Malik Monk Talks Offseason, Being Patient and New Opportunities
Going into his second full NBA offseason, Charlotte Hornets guard Malik Monk had two primary objectives he wanted to accomplish: put on muscle and put up plenty of shots.
Following his Tuesday morning workout at Spectrum Center, the Arkansas native spoke with Hornets.com about how things have gone the last few months, while also commenting on what will be a very different Charlotte rotation this upcoming season.
“[I’m] putting on a lot of muscle, a lot of strength and just getting a lot of shots up. It’s gone pretty well,” stated Monk, whose listed weight was an even 200 pounds last season. “We’ve got a way different team. There’s a lot more opportunities for a lot of young guys. My mindset is a little different, but it’s mostly the same because I just want to get on the court. If I get on the court, I know I can do what I’ve been doing this summer.”
With the departures of Kemba Walker, Jeremy Lamb and Tony Parker, the Charlotte backcourt has plenty of available minutes for the likes of Monk, newcomer Terry Rozier, Dwayne Bacon, Devonte’ Graham and rookie Cody Martin. The team’s young core knows external expectations may be lower this season than in previous ones, but Monk says that doubt can be utilized in one of two ways.
“You can’t listen, but you’re still going to see what people have to say,” he said when broached on the topic. “Some people see that and just run with it. Some people take it, believe the criticism and let that get under them. There’s no pressure for us now. They don’t think we’re going to win, so we have to come out there and show them what we can do.”
Monk’s first pair of professional seasons have self-admittedly been up-and-down with two different coaching staffs, experimentation at different positions and fluctuating playing time. It’s not a terribly abnormal situation for any young player as it most often takes more than just a season or two to get fully acclimated to the NBA lifestyle.
“I’ve never not played before [coming to the NBA],” Monk stated. “I’ve always been the best guy on the court. I’ve never not gotten fifteen, twenty shots, but I’m playing five minutes or less [sometimes]. It was a big challenge for me, but it’s what you have to do as a basketball player. There’re 20 other NBA guys just like you or who probably do more than you. You just have to wait your turn, wait for your opportunity and I’ve got a big opportunity this year.”
The Kentucky product averaged 8.9 PPG, 1.9 RPG and 1.6 APG in 17.2 MPG over 73 appearances off the bench last season, shooting 38.7% and 33.0% from the field and three-point range, respectively. Assuming his offseason translates into the regular season, Monk could potentially see around 22-24 minutes a game (for context, Lamb averaged 27.9 MPG as the backup two-guard last year, although was in his seventh NBA season and also one of the league’s best rebounders at his position).
Interestingly enough, the single-best statistical five-man lineup for the Hornets last season featured Monk, Graham, Bacon, Miles Bridges and Willy Hernangómez. In just under 36 minutes of play together, this small-ball quintet outscored opponents by an average of 42.7 points per 100 possessions, per Basketball Reference. After respectively spending 59% and 41% of his rookie minutes at point guard and shooting guard, 90% of Monk’s minutes this past season came at the two.
Monk’s ceiling has often been compared to L.A. Clippers guard Lou Williams, a similarly-sized 14-year NBA veteran and one of the NBA’s best pure scorers right now. Williams just won his third Sixth Man of the Year Award in five years and like Monk, entered the pros at age 19, although straight out of high school. After sitting behind Allen Iverson and Andre Miller his first two seasons in Philadelphia, Williams averaged 11.5 PPG, 3.2 APG and 1.0 SPG in 80 appearances while shooting 35.9% from distance his third year in the league.
As is with most players at this stage of their development, playing time will be contingent on Monk improving his overall impact on both ends of the floor. Getting stronger will give him a better chance of finishing through contact on the offensive end and effectively guarding larger players defensively. Raising his outside shooting percentages and playmaking with and without the ball will also do wonders for his all-around game.
Monk is still the uber-confident talent that the Hornets drafted two years ago, although the early goings of his NBA career haven’t necessarily transpired the way he envisioned they would. Now more physically and mentally mature, the 21-year-old has a bit more perspective on what he’s gone through and what’s ahead of him.
“You never know what’s going to happen,” he said. “You can’t get too caught up with your feelings because it’s a business at the end of the day. But like I said, there’s a lot of opportunity. It’s what I’ve been waiting for. It’s what a lot of guys have been waiting for and we just have to take advantage of our chance.”