The Charlotte Hornets got the steal of the draft when Kentucky guard Malik Monk landed in their lap at 11th overall.
What if I told you that a hyper-athletic, sharpshooting scoring guard fell out of the top 10 in the 2017 NBA Draft? Would you look at me funny? Because I’d look at you that way if roles were reversed. This is what happened with Malik Monk and the Charlotte Hornets. The SEC’s Player of the Year was expected to be one of the first 10 names off the board, and a lot of experts had him going eighth to the New York Knicks. That didn’t happen. The Knicks went with French guard Frank Ntilikina. Dennis Smith Jr. was next, followed by Gonzaga’s Zach Collins.
As this point, if you’re Charlotte, it’s a no-brainer to take Monk. The 6-4 shooting guard was one of the most electrifying guards in his conference, and teammate De’Aaron Fox was the only other SEC prospect who was better than Monk. By the end of the season, Monk led the conference in points scored (754), field goals made (251) and three-point field goals made (104), which only gives a glimpse of his scoring ability. Malik Monk was put on this Earth to get buckets. It’s that simple. And the Hornets lucked out with selecting him.
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He can score from virtually everywhere on the floor thanks to his skill just as much as his athleticism. Moreover, he doesn’t need the ball in his hands to be effective. Fox handled almost all of the point guard duties for the Wildcats, and that allowed Monk to work off the ball. Kemba Walker nor Nic Batum will have to alter their game even a little bit, and having those two guys to work off of means Charlotte’s offense is going to run even more efficiently. Monk is someone who can take the Hornets from an average-scoring team to above-average because he’s so versatile.
After Walker and Batum, Frank Kaminsky was third on the team with 11.7 points a night. As a team, Charlotte put up 104.9, which was good for 16th overall. Their three-point attack wasn’t so reliable despite finishing with 10 makes a game (11th-best) because they shot 35.1 percent to reach that number. They were, however, lethal with action away from the ball. Outside of Kemba, the Hornets don’t have many guys they can rely on to go and get a bucket, therefore, they need to move as often as possible.
According to NBA.com, Charlotte finished in the 72nd percentile with .97 points per possession on shots coming off screens. When Monk wasn’t busy leaking out or pushing the ball in transition, he was running off picks and doing his best to shed defenders. He was able to get almost any look he wanted in college despite being somewhat undersized for his position. It won’t be that easy in the NBA, but Monk will only get better when working off his bigs.
Monk’s proficiency at reading defenses doesn’t stop at coming off screens. At Kentucky, there were a handful of times where Monk’s man fell asleep, and he slipped backdoor for an alley-oop. It looks worse in college because he was arguably the best player on his team and it’s an egregious blunder to give up easy buckets to a player of his caliber, but that won’t be the case in the pros. I don’t want to make excuses for anyone — even the best defenders have lapses and Kemba Walker requires a lot of attention on offense. If Monk isn’t slipping backdoor, he’ll get open other ways because Charlotte’s offense has great success on cuts no matter what kind. Last year, they finished sixth in the league a frequency of 8.2 percent, and their 1.29 points per possession put them in the 72nd percentile.
The great thing about Monk’s offense is that it’s not limited to just the halfcourt. At Kentucky, the Wildcats loved to run whenever possible. Sometimes, Monk would leak out off a rebound and have an uncontested dunk. Other times he and Fox would lead the break and force the defenders to pick their poison. Monk’s broad offensive skill set means he’s also capable of leading the break himself and using a quick move to get to the cup. On top of that, nothing is stopping him from pulling up and launching a wide-open triple.
Charlotte was a decent team converting on the fastbreak, but they seldom ran. NBA.com has them with the third-lowest amount of transition possessions (848), but they’re in the 66th percentile. Does Monk make them more dangerous? Absolutely. But he alone won’t make them more inclined to run. And that’s fine because the Hornets have built an offense that’s not reliant on transition buckets.
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The only worry I have with Monk is how he’ll be able to impact the game without scoring. That, however, shouldn’t have been a reason he slipped as far as he did. The Knicks were in the conversation, and, we all know how lucky they are, so it wouldn’t surprise me if Monk turned into a star because New York passed on him.
Maybe Rich Cho should call Phil Jackson and thank him. It’s not often that gifted three-level scorers with — dare I say — Westbrook-type athleticism fall out of the top 10, but Charlotte was lucky enough to have that happen.
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