Free agent Greg Monroe picks Boston Celtics over New Orleans Pelicans

Free-agent center Greg Monroe, whose contract was recently bought out by the Phoenix Suns, will sign with the Boston Celtics for the remainder of this season, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wonjarowski.

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Monroe will reportedly sign a one-year, $5 million deal with the Celtics, who received an $8.4 million designated player exception following the horrific leg injury to All-Star forward Gordon Hayward. That gave Boston a leg up on every other salary cap-strapped contender competing for Monroe’s services.

Greg Monroe will reportedly sign a one-year, $5 million deal with the Celtics. (AP)
Greg Monroe will reportedly sign a one-year, $5 million deal with the Celtics. (AP)

The Pelicans offered Monroe $2.2 million and the starting center spot vacated by DeMarcus Cousins’ injury, per Wojnarowski, but the New Orleans native chose a bigger paycheck and the chance to play for a first-place Celtics team that has a legit shot at the NBA Finals, even if it means less playing time.

Monroe joins a shallow Boston frontcourt that features incumbent starting center Aaron Baynes and All-Star big man Al Horford in addition to versatile bigs Daniel Theis and Marcus Morris off the bench.

Monroe will likely come off the bench in favor of the defensive prowess that Baynes brings to the league’s leader on that end. Not necessarily known for his defense, Monroe should provide a much-needed boost to a reserve unit that currently ranks third from the bottom in offensive rating. The 27-year-old Georgetown product should also bolster Boston’s middle-of-the-pack rebounding rate.

Monroe has averaged 10.4 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 21.8 minutes over 25 games for Milwaukee and Phoenix this season. The former No. 7 overall pick was traded to the Suns as part of the deal that sent Eric Bledsoe to the Bucks in exchange for a pair of draft picks. Monroe and Phoenix came to terms on agreement to buy out the remainder of his $17.9 million salary on Wednesday.

Monroe has traditionally been a thorn in Boston’s side, averaging 15.6 points on 57.2 percent shooting to go along with 9.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game in his career against Boston. He originally had the Celtics on his short list of potential destinations in 2015 free agency, but chose Milwaukee instead.

It will be fascinating to see how the eighth-ear veteran fits in Celtics coach Brad Stevens’ offense after playing for five coaches in five years in Detroit, the since-fired Jason Kidd in Milwaukee and interim coach Jay Triano in Phoenix. He doesn’t provide the floor-spacing that Boston prefers, but he’s a skilled passer and pick-setter who should fit well in a motion offense that often runs through its bigs.

The Celtics host the Atlanta Hawks on Friday, when Monroe will have not cleared waivers. Boston then faces the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday afternoon before hitting the road for Tuesday’s Eastern Conference showdown against the Toronto Raptors, who trail the Celtics by two games for first place.

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Ben Rohrbach is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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