Hornets NBA

2019-20 Player Preview: Malik Monk

This is a huge year for Malik Monk. The sharpshooter out of Kentucky has been a pretty big disappointment for the Hornets in his first two years in the league. However, he allegedly has gained 20 pounds this year and is ready to produce now that he finally has his opportunity. Let’s take a look at what Monk has done so far and what he could possibly look like this season.

Monk shot 40% from three at Kentucky on about seven attempts a game. He shot off screens, shot pull-ups, and spotted up all over the court. He rained fire at Kentucky and so that’s what Hornet fans expected when he entered the NBA. That hasn’t been the case so far. Monk shot just over 34% from three in his rookie season and his percentage actually went down last year to 33%. The NBA line is further back sure, but we weren’t expecting Monk’s three point shooting numbers to fall this low. Let’s dive a little deeper into that though.

During his rookie year, Monk shot 38.9% on catch and shoot 3s compared to only 30.8% on pull-up threes. Last year, the disparity was even greater. He shot 37.2% on catch and shoot 3s but only 24.2% on pull-up threes. Monk was a pull-up extraordinaire at Kentucky so why has this happened? I may have a theory.

Last year, when shooting with the closest defender more than six feet away from him, Monk shot 37.5% from three. When shooting with the closest defender 2-4 feet away, Monk shot only 13.2% from three. Obviously, the more wide open you are the better you shoot, that’s just conventional wisdom. However, that is a huge disparity. Could be an outlier right? In his rookie year, Monk shot 38.7% from three with the closest defender more than six feet away from him and 18.2% from three with the closest defender 2-4 feet away. In the NBA, the players are longer and faster and that has seemed to affect Monk’s ability to shoot. He gets pretty good extension when he shoots but he’s still only 6’3.

That’s a pretty big problem right? I wouldn’t say that that is all to it however. Even with this Monk still has shooting potential and I think he’s better than a 33% or 34% shooter. I think a change in shot distribution can help. In his rookie year, Monk shot about as many pull-ups as he did spot-ups. This past year, the distribution was better with him taking a little over 3 spot-ups a game compared to around one pull-up a game but he just shot so bad from the pull-ups that his overall percentage still went down. I expect a little more regression up and a few less pull-ups would give his 3 point percentage a boost.

Ideally, Monk should be deployed as a spot-up threat right now. This past year, he was in the 54th percentile in spot-ups according to NBA.com. He’s pretty knockdown so defenders will lunge out at him and when he can attack a close out, it’s showtime. Look here:

With his athleticism and creativity, Monk is killer in closeouts. The thing about it is that we lost our two best guys that got in the paint in Kemba Walker and Tony Parker. Monk might be asked to do a lot more with the ball in his hands and I’m worried about that. His handle can be loose at times:

He wasn’t the best in pick and roll this past year as he finished in the 21st percentile as a P&R ball-handler. He wasn’t particularly efficient (38.7 eFG %) and turned the ball over constantly (21.4% TOV rate). Monk isn’t the best decision-maker. That can get better with reps and experience but I’m not sure that’s the best way to utilize him this season.

We should expect to see Monk more in transition this year though. We will struggle to create in half-court situations so the goal should be to get out and run and get easy buckets. Terry Rozier is a terrific rebounding guard and should be able to ignite breaks. Miles Bridges and PJ Washington have grab and go potential. Monk isn’t the best decision-maker in transition (13% TOV rate) but he’s a great finisher (58% eFG). With those guys leading the breaker, Monk should be let loose to sky for lobs:

One area I’d like to see Monk deployed more is off screens. He was bad at it last year (29th percentile) but he didn’t do it that often (a little under a possession a game). In addition to spot-ups & in transition, Monk thrived off screens at Kentucky and it was his third most utilized play type. I think with increased usage that number can go up. In our second unit, we’re very starved for play-making. Running Monk off screens could be a way to create. Monk isn’t going to become JJ Redick but we’ve seen teams utilize players like that to create for their second unit. The Miami Heat utilized Wayne Ellington that way for their second unit and he helped their offense as he was in the 86th percentile off screens.

I’m still not fully off the Malik Monk bandwagon yet. I think a good player is still somewhere in there. To extract that value, Borrego has to put Monk in the best positions to succeed. With a team starved for talent, that’ll be tough but there are ways to do it. Run Monk off screens. Get out and push and find him in transition. Generate spot-up looks. Use Monk more as a play-finisher instead of a creator. Monk’s decision-making holds him back a lot of the time from being good on offense so make it easier for him. Monk actually has decent vision so even with these plays he can make the easy pass. I’m not sure what the plan is for Monk but I hope to see him utilized that way. If he is, hopefully he can be good enough on the offensive end to out weigh the defensive negatives (I’m not even going to talk about his defense because oh boy). Like I said earlier, this is a big year for Malik Monk. Here’s to hoping that he’ll shine.

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