(First posted at RealGM.)
Malik Monk has exploded over the first month and a half of the season. He’s currently averaging 29.6 points per 40 minutes on 58.9% effective shooting and logged impressive performances of 23 points on 12 shots against Michigan State, 24 points on 19 shots against UCLA and 47 points on 28 shots against North Carolina.
This eruption of high volume scoring matched with elite efficiency has elevated his draft status, as Draft Express currently ranks him fifth in its 2017 board.
Monk was already known for this sort of explosive output at the AAU level and Kentucky has put him in good position to succeed. The 18-year-old (who turns 19 in February) has a quick release. All he needs is a clean catch to get his shot off and the Wildcats have done that with consistency over the non-conference part of their schedule.
That said, the development in other areas of Monk’s offense is not being showcased as much in games. Though he’s handled the ball some in transition, he’s not been given much opportunity to try creating against a set defense in the half-court and there isn’t a lot of room for cutting.
Defensively, De’Aaron Fox’s presence as an elite defender who not need to be hidden off the ball and Kentucky’s general standard approach without a lot of switching have prevented Monk from showing if he has any sort of versatility in terms of guarding different types of players.
Monk has proven himself able to make shots on the move, which makes more valuable than the average one-dimensional gunner. He adds gravity not only standing on the weak-side as a spot-up threat but also sprinting to the ball on dribble hand-offs and running off screens. Able to set his feet quickly and get his shot off in a pinch, Monk has nailed 39.4% of his 99 three-point shots this season – according to our stats database.
But more impressive, perhaps, has been Monk’s proficiency off the bounce. Even when a defender prevents a catch-and-shoot attempt, his numbers are still off the chart pulling up from mid-range. He rises off the ground quite fluidly and well balanced on stop-and-pop or step-back situations. According to hoop-math, Monk has hit 50.9% of his two-point jumpers, with less than a quarter of them assisted.
His field-goal percentage on such looks will come down but he’s looked like the sort of shooter who can make those on an above average diet, assuming he’s a part of a reasonably healthy offense and not one where he’s forced to try shooting over multiple defenders.
Most of Monk’s shot creation comes via driving off a live dribble or in isolation when the opponent runs him off the three-point line or forces him to catch-and-hold since, as mentioned above, he’s not been given much opportunity to handle the ball downhill in pick-and-roll.
Monk has not flashed the dribble moves he was advertised to have a whole lot as of this point, most often trying to get by his man on speed. And he hasn’t shown much in terms of passing skills either, though his 27-to-23 assist-to-turnover ratio seems about right for the role he’s been asked to play.
His handle isn’t particularly impressive but it’s not of significant concern for him to get the shots he’s best at getting, considering he doesn’t do a lot of driving in traffic, as only 22.4% of his shots have come at the rim and most of them have materialized in transition.
Monk has flashed some ability to post up smaller matchups in a pinch but it only ever results in a turnaround, fade-away jumper and never in a double team draw and a kick-out to a three-point shooter.
The one area Monk has excelled creating for himself and others is in transition. He’s quite fast up the court with the ball and has shown pretty good feel for when attacking the basket himself or hit a trailer. According to Synergy Sports, Monk was shooting 60% of two-point shots in transition as of last Sunday.
Monk only kind of exists out there on defense. He is not that bad but he’s definitely not good either – at least not in a way that is meaningful.
As mentioned above, Monk has not been asked to guard opposing point guards because of Fox’s presence, so it’s hard to say if he can do it. If so, that would be of great help trying to fit him in a lineup that aspires to be good on defense, given he’s undersized to match up with most of the true wings in the NBA.
Monk has a well-distributed 197-pound frame in the context of his six-foot-three height but he doesn’t play with a lot of force. When engaged, he can move his feet laterally and stay in front but he’s been unable to contain dribble penetration through contact.
Monk is prone to some poor off ball defense, as he can get caught ball watching from time-to-time, but he’s done enough right that makes you think he’s not just one of those guys who completely zones out on defense.
Monk has the quickness and puts in the effort chasing shooters around screens or run spot-up shooters off the arc but lacks length to contest shots effectively and gives up a path to the goal on closeouts.
He can make some plays in the passing lanes and has made rotations but his contributions through steals, charges, blocks and defensive rebounds are very small.
 For all the expectation of Derek Willis playing a bigger role this season, he’s only sixth on the team in minutes and hasn’t gotten enough shots up to make a real impact with regards to their spacing concerns.
 Other than the fact that he’s not getting to the basket a whole lot in the half-court, it’s significant Monk is averaging just 3.6 foul shots per 40 minutes.
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