If you told any Minnesota Timberwolves fan at the beginning of the season that Greg Monroe would be putting on a Wolves jersey in late December, they’d look at you like you were crazy. If you told them he’d be playing 25 minutes a night, they would have immediately blocked you on every social media app and may have filed a restraining order. Unexpectedly or not, the reality is Monroe played 25 minutes four nights ago, and then 22 minutes the following night.
Although the prospect of Monroe minutes didn’t sound appealing to many Wolves fans before the game, it was a completely inverse reaction after the Wolves defeated the Boston Celtics 108-103 on Monday night. Monroe posted an impressive 11 points, nine rebounds, and six assists, outperforming almost everyone’s expectations.
Monroe showed off an awe-inspiring playmaking ability from the center spot. The Wolves tend to lack playmaking when Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell come off the court. Chris Finch leaned on Monroe’s ability to distribute from the paint a substantial amount throughout the two-game stretch.
Monroe wasn’t only providing scoring for others, though. He’s moving with encouraging speed. Buckets like this one on Taj Gibson bring you straight back to 2014.
Although Monroe has never been an outstanding defender or rebounder, he also brings size to a small Wolves roster. Monroe is listed as 6’11”, 265 lbs, and would not only be Minnesota’s tallest player after KAT, but he would also be the Wolves’ heaviest player. A player who could wall up and bring size against teams with paint-oriented centers would be an intriguing acquisition for the Wolves.
Minnesota’s players have also mentioned keeping Monroe around.
It’ll be intriguing to see if the Wolves choose to keep Monroe around longer with high praise from a highly respected player like Patrick Beverley.
These past two games were even more impressive when you look at the circumstances. For a 31-year-old who hasn’t played an NBA game since the 2018-19 season, the turnaround from signing a 10-day to playing impactful minutes was extremely encouraging for a player like Monroe. If he can post stat lines like his Boston and New York Knicks games after meeting his coach only two hours before tip-off, I’m interested in what he can do if he learns the intricacies of the offense.
Sadly for Monroe, he may not have time to learn the offense thoroughly. With only five days left on his original 10-day contract, the Wolves have to decide if he’s worth keeping around. To sign Monroe for the rest of the year, the Wolves would have to release a player on the roster. Jake Layman would likely be released to make room for him.
Layman arrived in Minnesota on July 8, 2019. Since his acquisition three seasons ago, Layman has only been able to play in just over one season’s worth of games. With 84 games played and only 14 starts, Ryan Saunders and Finch used Layman as a spark off the bench.
However, Finch hasn’t even relied on Layman for that this season. He rarely sees the floor unless the game is a blowout. And when Layman gets playing time, he doesn’t show any reason for more. He’s only scoring 2.7 points per game and is hardly a lockdown defensive player.
Layman recently got his first real chance of the season to prove himself to coach Finch. Once COVID decimated the Wolves roster, Layman was set to play his first significant minutes for three games against the Utah Jazz, the Boston Celtics, and the New York Knicks. Layman finished with a negative plus-minus in all three games. Although he did score a season-high 13 points versus the Jazz, Layman had an inefficient day behind the 3-point line, going 1-for-5.
His play hasn’t been good enough to reward with increased playing time, especially with players like Jaylen Nowell, Jarred Vanderbilt, Taurean Prince, and Jaden McDaniels ahead of him in the rotation. There just aren’t enough minutes to play them all. One player has to be the odd one out, and unfortunately for Layman, it’s been him so far this season.
Layman could find a fit somewhere in the NBA. But for Minnesota’s sake, it may be better to move Layman and open up a roster spot for a player like Monroe. Unlike Layman, Monroe has a body type the Wolves lack. His size brings something the Wolves don’t currently have. With five days left on his original 10-day contract, Monroe’s future with the Wolves is up in the air. But there may be more positives than negatives to keeping the moose around.