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April 03, 2019

Sixers to sign Greg Monroe, release big man Justin Patton in advance of playoffs

The Sixers plan to sign Greg Monroe to a contract in advance of the playoffs, a team source confirmed to PhillyVoice on Wednesday afternoon. They will waive big man Justin Patton in order to clear a roster spot for Monroe.

ESPN's Jordan Schultz was first to report.

Monroe most recently played for the Boston Celtics on a 10-day contract he signed on March 24th. While the NBA's playoff eligibility date requires players to be off of a roster as of March 1 in order to participate in the playoffs, this rule is not applicable to 10-day contracts, which means the Sixers can roster Monroe through the playoffs.

On the surface, it's a fairly interesting (and perhaps head-scratching, depending on your perspective) move that really only says one thing — the Sixers had no plan to play Patton in the playoffs, and in theory, they now have someone who would step into minutes in case of emergency.

It's hard to see much value in the deal beyond that. Yes, Monroe is a more experienced option off of the bench and, I guess, insurance if Embiid were to somehow miss time. On a team that is built to win now, rostering players who aren't going to help you do that or contribute to your long-term plans doesn't make sense. The question for this writer is why they held onto Patton for so long to begin with if they were so unconcerned with his future that they released him two weeks before the start of the playoffs for a guy they probably hope won't have to play. That roster spot could have potentially been used on, I don't know, any competent guard.

On top of that, Monroe as Embiid insurance is about as useful as buying tornado insurance for a house built on the rim of an active volcano. You're pretty screwed either way, and you probably could have used your resources elsewhere.

(On the Embiid front — a team source noted that this does not represent a reflection of any concern with Embiid, and instead was driven by their desire to add another experienced player before the playoffs. Be that as it may, there are not many reasons for Monroe to get on the floor unless something else has gone wrong.) 

As far as Monroe the player goes, he's a big man who comes with obvious strengths and limitations. He is not going to be the defensive anchor behind Embiid everyone has been clamoring for, and his lack of foot speed has been exploited by opponents for most of his career. He's not the most attentive defender away from the ball, either, which results in smart opponents sending cuts around him and earning open layups for their trouble.

Monroe does have utility. He's well known as a low-post scorer and he has been a good passer and rebounder from basically the moment he hit the league. He may be a massive downgrade on defense from Embiid, but so are most bigs around the league, and you can at least use Monroe as a stand-in for some of the things you do with Embiid on offense. Being able to create more offensive continuity should help them.

But the defense is the big story here for me. The Sixers keep adding big men without solving the problem they have beyond Embiid — I don't know if any of them can competently defend against the teams they need to beat in the postseason. You're either playing someone slow-footed or someone who is too young to make the proper reads.

Philadelphia's backup guard and wing situation has been an absolute disaster for most of the last few years, and they've invested heavily at the pivot beyond Embiid, at least in roster space. Spending five roster spots on centers is pretty preposterous in the modern NBA, especially when you're a team built around a unique and elite talent at center that will eat up all the minutes. The Sixers know they have a depth problem, and they aren't fixing it by going this route — it's not like signing a forward or guard where you can play more than one at a time.

We'll see how this works out, but the Sixers didn't really answer any questions with this move. Their backup big options still might be unplayable against playoff-caliber offenses, and they may end up turning to small ball when push comes to shove. I get what they're doing here on some level, but a home run it is not.

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