(First posted at RealGM)
After that remarkable first month-and-a-half of the season that I profiled in December, Malik Monk came down to Earth a little bit the rest of the way but nothing happened to dissuade most people from the notion that he is the most potent scorer in this draft class – currently ranked sixth in Draft Express’ top 100.
A sick shot maker who proved himself a valuable chess piece that can be moved all over the floor to stress the defense, Monk averaged 24.8 points per 40 minutes on a .543 effective field goal percentage, while 79.6% of his attempts were taken away from the basket. Able to profit of the space he created with his presence, Kentucky averaged 118.3 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor.
Viewed as a potential lead ball handler in high school, Monk didn’t have many opportunities to run half-court offense in Lexington. Even when De’Aaron Fox was out of the game, Isaiah Briscoe was the one responsible for bringing the ball up and triggering their sets at the point of attack.
Maybe there is more to Monk’s shot creation potential than he showed at Kentucky. Devin Booker and Jamal Murray are two recent examples of off guards who didn’t have enough chances to showcase their off dribble skills there. But in instances where he found himself in need of penetrating against a set defense, Monk didn’t impress a whole lot.
His defense was at best a mixed bag. At no point he flashed any ability to be an impact player on that end of the court and his awareness away from the ball is suspect but Monk did show some promise defending smaller players in the pick-and-roll when he got help from his big man, which was meaningful.
Because of his below average physical profile for a wing (six-foot-three height, 197-pound frame, six-foot-six wingspan), Monk’s future in the pros very well could be as a 3&D point guard who supplements ball-dominant wings by guarding opposing point guards and spacing the floor on offense when those guys run offense.
47% of his shots were three-pointers, at a pace of 8.6 attempts per 40 minutes. His role was not as a mere spot-up threat, as Monk proved himself able to make shots on the move, running around staggered screens from one side of the court to another and sprinting to the ball on dribble hand-offs. Able to plant his feet against full momentum, rise in balance and pull the trigger in a pinch with his quick release, Monk averaged 1.0 point per possession coming off screens.
In instances where the opponent ran him off his shot or he got to create his own look off a live dribble, off ball reversals and in the secondary break, Monk also impressed with his ability to hit shots off the bounce. Though he didn’t show much in terms of advanced dribble moves to get his defender on his heels, Monk managed to get his jump-shots off consistently well by crossing over into his pull-ups or step-backing to create separation.
He nailed 39.7% of his 262 three-point shots and 37.9% of his 182 two-point jumpers, with 55 of his 69 mid-range makes unassisted, while averaging 1.01 point per possession on pull-ups.
OTHER AREAS OF OFFENSE
Monk looked good getting to the basket in transition and on free paths to the goal in the half-court when his defender sold out to run him off the three-point line and the help-defender didn’t rotate.
He is an explosive leaper off one or two feet with some space to take flight and is an option to play above the rim as a target for lobs on cutting behind the defense. Stretch big Derek Willis started the last nine games of the season and averaged almost 27 minutes per game during the stretch, which opened up some space for backdoor cutting and Monk flashed some instinctive diving baseline in more than a few opportunities.
But with the ball in his hands and a set defense in front of him, Monk struggled to get all the way to the basket a whole lot. Despite his reputation from high school, he didn’t show a particularly diverse set of dribble moves to get by his man with craftiness in isolation or the ability to play with pace in pick-and-roll. The handle he showed in college was only OK, though the fact he turned it over on just 10.4% of his possessions despite his 27.3% usage rate is something in his favor.
Monk can be very smooth on catch-and-go’s attacking closeouts but instead of putting consistent pressure on the rim, he stopped midway through his drives to rise up for floaters and stop-and-pop short-range jumpers more often than not. His shot selection was at times suspect.
Monk made just 41 shots at the basket in his 38 appearances at Kentucky, while averaging 5.9 foul shots per 40 minutes – a mark that is not poor but also not substantially impressive for someone with his athletic ability.
His passing on the move was better than expected, though. Monk is not quite the second coming of Manu Ginóbili but he proved himself unselfish on kick-outs and drop-offs when he managed to suck in an extra defender – assisting on 13.3% of Kentucky’s scores in his 1,218 minutes on the floor. That said, there isn’t enough evidence to envision him as someone responsible for creating for others reliably in the immediate future.
As it tends to be case with most 19-year-olds, Monk is an inconsistent defender at this point of his development, having shown some promise but mostly a lot of concerns as of now.
Playing alongside Fox, a plus-defender who didn’t need to be hidden off the ball, he wasn’t asked to guard on the ball a whole lot. As a wing defender, Monk was often late chasing shooters off the same type of screens he does so well working his way around on offense and his closeouts were suspect, rarely running spot-up shooters off the three-point line.
Despite his athleticism, he also didn’t do much in terms of creating events – rarely putting himself in position to challenge shots at the rim or breaking on the ball making plays in the passing lanes and displaying very little toughness mixing up on the glass. His contributions through blocks, steals and defensive rebounds were marginal or unimpressive at best.
But against teams with multiple ball handlers, Monk flashed some potential in pick-and-roll defense. He is not yet great navigating over ball-screens but did a reasonable job a decent amount when Endrice Adebayo prevented the opponent from turning the corner immediately, giving Monk a chance to come back to his man in time not to compromise the integrity of the scheme behind him.
His isolation defense was poor, though. Given the quickness he demonstrates on offense, his reactions defending in a stance out on an island were disappointing. Against high quality competition, Monk not only didn’t often show enough toughness to contain dribble penetration through contact but even struggled shuffling his feet laterally to stay in front one-on-one and it was also rare to see him contest or block shots from behind when he managed to keep pace.
 According to hoop-math
 According to our stats’ database
 According to Draft Express
 According to research by Draft Express’ Mike Schmitz
 According to sports-reference
Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara