Charlotte Hornets: Analyzing Malik Monk’s potential All-Star quality offense

Charlotte Hornets Malik Monk. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
Charlotte Hornets Malik Monk. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images) /
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Charlotte Hornets, Malik Monk
Charlotte Hornets Malik Monk (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images) /

On-ball offense

Malik Monk’s numbers as a Pick and Roll ballhandler shrink into the page more than they jump out. Whilst synergy stats are skewed by a low sample size (2.1 PnRs a game is ranked 139 in the league, below Kent Bazemore and Jarrett Culver, who are hardly offensive engines), the stats reflect his shortcomings as an overall playmaker.

Malik is extremely apt in a two on one situation, which can be set up by hand-offs, pin downs, or veer; it shows Monk’s ability to either drop the dime or decelerate into a floater depending on defensive coverage. The reads aren’t complex but pay attention to Monk’s timing, using his eyes to occupy the center before making the pocket pass to the rolling big man. Furthermore, with the Hornets having another high PnR threat in Devonte Graham, running more veer with Tae above the break and Malik on the wing to set up these two on one opportunities that would be a shrewd decision going forward.

Malik’s passing out of the high Pick and Roll is a mixed bag. He flashes some high-level skills with the aforementioned timing and an ability to blend passes into a live dribble, and his driving threat opens up dump-off passes and overhead sling passes, which he often executes well.

Concurrently his execution is sometimes suboptimal and most problematic is an apparent blind spot in his vision in the PnR; Malik rarely makes the skip pass(despite often finding shooters in open play). Whilst you could put many of Malik’s shortcomings down to inexperience, his AST/TO rate(1.5) is ugly for any player trying to carve out a role at point guard.

There is reason to think Monk can overcome this weakness, as Malik’s live dribble vision is solid;

He hits cutters…

And he can drive and kick(that first play to drive by Dunn and find Tae wide open…yeesh)

As a scorer in the PnR, Malik’s floater game and ability to finish at the rim bring some success, but his lack of a jumper threat limits his efficiency; Malik only generated 0.82 points per possession in Pick and Roll sets. Nonetheless, there are flashes of a sleeping giant in this clip of Malik’s PnR scoring methods.

Particularly, Malik’s ability to deny ball screens and finish at the basket is reminiscent of Jeremy Lin and Tony Parker utilizing their elite speed. You can easily imagine Malik’s scoring threat with a consistent pull-up jumper(only 22.2% of Monk’s pull-up jumpers went in this season, yet another stat that would bewilder draft analysts who saw Monk’s shooting prowess at Kentucky.)

However, this putrid statistic significantly hinders a major aspect of any ballhandler’s offensive game, isolation. If Malik wants to become a point guard at the NBA level, he simply must punish bigs when they switch onto Malik. Unfortunately, many bigs played a step off Malik this season, and he struggled to score in “mismatches.”

This applies to all kinds of defenders. Malik is athletic and a good finisher at the cup, but he is not Giannis Antetokounmpo, who steps around great perimeter defense and finishes over seven-footers with ease.  Malik needs a pull-up threat to become a truly effective scorer.

Quicker defenders who can slide their feet have sometimes given Malik issues. In this game, Garrett Temple slid his feet with Monk, forcing Malik to settle for jump shots; even though a few of the jumpers fell, his overall impact as a player was much reduced as the Nets blew out the Hornets.

Furthermore, Malik’s ballhandling runs into issues when trying to string together complex moves.

Monk slapping the stanchion in that last turnover is symbolic of many Hornets fans’ frustrations regarding his ballhandling…that skill must improve regardless of where Monk plays(notice how the above clip shows some poor ballhandling attacking closeouts), and it’s a skill he has to hone to become an all-star point guard.

Malik, in isolation, is fairly basic. Against slower defenders that play him too tightly, Malik gets to the basket with ease, using a quick crossover driving either way. Otherwise, he’s largely ineffectual.

However, the potential is still so enticing. You can see how much the threat of a pull-up/stepback jumper would help Malik with this play where he steps back, and he’s the pull-up jimbo before getting to the basket and Fournier(who is no slouch athletically) is left in the dust.

But for now, his shortcomings as a ballhandler, shooter and playmaker mean dreams of Monk being an all-star ballhandler are farfetched.