Malik Monk Details Breakout Season, More NBA Recognition for LaMelo Ball

by Sam Perley

Monk Credits Recent Play to Increased Maturity and Dedication On and Off the Court

Midway through his fourth NBA season, Malik Monk closed out the Charlotte Hornets’ first-half schedule playing the best, most consistent basketball of his professional career thus far.

Over the team’s six-game road trip, Monk averaged 22 points, four rebounds and two assists, while shooting 50% and 40% from the field and three, respectively. Only two other NBA players – Utah’s Jordan Clarkson and Detroit’s Josh Jackson – had higher scoring averages off the bench in the month of February than the Hornets guard (16.6 points; mini. 10 games played).

For the past several weeks, the team has dealt with nightly absences for one reason or another, most especially to the backcourt. The spark Monk has provided off the bench lately has been invaluable to a Hornets squad looking to persevere through the adversity. “With Devonte’ out, somebody has to step up in every game,” he said. “Whoever is stepping up, we’re going to find who it is. That’s us being a team and that’s us maturing, too.”

What’s even more remarkable about Monk’s production this year is that he hardly played the first month of the season after missing most of a condensed training camp because of Health and Safety Protocols. He busted out for a career-high 36 points and nine three-pointers in an overtime road win over Miami on Feb. 1 and since then, hasn’t looked back.

Monk is currently putting up career highs in scoring (13.5 points), rebounding (2.9), field-goal (46.2%) and three-point percentage (43.9%; 16th best in NBA). The most specific area of improvement has been his above-the-break three-point efficiency, which has jumped from 30% on three attempts per game to over 41% on four-and-a-half tries a contest. Increased patience and discipline have been the two greatest contributors to his game, Monk said.

“I just grew up if I’m being honest. I started taking film seriously, I started taking everything serious. A couple years ago, I might not touch the ball for four or five possessions and then I’d shoot a bad shot. Now, I’m getting to the rim or finding somebody and the ball will come back to me if I make the right play. Every game I get on the court, my confidence just builds. I’ve got a chip on my shoulder. It’s going to take time, but I just have to keep getting better.”

Ball Adds 2nd Rookie of the Month Award, Rising Stars Designation to Growing Resume

LaMelo Ball’s trophy case continues to expand after he garnered another pair of accolades this week with a second consecutive NBA Rookie of the Month Award in addition to being named an NBA Rising Star.

Coming off a month in which he averaged 20.1 points on 45% shooting, 6.2 rebounds, 6.7 assists and 1.7 steals in 13 games started, Ball is the first Charlotte player since Raymond Felton in 2005-06 and fourth overall to be named Rookie of the Month on multiple occasions.

“He’s special. We have a star in the making,” said teammate Terry Rozier after Ball became the third-youngest player in NBA history to record a 30-5-5 game on Monday night, behind only LeBron James and Kevin Durant. “I would tell people to just enjoy it because you’re not going to see too many people like him. He’s a special talent and a great person. He deserves everything that’s coming his way. You aren’t going to see too many guys like this ever.”

Perhaps the biggest improvement to Ball’s game this month has been his three-point shooting: he shot under 30% from deep across 20 games in December and January and then finished at 41% in February on 6.6 attempts per game. His free-throw percentage also increased from 76% to 86% and the nightly turnovers rose a mere 0.8 despite playing nine more minutes per game with a much heavier usage rate.

“He’s just understanding the game,” added Rozier. “I would say that he was always a step ahead for his age, but when you get in the league, you really see what it can do for you. His mind is all the way slowed down and that’s why he’s having the success he’s been having versus earlier in the season. He’s getting more minutes, so he’s showing what he can do.”

Ball is almost halfway to joining an exclusive list of players in recent memory to sweep the NBA’s Rookie of the Month awards since it was divided into separate conferences in 2001. Luka Dončić (2018-19), Karl-Anthony Towns (2015-16), Damian Lillard (2012-13), Blake Griffin (2010-11), Chris Paul (2005-06), LeBron James (2003-04) and Carmelo Anthony (2003-04) all pulled off this feat, with all but Anthony also eventually winning Rookie of the Year.

It goes without saying, but Ball continues to be absolutely everything the organization could have envisioned and more when he was taken third overall back in November’s NBA Draft. And the current trajectory indicates there is still plenty more to come from the 19-year-old sensation.

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