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This Malik Monk NBA Draft profile dives into the strengths and weaknesses of Kentucky’s freshman guard.
Malik Monk – 6’3” Combo Guard, University of Kentucky, 19 Years Old
Malik Monk’s greatest strength is already crystal clear: shooting. It’s possibly the most valuable skill a guard can have in the modern NBA, and Monk certainly has it. He shot 39.7 percent from distance on 6.9 three-point attempts per game in his lone season at Kentucky. Monk showed flashes of brilliance, including a breathtaking 47-point performance in a nationally televised early-season game against UNC.
Monk hit several clutch jumpers throughout last year, including a huge three to tie an Elite Eight game against that same North Carolina team. The Wildcats went on to lose the game due to Luke Maye’s last-second heroics, but Monk’s knack for coming through in big moments became unquestionable.
In addition to simple catch-and-shoot opportunities, Monk has a deadly pull-up jumper and can score from just about anywhere on the floor. His 45 percent mark from the field as a freshman was solid, and he led the team in scoring at 19.8 points per game. Monk often showed some off-the-dribble zest, with an array of step-backs and hesitation dribbles that helped him create his own shot. While it may take a little while to get comfortable going up against elite defenders in the pros, there’s no doubt that Monk’s sweet shooting stroke will translate rather quickly for the NBA team that drafts him.
At just 6’3” and 200 lbs, Monk’s skinny frame may cause him to struggle in some respects, at least at the start of his pro career. He might have trouble defending bigger shooting guards who will use their strength and physicality to bully him. On the other end of the floor, Monk’s quickness will help him score, but aggressive defenders may also bump and push him to make him uncomfortable. While Monk is no Stephen Curry, his style of play will cause defenses to play him somewhat like how the Cleveland Cavaliers guarded Curry in the past two NBA Finals. Monk’s defenders will often be body-to-body with him, even when he’s off the ball, and Monk may struggle to deal with physical defenders who will chase him off the three-point line.
If Monk shifts over to point guard, his lack of size and strength will be less of an issue. However, his offensive mentality may then become problematic. Monk is a pure scorer; he averaged just 2.3 assists at Kentucky. His role on offense should be primarily to look for his own opportunities. If he becomes a lead guard, he may have trouble adjusting his game. Even at the two spot, Monk is still a below average playmaker. To become a complete NBA player, he’ll have to improve his passing and learn how to create for others.
In the modern NBA, shooting is pivotal. From the Cavs to the Houston Rockets to the Golden State Warriors, every great NBA team knows the importance of spacing. Having shooters at all positions is an advantage; having guards who can shoot is a must. Just look at lottery teams such as the Philadelphia 76ers and Orlando Magic – their backcourts have had horrendous shooting problems. Monk would be a great fit on either of those squads.
Monk’s ceiling is probably making multiple All-Star teams. He could average 20-25 points per game as the first or second option in a good NBA offense. On a championship contender, though, Monk would likely be best as a third option, and he’d need to play alongside some defensive studs. However, if he improves his playmaking significantly – which is certainly possible for a 19-year-old – Monk could be a terrific second option. Either way, he could be a perfect crunch time closer for a playoff team someday.
Even in a worst-case scenario, it’s hard to imagine Monk being much worse than a seventh or eighth man who provides scoring off the bench. With his already excellent shooting, Monk should have no problem averaging at least 10-12 points right away for a lottery team.
NBA Player Comparison
It’s easy to see how Monk compares to the many instant-offense sparkplugs currently in the NBA. One could argue that Monk resembles a mix between Houston’s main bench scorers, Eric Gordon and Lou Williams – with more creativity than Gordon, but less ball-hogging than Williams.
The best comparison for Monk is another one-and-done Kentucky player – Devin Booker. When he was at Kentucky during the 2014-15 season, Booker scored far less than Monk, playing off the bench behind the Harrison twins. But while Monk was enjoying his time at UK, Booker broke out in his second NBA season, averaging 22.1 points. Though he’s three inches taller than Monk, Booker has a similar game. Booker is an elite catch-and-shoot player, and he’s become better at attacking and creating his own shot from anywhere, which Monk has already started to do. Booker is also a better playmaker than Monk, but his two years of NBA experience have given him the chance to develop that aspect of his game. After getting some pro games under his belt, Monk may become a better passer, as well.
Of course, Booker’s most notable accomplishment to date was scoring 70 points in a game against the Boston Celtics earlier this season – an unthinkable feat. Monk may never get to that point, but he’s certainly capable of lighting it up on any given night. If a losing team like Orlando or Philly brings in Monk and hands him the reigns, he may prove more capable than anyone could’ve imagined.