Could this most lopsided of rivalries start heating up again during the summer free agency period? According to Gery Woeflel of the Racine Journal Times, "there is strong speculation" that free agent big man Greg Monroe plans to sign either with the Knicks or Celtics. The "done deal" first reported by Frank Isola might not be so done after all if those green goblins come a-callin'.
Oh, it's on!
Monroe is a somewhat controversial player in many circles. He's an undeniably gifted offensive presence in the post, both scoring and passing. He's also slow as molasses on the defensive end -- seriously, Andrea Bargnani took it to him consistently en route to a 25-point performance in the Knicks' 121-115 victory over Detroit back in February.
Assuming the money's the same -- and you just know the Knicks will start negotiations at the max -- what can the Celtics offer Monroe? They are an up-and-coming young squad with a coach in Brad Stevens who has already been pretty much deified as a basketball genius. More importantly, they possess a potentially elite perimeter defense to help mitigate his weaknesses as a rim protector.
The Knicks could, in theory, build a similarly stifling perimeter D by drafting Justise Winslow, signing a defensive-minded wing like Danny Green or DeMarre Carroll, and perhaps even upgrading the point guard position in hopes that they could survive a Carmelo Anthony/Greg Monroe frontcourt in the same manner the 2013-14 Bobcats fielded a top-5 D with Josh McRoberts and Al Jefferson. More likely, they will instead shop for a strong defensive center and try to draft a strong defender at one of the two guard positions (Winslow, perhaps).
I may not be a card-carrying member of Team Monroe -- I'd really prefer the Knicks go another route -- but I'd be interested in how teams sell Monroe on their basketball vision. The Celtics already have two decent centers (Kelly Olynyk, Tyler Zeller), a versatile big who can play either position and can space the floor a bit (Jared Sullinger). The Knicks have Melo -- a superior talent to anyone on Boston's roster, but also a player whose defensive weaknesses mirror Monroe's. You simply don't see any top-10 defenses these days with slow-footed, subpar defenders at both forward positions.
The Knicks have the potential to build a fairly strong team as quickly as next season, but it won't be easy. They would need to play both free agent market and the draft to perfection, with players that fit seamlessly around Melo. Greg Monroe probably isn't that player. This free agency duel might be the rare battle the Knicks can win by losing.