After being signed by the Toronto Raptors in the offseason, Greg Monroe was expected to be second on the depth chart at center behind longtime Raptors starter, Jonas Valanciunas. Once new head coach Nick Nurse declared that he would be playing Serge Ibaka at the 5 as opposed to the 4 this season, Monroe was bumped down to the third center spot, a position in which he likely would not see all that much playing time. For the first part of the season, that was more or less true — he would see playing time occasionally if either or both of JV and Serge found themselves in foul trouble.
However, with Valanciunas out for at least the next couple of weeks after dislocating his thumb against the Warriors in a mid-December matchup with the Golden State Warriors, Monroe has been seeing significantly more playing time. Additionally, with Ibaka having missed a few games as of late with a knee injury (he’s back now) Monroe was thrust into the starting center spot.
In his games since the Valanciunas injury, Monroe has averaged 6.0 points and 5.1 rebounds in 15.7 minutes per game. While he hasn’t been as effective as either JV or Serge, he’s performed admirably for a third-string center playing more significant minutes than ever before in this season. His biggest shortcoming as of late has been defensive rebounding, with opponents having a much easier time grabbing offensive boards and putting the ball back up for a bucket when he’s on the court.
Despite his minor struggles on the defensive glass, Monroe has been performing well, showing that steady veteran presence and going to work with his back to the basket, using his size and strength to bully opposing centers down low. After all, it’s not like he doesn’t have any experience getting significant minutes on a playoff team. Last season, Monroe averaged 19.1 minutes per game with the Eastern Conference Finalist Boston Celtics, putting up 10.2 points and 6.3 boards in that time.
Jonas Valanciunas was expected to miss 4+ weeks right when his injury occurred, on December 12, so as long as that prediction upholds, Greg Monroe has just under two weeks’ worth of games to prove to coach Nurse that he’s capable of more playing time even when JV gets back.
*All stats courtesy of https://www.basketball-reference.com