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Monk or MCW: Assessing the Hornets back-up point guards

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Michael Carter-Williams has struggled immensely, but if the Hornets still want to make the playoffs, he deserves minutes ahead of Malik Monk.

NBA: Houston Rockets at Charlotte Hornets Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Good news Charlotte Hornets fans, the team has won three of their past four games are 3.5 games out of the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. I know that doesn’t sound great, but as a Hornets fan, you have to appreciate the little things. This season has been filled with injury, inconsistency, and frustration.

The trade deadline is two days away, and based on their history the team is sure to make a move. The thing is no one knows what move the Hornets will make and what direction they will go in. For now, it seems like the Hornets will try to salvage the season and make a run at the playoffs. Today I am dressing the source of one of the most significant sources of Hornets fans of frustration this season: the lack of playing time for Malik Monk

Monk has fallen entirely out of the rotation despite garbage time and a few spot minutes here and there. Does he deserve playing time? Specifically, does he deserve to play ahead of Hornet public enemy number one Michael Carter-Williams? Let’s dive into the numbers.

Monk vs. MCW

Let’s start with the offense where Monk should have an advantage over MCW. Looking at the numbers, MCW has been brutal in scoring, but Monk in limited time has been worse than you’d expect. MCW has been so bad that according to Cleaningtheglass.com he is ranks last among all point guards in points per shot attempt. However, Monk is not much better — he is only in the 6th percentile. MCW can’t effectively score anywhere, which is why is his effective field goal percentage of 34.5 percent is also last. Monk is at 43 percent better, but still a terrible mark. Let’s break it down into areas of the court.

MCW shoots 42 percent at the rim while Monk is actually above average finishing at the rim, shooting 61 percent there this season. The mid-range is a draw and a terrible draw at that. Monk shoots 25 percent and MCW and shoots 24 percent. This hurts to type. 3-point percentage as you may guess goes to Monk, 35 percent compared to 27 percent for MCW. So Monk is better from 3 and at the rim, and it’s a tie of terribleness from mid-range.

Here is the one advantage MCW has. He is a little better from the free throw line this season. 80 percent compared to 75 percent for Monk. More importantly, MCW draws fouls way more often than Monk, both shooting fouls and fouls on the floor. Drawing fouls has value and MCW has made enough free throws except for his tendency to miss the free throw that would complete an And-1. Still, advantage MCW.

That said, when you add in the free throws, Monk has the advantage in both effective and true shooting percentage. If you go by-play type regarding scoring, the numbers are still ugly for both, but Monk has a slight advantage again.

Monk ranks in the 16th percentile overall on offense according to Synergy Sports compared to MCW who is in the 6th percentile. Monk, in particular, has struggled in pick and roll situations, ranking in the 12th percentile, which is problem if he wants point guard minutes. However, Monk ranks in the 82nd percentile on spot ups, signaling he may be better playing off the ball. He also has done well in transition and isolation, so maybe he can play with the ball in his hands, but not as a point guard more as a gunner Jamal Crawford type, much like we expected before the draft.

MCW has struggled in pick-and-rolls, spot ups and transition. However here is where it gets interesting if you combine assists MCW ranks in the 54th percentile overall, compared to the 7th percentile for Monk. MCW is a better passer than Monk. His assist percentage is 22 percent, compared to 16 percent for Monk. What’s more impressive is how high MCW’s assist percentage compared to how low his usage rate is. MCW is the better passer, but he turns it over more often than Monk. Even though he turns it over more, his assist to turnover ratio is better than Monk’s; his passing has been that good. MCW is second on the team in assist percentage and assists to turnover ratio.

Monk is the better scorer; MCW is the better passer, what is more important? Well, the team plays better with MCW on the floor on offense. MCW has a 103 offensive rating, compared to a poor 94 rating for Monk. MCW also has the edge in little things on offense, such as a higher offensive rebound percentage, and setting more screen assists. Bottom line, Monk’s advantage in scoring is not as significant as MCW’s advantage in passing.

What about defense?

According to Steve Clifford, Monk isn’t in rotation because he struggles defensively. Has he been that bad? Monk ranks in the 12th percentile overall on defense. He seems to be a little better defending on the ball ranking in the 37th percentile defending pick and roll action compared to the 3rd percentile defending the spot-up action.

MCW hasn’t been as good as you think, but still better than Monk in individual defense. Carter-Williams ranks in the 38th percentile on defense. He ranks in the 76th percentile defending spot up, so obviously a lot better than Monk and 45th percentile defending pick and rolls. Where MCW separates himself is his block and steal percentages. His block percentage is triple Monk’s, and his steal percentage is almost double. The guy makes plays on defense. The only downside is MCW fouls way too much. His foul percentage is 4.8 percent compared to Monk’s 3.2 percent. So Monk has a slight advantage there, but that is not nearly enough to make up for the rest of his deficiencies on defense.

Defense is also about effort and little things. MCW has a higher defensive rebounding percentage, gets more deflections, draws more charges and contests more shots. MCW’s team defense is not as great as you would like, but he still has a better defensive rating (107) compared to Monk’s (111). When it comes to defense, MCW wins easily.

So MCW is better on defense, and his passing is more valuable on offense. Especially on a team that already struggles with assists and ball movement. Add it up, and MCW net rating of -4.1 is not nearly as bad as Monk’s -16.5. As bad of a scorer as MCW is, he should be getting back up point guard minutes ahead of Monk. If the Hornets don’t address this position at the trade deadline, and continue to a playoff push, MCW should remain the backup.

But Hornets fans shouldn’t give up on Monk. As Steve Clifford said, he is “An elite shot maker.” Early in the season, he showed what he could do when he gets hot with two explosions against Milwaukee and at New York. He still reminds me a lot of C.J. McCollum, who only averaged two points a game as a rookie. If the season does go off the rails, I would try to find him some more minutes off the ball. In particular, I like playing him with Nicolas Batum, who would be the point guard and handle the passing duty. Monk could act as a gunner. For now, let him learn on the bench, or in Greensboro, but most importantly, keep the faith.