Monroe vs. Udoh: Better isn’t “Better”
With 6:07 remaining in the game, a hedging Greg Monroe bumps into a dribbling Monta Ellis (whistle sounds). With 4:30 remaining, a hedging Greg Monroe bumps into a dribbling Monta Ellis (whistle sounds).
Look, Greg Monroe’s brilliant young career does not completely consist of knocking knees with undersized shooting guards, but I cite this snippet to illustrate a point: Monroe needs work on the defensive end, especially in situations that require quick foot movement.
Ekpe Udoh–the man drafted one spot ahead of Greg–needs work on the offensive end. Ekpe is often seen, futilely ‘backing down’ a larger player. Somehow he makes his knees jump as his feet stay grounded. If he’s lucky enough to still be dribbling, his elbow vomits up a pushed “hook” shot that usually finds the rim like a metal-seeking missile. He is shooting .388% on field goals this year.
Greg Monroe seemingly scraped Ekpe Udoh when their teams faced off on Sunday. With 25 points on 12 shots, Monroe was the model of offensive efficiency. Soft of touch, his shots can take a nap on the rim before sleepily exiting through the net. Udoh had a pedestrian 10 points, six rebounds. Despite a GSW victory, one draft pick really walloped the guy taken ahead of him.
Except, not quite. Udoh was a +13 for the Warriors, the highest on the club. While it is dangerous to fixate on +/- for one game, this is not an unusual occurrence. Udoh led the team in this category last year, and he’s doing it again. What I elided from my initial box score summary is that Ekpe had four blocks, three steals. What I elided from my game summary is that he was a court-shrinking monster who kept scaring the opposition with arms that whip around like sharpened plane propellers.
While the Pistons’ center was certainly an asset on offense, he had a poor defensive showing on Sunday. Though Monroe had one block to his name, he was a large factor in why the Warriors were so offensively efficient on a night where they went 3-of-15 from behind the arc. Those slow feet have a way of catching up to him. Monroe finished with a neutral -1.
So what does this all mean? Did the Warriors not screw up in taking Udoh? Is Ekpe better than Greg?
Sadly, I (and everyone else) believes the Warriors screwed up in taking Udoh. Apparently these clubs tacitly agree, because Monroe gets twice the minutes. Though strangely, I also believe that Udoh helps the Warriors more on a per minute basis than Monroe helps his team. This is difficult to square, but permit me a trapezoid so we can muddle through.
There are very few offensive talents of Greg Monroe’s caliber, and you can hope for eventual defensive growth from a guy whose standing reach exceeds nine feet. Remember Kevin Durant’s bad plus/minus? A man can change.
More to the point, there are very few offensive players who change the dynamic of a game, who are truly transformative. Offense is less collaborative than defense. As Monta Ellis observers can certainly recall, an offensive play can be just one guy, dribbling. So with fewer actors involved, it is all the more important to have an elite offensive force. While I am not sure if Greg Monroe is this level of talented, he certainly could be. And Ekpe Udoh certainly could not be.
So yes, Udoh is good for so many under-observed reasons. But the Warriors would have to take Monroe if they had a Mulligan. On a per minute basis, Ekpe Udoh may well be better for the Warriors than Greg Monroe is for the Pistons. Unfortunately for Dubs fans, this may not make Udoh “better” than Monroe.