Is Uptown Monk the cure to Charlotte Hornets’ funk?

Charlotte Hornets Malik Monk (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Charlotte Hornets Malik Monk (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Charlotte Hornets could benefit by putting Malik Monk in a role as the teams Sixth Man moving forward into the regular season.

The Charlotte Hornets (20-23) return to Charlotte on Thursday following their longest road trip of the season. Over the 6 games the Hornets managed a 2-4 record that included an impressive 108-93 victory over the San Antonio Spurs to close out the road trip.

While Injuries and fatigue have plagued the Charlotte Hornets as of late, lack of defensive effort and a consistent scoring threat outside of Kemba Walker have as well, not only this road trip, but for perhaps the last 2 1/2 seasons.

Starting shooting guard Jeremy Lamb‘s scoring ability this season (15.2 PPG) has been the most consistent number two scorer Charlotte fans have seen since Nicolas Batum‘s 2015-2016 season (14.9 PPG); the Hornets of 2019 need more than just another scorer, they need a spark plug off the bench to create some buzz while Kemba is not on the floor.

Malik Monk‘s start to his NBA career has been a bit of a roller coaster. The 11th pick of the 2017 draft has shown sparks of his uncanny scoring ability that many saw in his one year at Kentucky.

However, It was rumored this off-season that former Hornets head coach and current Orlando Magic head coach Steve Clifford wanted to draft Louisville guard Donovan Mitchell instead of Monk in April’s Draft of 2017. Thus explaining the lack of playing time Monk saw during his rookie campaign, along with defensive liabilities that have also been mentioned by James Borrego and the current staff.

While Charlotte fans have experienced Monk’s scoring outbursts, some Hornets fans have became restless with the youthful mistakes Monk has made. Maybe none bigger than running on to the court in celebration of a Jeremy Lamb game-winner prematurely vs Detroit Pistons and becoming a viral sensation by getting slapped in the back of the head by owner Michael Jordan.

Monk has had his flashes, including a recent 19 point 4th quarter against the L.A Clippers where he finished with 24 points in 21 minutes. “He is an explosive scorer” Borrego said following the 128-109 loss in L.A. “He’s just got to be more consistent on the defensive end and we are seeing that growth”.

Charlotte also saw those same flashes at the end of last season when Monk received extended minutes due to the injury to back-up point guard Michael Carter-Williams. In MCW’s place at the end of last season the Lepanto, Arkansas product averaged 20.4 PPG on 48% shooting from the field along with 41% shooting from three in 25 MPG within the month of April.

The Hornets bench is currently 3rd in the NBA in bench points, headlined by Monk (10.4 PPG) and the future Hall of Famer Tony Parker (9.4 PPG). While others have played major roles of the bench (i.e. Willy Hernangomez and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist) the lack of consistently night in and night out within the rotations and individually scoring the basketball have made it difficult to have a go to guy or “Sixth Man” off the bench for Charlotte.

While there is plenty of trade speculation and rumors around the organization involving potentially moving on from one of the younger guys on the roster in order to move a bad contract, is it time to give some of the “Buzz Boys” some extended minutes? According to the New York Times, Monk expected big minutes this season under a coaching staff that liked his skill set. Monk said  “I thought I was going to play right away this year, [too]. But it’s been a lot of ups and downs.”

Charlotte Hornets Malik Monk (Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images)
Charlotte Hornets Malik Monk (Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The lows have been low for Monk this season including being benched back to back games in December, but the highs have included highlight reel dunks, big threes, and re-creating the buzz that birthed the nickname “Uptown Monk” from Bring Back the Buzz during his rookie season.

As we have hit the halfway point of the 2018-19 NBA season is it time for the Hornets to claim the former SEC player of the year as a true 6th man? And will “Uptown Monk” be a major piece of breaking Charlotte out of it’s funk?

Monk is averaging 10.4 PPG, 1.8 APG, and 1.7 RPG in 18.7 MPG and is shooting 39% from the floor and 33% from deep this season.

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The Hornets return to action tonight at 7:00 PM ET as they take on the Sacramento Kings from Spectrum Center. The two teams met just five days ago as the Kings came out on top 104-97. This is the second and final game the teams will play against each other in the regular season.