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2020-21 Hornets season preview: Malik Monk

Why Monk is poised to have a breakout scoring season

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Charlotte Hornets Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Malik Monk has been one of the most fun players to watch in Charlotte ever since he was drafted back in 2017. He’s a high-flying, energetic guard that has as much athleticism as anyone else in the league. Despite an up-and-down career, this upcoming season could be when we finally see Monk flourish into the great bench scorer he’s always been destined to be.

Since entering the league, Monk has struggled to stay consistent. Coming out of the draft everyone expected him to be the same lights out shooter and elite scorer he was at the University of Kentucky. Unfortunately he was unable to replicate that same efficiency, shooting 34.2%, 33.0%, and 28.4% from deep in each of his first three NBA seasons respectively.

This past year, however, was slightly tainted not only by the shortened season, but because of a hapless run-in with the league’s anti-drug program. Monk was suspended indefinitely back in February of this year and wasn’t reinstated until June. During this time, Monk also took an apparent break off of social media, but has since returned to posting again.

Since Monk made his return to Instagram we’ve seen lots of images/videos of him hitting the gym and working on his craft. Before his break there were a few examples of this, but since June the constant flow of workout videos has been great to see. From the looks of it, Monk is getting ready for a great season starting in December, with the situation in Charlotte being as perfect as it ever has been for the young guard.

Throughout Monk’s first two years in the league the Hornets were looking to make the playoffs with All-Star point guard Kemba Walker at the helm. However, in both years the team wasn’t exactly filled with top-tier talent, meaning that there was a ton of pressure on Monk to perform immediately.

Throughout high school and college Monk never struggled to win games. His high school team went 21-9 his senior year, and during his one year in college the Wildcats went 32-6. Going from two dominant teams to a team that was just scraping by in an attempt to make the playoffs puts a lot of pressure on such a young kid. The same situation could be said about Monk’s second year (where the Hornets had the exact same record), and his third year got sidetracked due to his issues with the anti-drug program.

This year in Charlotte is Monk’s chance to finally thrive. With the addition of LaMelo Ball and Gordon Hayward it’s clear that the Hornets aren’t looking to completely tank. However, while Charlotte was desperately trying to make the playoffs for Walker’s sake a few years back, that pressure isn’t there anymore. The main goal of the organization at this point should be to let their young players thrive, and Monk can take full advantage of that by simply focusing on his game. No pressure, no expectations, just basketball.

Discounting last season, Monk has shot the ball extremely well on catch and shoot threes. In his rookie and sophomore seasons he shot 38.9% and 37.2% on those attempts, respectively. With Ball and Hayward coming to town, Monk is going to have more guys capable of finding him in these catch and shoot situations. With that in mind, his shooting numbers are bound to improve.

Despite an otherwise wash of a season last year, one aspect of Monk’s game that did improve (and by a significant amount) was his ability to attack the rim. In his first two seasons he shot 40.5% and 37.9% on drives. Last season, however, Monk improved this number to 51.2% on a higher number of drives per game (3.1). If he can put together that sort of efficiency on drives and combine it with efficient three-point shooting, he’ll turn into a lethal scoring threat of the bench.

Everything is pointing towards a step in the right direction this year. There’s more talent surrounding him, his driving ability is as polished as ever, and the guy seems dialed in for a great fourth season. Look out for Monk to improve in all scoring categories this upcoming season.