At this point in his young career, Charlotte Hornets guard Malik Monk is unfortunately known best as the guy who was drafted two spots ahead of stud rookie Donovan Mitchell. Of course, Monk just turned 20 years old last month and has plenty of time to acclimate himself to the NBA game and become a productive player, but the early returns are not what the Hornets had hoped for when they selected him 11th overall in the 2017 draft. Given a shoulder injury to Michael Carter-Williams that could sideline him for the rest of the season, however, the Hornets are going to have to lean on Monk more heavily than they have to this point in the season.
Carter-Williams, the 2013-14 Rookie of the Year, has carved out a solid role with the Hornets, averaging 16.1 minutes across 52 games, making two starts. Those minutes, of course, will have to go to somebody while Carter-Williams is sidelined, and Monk is the most obvious candidate to see a bump in playing time. Head coach Steve Clifford confirmed that Monk will get Carter-Williams' minutes Tuesday night against the Philadelphia 76ers. Currently averaging 11.4 minutes per game across 45 contests (and topping 10 minutes just three times since December 9), Monk should see a significant increase in playing time throughout the rest of the season.
Monk has a wealth of raw talent that needs to be developed, and with the Hornets looking like a long shot for the postseason with their 28-36 record (10th place in the Eastern Conference; 5.0 games out of the playoffs), looking to develop a player like Monk makes all the sense in the world. The University of Kentucky alum has shown flashes of what made him a coveted asset on draft day—particularly in a November 1 game against the Milwaukee Bucks in which Monk scored 25 points with 18 coming in the fourth quarter.
Those flashes of potential have been few and far between, however, with Monk notching double-digit scoring totals just five times in his 44 NBA games. On the year, he's averaging 4.5 points per game on a miserable 32.3 field-goal percentage. His value in the draft was largely related to his three-point shooting prowess, but he isn't connecting from beyond the arc either, shooting just 32.8 percent from downtown. With averages of just 1.1 assists, 0.8 rebounds, and 0.2 steals, Monk isn't providing any reasons for the team to have faith in his play at this point in time.
The hope, however, is that more consistent playing time can get Monk on the right track and give him some confidence heading into next season. The team will also be looking for Monk to make improvements on the defensive end, where his struggles contributed to his taking a back seat to Carter-Williams, per Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer.
There were always expected to be growing pains for such a young player with very little experience playing at a high level. Having played just 38 games in college before he declared for the NBA draft, Monk is still very much in the developmental stage of his basketball career. The 19.8 points per game he averaged at Kentucky are a testament to just how electrifying Monk can be when he has confidence in his shot, but he simply has yet to get into a groove at the NBA level. With Carter-Williams sidelined and the Hornets facing long odds of a playoff berth, now is the perfect time to give Monk an opportunity to get his game to click.
Hornets fans are surely disappointed with how the season has unfolded in Charlotte, but they'll at least have an opportunity to spend the rest of the campaign watching an exciting young player who could be a key factor to the team's success going forward.