by John Hooper
One of the hardest parts about taking an honest look at a prospect and forecasting his ability is objectively analyzing players you love to watch. Malik Monk was one of the most electrifying players of a great college basketball season, and on the times when he caught fire it was almost Curry-like in how fun it was to watch his heat checks. Monk going off for 47 against North Carolina was my favorite individual performance of the season.
Monk was part of the most recent crop of ballyhooed freshmen at Kentucky this year, and he led the Wildcats in scoring at 19.8 points per game. Scoring is exactly what Monk does best, whether it's knocking down his effortless jumper or slithering through the defense in transition. Monk shot 40% from deep on seven attempts per game, and often launched more than that when he was reaching liquid magma mode. Monk registered a stellar 98.1 rating for his shooting potential in our algorithm, behind only Devin Booker and the immortal John Jenkins, so this is another of those lovely times when the film and a player's statistical forecast are in harmony. Monk also posted above average numbers for his usage rate and his true shooting percentage, which were part of the drivers behind his strong 81.0 rating for scoring potential in the algorithm.
Monk's scoring prowess and shooting ability are unquestioned, but as the title states, there is a debate around how impactful Monk will be in the other facets of the game. One of the main concerns is that Monk is 6'3" and falls into the category of smaller than desired two guards. Monk would have great size for the point guard position and he has the athleticism to stay in front of opposing ones defensively, but his on court production shows that he's unfit for lead guard duties on either end of the court.
When looking into Monk's potential as a facilitator, he's comes out with a very average 56.3 in the algorithm. For context, this is a similar score to players like Justise Winslow and Jimmer Fredette. Monk ranked 121st out of the 146 guards in our database in assists per 100 possessions, but did climb up to 35th in fewest turnovers per 100 possessions. His turnover numbers are especially impressive considering his scoring load this past year. Monk also registered a +4.4 relative offensive rating, so his net impact on the Wildcats' offensive was a net positive. The key takeaways here are that Monk has the gravity of a Steph Curry in that the threat of his shooting ability occupies opponents' defensive focus, that his scoring and ability to protect the ball improve his team's offensive output, but that he has not yet shown that he can be a playmaker and create offense for his teammates.
Monk's defense is the main cause for concern in projecting his value at the next level. The algorithm puts him at a 37.9 for his defensive potential, which is a similar score as Zach LaVine and Jimmer Fredette (again! Eek!). His block and steal rates are unimpressive but most damning is his relative defensive rating of -5.0, which tells us that Kentucky's overall team defensive rating was five points better per 100 possessions than Monk's personal rating. As mentioned above, Monk's lack of size is an issue here and will continue to be a problem at the next level. He has the quickness but has not yet shown the awareness nor the effort that could make him adequate in compensating for being undersized.
Monk will be a great shooter and a good scorer at the next level, this much we know for sure. Young players can always develop and evolve, but the signs point toward him being strictly a scorer on offensive and a minus on defense. Some see all-star potential, but the most likely outcome for Monk is a career similar to Ben Gordon or Lou Williams as an elite sixth man.