Coming into the 2018-19 season, one of the biggest jobs for new Hornets coach James Borrego was to maximize the potential of 2nd year guard, and former 5 star recruit Malik Monk.
Coming off a strange rookie year in which he fell out of Charlotte’s rotation. Monk started the season averaging 21.6 minutes over the teams first 12 games, to having to wait until the end of April with only 6 games remaining and the teams playoff hopes dead and buried before he would play at least 20 minutes in back to back games. This included long stretches through the middle of the season where he was out of the rotation completely. However, this season promised to be a coming out party for Monk with Coach Borrego speaking of the impact he hoped Monk would have on the team.
“I knew he was a shooter but being up close to him is impressive. This guy has a chance to be an elite shooter” Borrego said, as he spoke of his plan to make Monk a “major player” and “Someone we can play through for different stretches of a game.”
At this stage of his 2nd year, it is certainly still too early to draw conclusions on what Monk’s ceiling is as a player, but it does seem that the same concerns people had for him coming out of college are still present in his play today. With a field goal percentage of 54.4% on shots from less than 5 feet away from the basket, it is clear to see that Monk still hasn’t added a reliable slashing game and is still struggling as a whole to score in isolation and develop his handle.
A lack of development in these areas may go a long way to explaining why his ‘Major’ role has become more and more reduced through the year, as again he is seeing his minutes reduced as the season goes on. Combine this with the high level play of guard Jeremy Lamb and the surprising impact that veteran Tony Parker has had on the team and it’s easy to see why Monk is losing both his minutes in the guard rotation as well as his minutes in crunch time. Early season indications pointed to him being a big part of both.
On top of this, rookie wing Miles Bridges has shown a much more promising progression in his game, leading to him getting more minutes than Monk and now knocking on the door of being a starter with the continued up and down play of current starters Marvin Williams and Nic Batum.
Rumours of the Hornets looking to make a potential big time trade to get a reliable star next to Kemba have led to many coming to terms with the idea of Monk being traded as part of a package for someone like a Bradley Beal, a player who sources have said Charlotte are actively looking at. Many of the factors I have pointed out would make it seem like that could very well be the case, but unless it was for a player like Beal or someone of his calibre, I would hold off on letting Monk go at this stage of his career.
Through tough times this year, he has shown the ability to have big scoring nights and provide a 3 point scoring threat, something that the Hornets lack overall from their bench. It also must be factored in that current starting 2 guard Jeremy Lamb is in a contract year and is likely playing his last year in Charlotte, leaving a starting guard spot on the team next to Kemba Walker should he sign a long term contract extension as is expected.
While this season may be about watching Monk continue to hopefully adjust and improve, it’s likely that next season will be a make or break season for the 20 year old former Kentucky man. With a starting role potentially on the cards and a coach with full belief in his talents, all us Charlotte fans will be keeping our fingers crossed and our hopes up that Monk can be the side-kick Kemba Walker so desperately needs