Malik Monk may be the premier shooter of the NBA Draft this year. Part of this season’s batch of elite recruits at Kentucky, Monk led the team in scoring with 19.8 points per game. Standing 6-4 with just a 6-4 wingspan, he doesn’t have elite size for a shooting guard. What he lacks in size and strength he makes up for with his athleticism and explosiveness in space.
Monk’s calling card in the NBA will be his elite shooting ability. He stormed onto the college basketball scene, dropping 23 points on 7-11 shooting from three against Michigan State in November. Monk is an extremely streaky shooter, but when he gets hot he can really light up the scoreboard. In his famous performance against North Carolina in December, Monk scored a whopping 47 points on 18-28 shooting from the field, including 8-12 from three. His streakiness can show up in a negative way as well, as he shot just 29.3% from deep throughout March.
Despite his streakiness, Monk has shown enough to prove he can be a high level shooter in the NBA. He shot 39.7% from three on the season, hitting shots in a variety of ways. He shoots it at a high rate off the catch or off the dribble. He gets excellent elevation on his shot, allowing him to hit difficult jumpers over defenders’ out-stretched arms. Monk is also a dynamic weapon in transition. He can bring the ball up the court himself, attacking the rim with force or pulling up on a dime to hit a jumper. He’s also dangerous trailing the action, setting himself up for open threes as the defense is scrambling back. He’s savvy moving without the ball, sprinting around screens and relocating himself to get open shots off of others’ penetration.
Where Monk can continue to get better is by creating offense for himself and teammates. Most of his offensive production came from playing off the ball. At 6-4, teams will hope to use him as a combo guard that can initiate the offense. He was able to run some pick-and-roll, but he’s mostly one-dimensional as he prefers to pull-up for a jumper off the screen. He does have a variety of moves he uses to create space for his shot in one-on-one situations. He uses jab-steps, head fakes and rip-throughs to get separation from his man. His biggest weakness is his poor shot selection. He lacks a certain level of physicality, limiting his ability to get all the way to the rim. He often settles for difficult floaters or pull-ups, which will be much tougher to hit against NBA defenders. As the year went on, defenses began focusing on shutting Monk down, and he became subject to some quiet shooting performances.
Playmaking and defense are two key areas that Monk needs to improve if he wants to become a star at the next level. He’s a solid passer, averaging 2.3 assists per game, but looks to get his buckets first and foremost. He also needs to improve his ball-handling skills so he can become more than just an off-ball scorer. Defensively, Monk has solid lateral quickness but doesn’t always defend with a high motor. He fails to impact the game on defense, with a putrid 2.5 rebounds per game along with just 0.9 steals and 0.5 blocks. With his size, teams will hope to use him to defend either guard position, but he will need to add strength and discipline to handle NBA shooting guards.
Malik Monk’s excellent shooting ability will be enough to get him drafted in the top ten. If he wants to be more than just a shooter, he needs to add versatility on both ends of the floor. Developing his playmaking and ball-handling will help him play as a combo guard. If he’s nothing more than a jump shooter, it won’t be too hard for defenses to scheme to shut him down. He also needs to become more of a factor on the defensive end. He will have cold shooting nights, and improving his defensive mentality will allow him to stay on the floor during those games. Monk will most likely be an effective shooter at the next level, but expanding his game can help him be an all-star caliber player.