Malik Monk has been a superstar at every level before coming to the NBA. At East Poinsett High School in Lepanto, Arkansas, he led the team to the state championship game as a freshman averaging 22.8 points per game. After transferring to Bentonville as a sophomore, he tore up the AAU circuit, putting up 19.7 points in Nike’s EYBL. He also starred in the Nike Global Challenge, winning the tournament MVP.
Coming into Kentucky for the 2016-2017 season, he was a consensus five-star recruit and part of one of John Calipari’s top recruiting classes in the nation. The group also included fellow NBA players De’Aaron Fox and Bam Adebayo. As a freshman, Monk set a freshman scoring record of 47 points, and he would go on to lead the Wildcats in scoring that year with 19.8 points per game on 45 percent shooting from the field.
The NBA is a different animal, however. Drafted with the 11th overall pick in last summer’s draft by the Charlotte Hornets, Monk looked like an ideal fit at shooting guard for a team that desperately needed outside shooting. It’s been an adjustment for him though. After starting off the season as a key contributor off the bench, he’s seen his playing time steadily decrease to the point where he isn’t even in the rotation anymore.
“I don’t think nobody likes being on the bench and not playing basketball, but it just comes with being a rookie,” Monk told Basketball Insiders. “I’m gonna continue doing my routine off the court, getting up shots, weights, and all that stuff like that. Nothing’s gonna change from my work ethic whether I’m playing or not.”
Despite his recent lack of playing time, Monk did show solid potential during the first month of the season. In only his fourth NBA game, he had 17 points on 50 percent shooting in a blowout win over the Denver Nuggets on Oct. 25.
Only a few nights later, he went off for 25 points on 58.8 percent shooting and 62.5 percent from the three-point line in a win over the Milwaukee Bucks. He scored in double figures four times during the first 10 games of the season.
It was on November 15 when his playing time started to dwindle a bit. He saw only eight minutes of action in a loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Three nights later, he received his first DNP in a win over the Los Angeles Clippers. Since then, his minutes have been sporadic and mixed in with a few DNPs. Despite that, Monk remains upbeat and understands it’s all part of the learning experience as a rookie.
“It’s up and down, but everything’s good,” Monk told Basketball Insiders. “I just got to get the ropes. It’s more like a learning year, it’s going to be fine.”
Recently, the Hornets decided to assign Monk to the Greensboro Swarm, their G-League affiliate. The G-League has become a bit of a stepping stone for rookies in the NBA where consistent playing time is scarce.
Monk was with the Swarm for one game against the Wisconsin Herd last week. In the 130-66 win, he put up 25 points (while hitting seven three-point shots), eight rebounds, and four assists. The Hornets recalled him immediately after.
“I only played one game, but in the G-League everybody is trying to prove where they can be at. They’re gonna play hard,” Monk told Basketball Insiders. “It was good all around, a good experience for me to go down there and play a little bit.”
While it’s still too early to count out the Hornets from the Eastern Conference playoff picture. It’s clear that in order for them to achieve that goal, something has to change. They’re currently 5.5 games out of the eighth playoff spot with the New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers, and Brooklyn Nets all ahead of them.
Although Monk would love for the Hornets to make the playoffs, he’s not ready to put a prediction on it. He just knows that the team as whole needs to continue to improve.
“You really can’t tell. You can’t really look into the future anymore with anything,” Monk told Basketball Insiders. “Everything is not predictable like it used to be. I don’t know, but we got to get better every day.”
Fortunately, he has.
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