There were reasons to believe that Malik Monk was going to be a difference maker for the Charlotte Hornets this season. He finished the 2017-18 season on fire, averaging 19.8 points and 3.8 assists per game while hitting nearly four 3-pointers per game over the team’s final six contests. If that finish wasn’t scintillating enough, new head coach James Borrego and new General Manager Mitch Kupchak both spoke highly of the rising sophomore in their offseason press conferences. It was clear that they saw big things in Monk, and they expected him to be a key contributor this season. He backed that up by going scorched Earth in his only Summer League game, scoring 23 points on 10-of-16 shooting.
All of that hype didn’t translate into real success. He started the season relatively well- he averaged 13.4 points on 41/37/100% shooting splits, but he faltered as the season went along. He got his first of nine ‘Did not play, coach’s decision’s on November 23rd after a five game stretch where he shot 20.6% from the field and 13.6% from behind the arc.
By season’s end, Monk looked like the same player that joined the Hornets as a 19-year-old rookie. His only discernible improvement was scoring inside the arc, where he replaced his excessive mid-range jumpers with more forays to the basket. Everywhere else, his stats are almost identical between his first and second seasons.
The biggest concern is his lack of defensive ability. He’s slender, but he’s athletic enough that he should be able to stay in front of guys with some sort of consistency. He doesn’t do that though. His -2.36 Defensive Real Plus-Minus ranked 495th out of 514 qualified players and 107th out of 115 shooting guards. Some players can offset woeful defense on the offensive end, but it takes an elite offensive player to do that. See Devin Booker and Lou Williams.
At this point in his career, Monk is not an elite offensive player. He’s probably not even an average offensive player at this point. We’ve seen him explode for quarters to remind us of his offensive potential, but he’s never sustained it for any notable length of time. He’s still very careless with the ball (Need I remind you of when he literally handed a win to the Brooklyn Nets because of a loose handle). He really should have more turnovers than he does, but it seemed like an inordinate amount of his tipped passes last year either found teammates or ended up out of bounds this season. His shooting stroke looks flawless, but the shots don’t go in as often as they should.
None of this is to say that Malik Monk can’t become a good NBA player. From what we’ve seen so far, his best path to success is likely as a spark plug off the bench in the Lou Williams and Jamal Crawford role. For that to work, he has to tighten up his handle and find consistency with his shot. And of course it wouldn’t hurt if he could slow his counterpart down with a passable level of defensive consistency. We’ve seen him do both of those things in small spurts. His next challenge is to maintain that for an entire season.