The Career Resurrection of Sacramento Kings Guard Malik Monk

When Malik Monk was drafted 11th overall in the 2017 NBA Draft, expectations were high. At Kentucky, Monk showed a knack for scoring off the ball, averaging 19.8 points per game, while displaying elite athleticism and a reliable three-point shot, with plenty of room to grow.

Needless to say, with the ability to score inside and outside, and the deceptive leaping ability, the Charlotte Hornets seemed like the perfect destination given their general lack of quality players at the time. Monk, sure, carve out a role immediately and help the Hornets improve their offense.

Instead, Monk responded by hitting 36% of his shots during his first season. Admittedly, he didn’t have much of a chance to find any kind of rhythm, as head coach Steve Clifford only gave him 13.6 minutes a night. Instead, Clifford Michael Carter-Williams and Treveon Graham played over Monk, focusing instead on veteran experience over learning experience.

It didn’t get much better in Year 2, when Monk played 17.2 minutes over 73 games under new head coach James Borrego, averaged 8.9 points, but hit just 38.7% of his shots.

Following the end of that season, the former lottery pick’s prospects were largely dismissed, in part due to the organization’s lack of faith in the youngster, reflected in the limited playing time and modest role in the offense.

After finally breaking the 20-minute and 40% barriers in his third season, the NBA suspended Monk for violating their anti-drug program. He would finish the campaign having played 55 games, and with patience running thin.

In his final year with the Hornets, Monk finally found a three-point shot that he abandoned after turning pro. He hit 40.1% from the range on the season, canning two three pointers per game.

However, the Hornets were not convinced. They did not extend a qualifying offer to Monk, allowing their former lottery pick to reach unrestricted free agency.

Manach then signed with the Lakers, on a one-year minimum contract, which began his career. As a Laker, Monk averaged 13.8 points, played over 28 minutes, and shot over 39% from long range, highlighting the fact that his last season with the Hornets was no fluke.

Finally, last summer, Monk signed a two-year deal with the Sacramento Kings for a total of $19 million, allowing him to reconnect with former Kentucky teammate De’Aaron Fox.

In Sacramento, Monk is flourishing. The 25-year-old has assumed the role of sixth man, and is averaging a career-high 14.0 points per game in 22.9 minutes. He has made major improvements as a player and driver, by more than doubling his attempts per 36 free throw minutes from 2.0 to 4.3, and increasing his assists from 2.9 last year to 3.9 this year, in 5.2 minutes less per game.

Monk played a key role in Sacramento’s impressive season, even after dropping 45 points in Sacramento’s stunning 176-175 double overtime win over the Los Angeles Clippers on the road.

The 6’3 guard looks significantly more comfortable with the ball in his hands, breaking down defenses, and his patience level – especially on pick-and-rolls – jumping and bounding is better than at any point in his NBA career .

More importantly, Monk seems to have found himself a home. Head coach Mike Brown trusts Monk late in games, as do his teammates, and Monk now has a comfort level on the court that was evident from Kentucky. He’s next to Fox, and the two play off each other very well, with Monk providing a vital spacing feature for Fox, who puts a ton of pressure on the rim, collapses the defense and opens up perimeter shots.

As the Kings edge closer and closer to the playoffs for the first time in 17 years, Monk’s situation raises some questions for other teams going through similar early struggles with their players.

The Hornets undoubtedly made a mistake by letting Monk leave for nothing, as a year later he plays a vital role on one of the best teams in the Western Conference. Ultimately, the learning element here is to give young players a chance to succeed before deciding their future. Monk started just one game in four years in Charlotte despite being the 11th overall pick. He has never had a single 40 minute game and has only broken the 35 minute barrier once.

In four years with the Hornets, Manach played a total of 4,159 minutes, barely over a thousand minutes per year.

Not only is that a difficult example to draw anything from, but it’s also extremely difficult for any player to be comfortable in a set role, the parameters are constantly changing.

Fortunately for Monk, though, he’s now in a place where the expectation levels seem level, where he and the Kings have come together for a shared purpose.

Sometimes, that’s all you need.

Unless otherwise stated, all stat will be done through, PBStats, Cleaning the Glass or Basketball-Reference. All salary information through Spotrak. All odds courtesy FanDuel sportsbook.

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