Season Recap: Malik Monk Flashes Major Improvements in Shortened Season

by Sam Perley

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Following two-and-a-half years of steady progression mixed with bouts of inconsistency, things finally started clicking for Malik Monk in a season that ended earlier in more ways than one for the Hornets reserve shooting guard.

Monk experienced a slow start to the season before picking up steam with consecutive 15-point games in late October. Between Nov. 10-25, he averaged almost 14 points, four rebounds and two assists in nine games off the bench, while shooting 48 percent from the field.

During this stretch, he produced perhaps the highlight of the season for the Hornets, knocking down a buzzer-beating fadeaway three-pointer to clinch a 109-106 home win over Detroit on Nov. 15. This shot marked the team’s first buzzer-beater at Spectrum Center since December 2014 and was one of just five total such makes in the NBA this season.

The Kentucky product didn’t score in double figures again until a 23-point and career-high 10-rebound showing in a mid-December home win over Sacramento, good for his first NBA double-double. Following an 18-point outing in Memphis on Dec. 29, Monk averaged only 3 points on 27 percent shooting over his next eight games, leading to a benching in Denver on Jan. 15.

Monk quickly bounced back though, scoring 20 points against Orlando on Jan. 20 and a career-high 31 against Milwaukee in Paris four days later. This kicked off a span in which he averaged 17 points on 46 percent shooting – 35 percent from three – four rebounds and three assists over 13 total appearances, one of which was his first-ever start in Indiana on Feb. 25.

Throughout this run, Monk looked noticeably more aggressive and in control than he had earlier on in the season or in years past. He led the team in drives (11.0), more than doubling his previous 42-game average (5.3) and ranked fourth in the NBA in reserve scoring (17.8 PPG) behind only Dennis Schröder, Buddy Hield and Goran Dragić.

Unfortunately for Monk and the Hornets, a violation of the NBA’s anti-drug program by the former resulted in an indefinite suspension starting on Feb. 26. He remained out through the team’s final regular season game on March 11, although has since been reinstated.

“During the hiatus, Malik was reinstated and that’s been a while now,” said President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Mitch Kupchak. “He went through his program, and my understanding was he was reinstated as soon as possible. He has been in our facility, he’s participated in all team activities, and whenever we can resume some kind of activity, hopefully on a formal basis, he’ll be there.”

“It’s great having him back and having him a part of the group again,” said Hornets Head Coach James Borrego. “You never want one of your guys out of the group. We’re a family, a unit. [The team has] been able to connect via Zoom, and Malik has been a part of those. We welcome him back, and we move forward. Malik’s ready to move forward. Obviously, we haven’t been on the court with him. He’s been in our facility, which is a positive, but we welcome him back, and we’ve got work to do this summer. I know he’s ready to do it.”

Monk finished the year with career highs in points (10.3), rebounds (2.9), assists (2.1) and field-goal percentage (43.4 percent), while sliding in at 15th in the NBA in reserve scoring (mini. 40 games). Under contract through next year, Monk’s ability to produce the results he showcased towards the end of this season will be a major factor in determining his future with the Charlotte Hornets organization.

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