keith Benson of Oakland (26). Monroe was a better defensive rebounder this season than DeMarcus Cousins, Ekpe Udoh, Hassan Whiteside, Patrick Patterson, Derrick Favors, Gani Lawal, Larry Sanders, Ed Davis -- all of 'em.
Another knock has been the inconsistency of Monroe's rebounding. So I looked at the games in which Monroe rebounded poorly.
On the season, Monroe averaged just under 7.5 defensive rebounds a game. Let's look at the five games in which he had less than five defensive rebounds. (This is the "worst" 15 percent of his d-boarding games, or anything under his average minus one standard deviation.)
Nov. 21 at Savannah State
The Hoyas trounced Savannah State by 19. Georgetown was up 14 at the half. Monroe played 24 minutes, capturing just three defensive rebounds out of an estimated 18 opportunities, or 16.7 percent, which isn't all that bad. Based on an estimate from the box score and not actual play-by-play data, Savannah State captured four offensive rebounds in 18 opportunities with Monroe on the floor, a mediocre 22 percent. Monroe's minutes obviously played a role, as did the solid rebounding by teammate Jason Clark.
Dec. 31 vs St. John's
Monroe had four defensive rebounds in 39 minutes in this fairly tight Georgetown win. The Red Storm was aces on the offensive glass, with 13 in 35 opportunities (37 percent). Monroe's estimated defensive rebound rate was around 11 percent, which isn't good. But the Hoyas did win.
Jan. 3 at DePaul
Monroe had another low rebound total the very next game in Chicago. But the Hoyas beat DePaul soundly. Monroe had four defensive rebounds in 36 minutes. DePaul rebounded 25 percent of their offensive opportunities in this low-possession game, and Monroe's estimated defensive rebounding rate was a decent-but-not-great 16 percent.
Jan. 25 at Syracuse
Monroe then reeled off six straight games of 9+ defensive rebounds in Big East play before pulling down four in 28 minutes at Syracuse. The Orange won by 17, and Monroe fouled out. When you account for the lower minutes and Syracuse's hot shooting, Monroe actually rebounded an estimated 27% of all defensive opportunities, which is really strong. (He also had six turnovers, and the Orange shot 53 percent, so ...)
Feb. 27 vs Notre Dame
Monroe was solid on the boards for the next month, though he did mix in a couple games of five defensive rebounds. Against the Irish, Monroe dealt with foul trouble and played 35 minutes as Notre Dame pulled away late. The Irish had 10 offensive rebounds in 20 opportunities (far too many) but Monroe still rebounded an estimated 22 percent of his defensive opportunities (solid). The rest of the Hoyas had a combined six defensive rebounds; the only starter besides Monroe with so much as one was Clark (who had three).
Monroe never finished another game with fewer than six defensive rebounds. In the Hoyas' first-round tournament loss to Ohio, Monroe had seven defensive rebounds for an estimated d-board rate of 31 percent (fantastic), and added six big offensive rebounds. But the Bobcats shot the lights out -- 13-23 from long-range, with guard Armon Bassett hanging 32 points on the Hoyas -- and Monroe's collegiate career was over.
Is Monroe soft? NBA personnel bosses will have to make that determination. But if he is deemed soft, he showed at Georgetown he can still rebound like a beast, and as such he can help whichever team drafts him like a big man should, even without mean-mugging and throwing elbows.