clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Malik Monk is more than just the best shooter in the 2017 NBA draft

The Kentucky star is also a terrific athlete and developing playmaker.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Kentucky vs Wichita State Thomas Joseph-USA TODAY Sports

Every discussion of Malik Monk ahead of the 2017 NBA draft begins with his shooting ability. It’s a good place to start: Monk’s 104 made threes are the second-most of any projected first rounder (UNC’s Justin Jackson made 105) and he hit them at a sterling 39.7 percent rate.

Monk can make threes off the dribble, coming around screens and as a standstill shooter. He can hit them in flurries, as evident by the six games where he made at least five threes. He can also hit tough shots in clutch spots. Just ask North Carolina about that.

There are few consensus opinions as the draft approaches, but Monk as this class’ best shooter is one of them. But Monk isn’t just a shooter. The Kentucky freshman will also immediately be able to lift a team’s athletic floor with the promise of developing as a secondary playmaker. Monk is no one-trick pony.

Monk is a stud athlete who should thrive in transition

As a high school recruit, Monk was known as an elite athlete first and a streaky shooter second. His hot shooting to start his one year at Kentucky might have overshadowed just how dangerous he can be in the open floor.

That’s Monk beating all five defenders for eventual national champion North Carolina down the floor for a transition bucket in an Elite Eight game. Even at the NBA level, Monk’s speed and leaping ability will immediately make him one of the best athletes on the court in any given game.

Monk only finished in the 58th percentile in transition scoring according to Synergy, but that number doesn’t mean everything. Consider that teammate De’Aaron Fox — who should be one of the fastest players in the NBA from the moment he’s drafted — finished in the 61st percentile in transition. Anyone who watched Monk at Kentucky saw flashes of brilliance on the fast break.

Allow me to post one more clip, because I think UNC’s Joel Berry II had to buy a new pair of shoes after this play:

Monk is going to be a highlight reel waiting to happen in the NBA if he finds a team and a system that encourages him to run in the open floor.

He has playmaking upside, too

The biggest knock on Monk is that he has a point guard’s body (6’3, 200 lbs.) but lacks point guard’s skills. This is true for Monk today as a 19-year-old. The encouraging thing is that he did flash the ability to make good reads and throw accurate passes in his one year at Kentucky. It’s highly possible he grows into a secondary playmaker as he develops.

It’s all on display in this play against Arkansas: the speed in the open floor, the hesitation dribble to freeze the defense, the quick pass to get his teammate a bucket.

Monk didn’t get to run a ton of pick-and-rolls at Kentucky with Fox running the show, but he made some quality plays when he did. The best might have been this beautiful alley-oop lob to Bam Adebayo against Georgia in a game Fox missed with an injury.

Monk is never going to be Chris Paul, but has the look of an unselfish player with a developing feel for the game. He certainly has the chance to become a good creator for others as he grows up in the NBA.

Monk doesn’t just hit threes. He hits TOUGH threes

OK, this is just an excuse for me to post this clip.

I still can’t believe UNC won that game. Luke Maye didn’t make another shot the rest of the NCAA tournament!

What’s the best fit for Monk?

It feels like Monk is entering the league at the perfect time. Shooting might be the single most important skill in the league and there are also more unconventional ball handlers than ever. Both of those factors work well for Monk.

Monk is an ideal fit next to one of these new-age, oversized point guards like Ben Simmons, Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, or James Harden. That would allow him to play off the ball on offense while defending point guards on defense. He’d be at his best next to a plus-rebounder who likes to push the ball up the court, where his speed and spot-up shooting would become even more beneficial.

Monk has his obvious flaws. He’s small for an off-guard, he’s probably only a one-position defender, he’s not yet a natural playmaker, and sometimes he’s too willing to live off tough shots. The fact is that every player in this draft class not named Markelle Fultz has some apparent holes in their skill set.

Monk will provide shooting from day one, just don’t pigeonhole him as only a shooter. In the right system with the right development plan in place, he can be so much more than that.