Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Monk’s up and down career hit its highest peak and deepest valley in 2020.
We’re now three years into Malik Monk’s career, and it’s still as volatile as ever. The former Kentucky standout has shown remarkable flashes throughout his career but has never been able to sustain them for any significant period of time. He now enters the final year of his rookie contract having not answered any of the questions he entered the league with.
Charlotte Hornets head coach James Borrego has had high praise for Monk since he took charge of the team in 2018. That didn’t translate into any boost in Monk’s productivity, as he was largely the same player as he was as a rookie. Year three looked similar, though there was a notable bump in his efficiency inside the arc. Beyond that, he was still the same player—capable of erupting for scoring outbursts in a couple games and then going MIA for weeks after.
Through January 13th, Malik Monk averaged 8.2 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game, while shooting 42.2% from the field, 25.7% from three, and 79.2% from the free throw line. Those numbers are pretty much in line with the first two years of his career. He was essentially the same player he had always been.
On January 12th, Monk played seven minutes and fifteen seconds in a loss to the Suns, the fewest minutes he had played in a game all season. The next night against the Trail Blazers, he played seven minutes and 45 seconds. On January 15th against the Nuggets, he didn’t play—a DNP-CD.
That benching seemed to make something click. Monk received his normal allocation of minutes against his former head coach Steve Clifford and the Orlando Magic and dropped 20 points on them. The next game saw him drop 31 on the Bucks in Paris. In the 13 games after his benching, Monk averaged 17.0 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 2.5 assists while shooting 45.7% from the field, 25.0% from three, and 85.1% from the free throw line. This was the Malik Monk Hornets fans had been waiting for since he was drafted.
And then he got popped for failing the NBA’s drug policy for “substances of abuse.” We don’t know what it was for, and we probably never will, but it put a halt to the best stretch of Malik Monk’s career.
Now the season is over, and there’s no way to know whether that 13 game stretch was switch being flipped or if it was just another flash in the pan. It’s easy to be excited about those 13 games, but we can’t ignore the 42 that proceeded it (we saw how hype over a 13 game sample translated for Dwayne Bacon). There’s also reason to be concerned about the violations of the league’s drug policy and if that will put any burden on the rest of his career, both off the court and on.
In short, Monk’s 2019-20 season was much like the rest of his career—exciting at times but confounding more often than not.
Final Grade: C