Charlotte Hornets: The defensive dynamism of Malik Monk

Charlotte Hornets Malik Monk. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Charlotte Hornets Malik Monk. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images) /
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Charlotte Hornets, Malik Monk
Charlotte Hornets Malik Monk. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images) /

Off-ball defense

Malik’s defensive fundamentals allow him to squeeze every last drop of utility out of his 6’7″ wingspan.

Malik has a habit of identifying and targeting the ball on steals and blocks, a skill Draymond Green and Jaren Jackson Jr. have, along with a slew of elite defenders. This skill, coupled with Malik’s quick hands, has allowed Malik to make plays on the defensive end since his rookie season, sometimes even from unfavorable positions.

This leads onto one of Malik’s most apparent strengths; he has developed into a reliable help defender. In James Borrego’s Charlotte Hornets defense that relentlessly blitzed pick and rolls, Malik’s ability to protect the rim from the weak-side corner was crucial. At times he used his 6’7″ wingspan to block shots and get vertical; at other times, his athleticism and proactive rotations led to charges drawn.

In today’s NBA, with a glut of spacing and talented pick-and-roll ballhandlers, the ability to split two shooters on the weak-side is another key part of off-ball defense. Malik Monk shows real aptitude here, a skill that is especially amplified with Malik’s ability to punish the opponent in transition(as I highlighted in part II).

With Monk’s efficacy as a help defender, it’s no wonder Borrego primarily stationed Monk as an off-ball sentry this past season. (Malik Monk was 274th out of 284 players league-wide in terms of time spent on the opponent’s “number one option”).

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Monk is the complete package as a team defender; he makes smart doubles, communicates, and he also has amazing anticipation and reactivity in general play(how many guards can prevent a lob pass to Dwight Howard like Monk does in the below clip?)

That being said, the concentration lapses that plagued his defense since college still exist in some form. Given Malik’s lack of size relative to some of the strong wings he had to shade this past season, he has such a low margin for error; such transient lapses like these are costly.

He also has issues with closeouts, where he gives up driving lanes too easily. This is unfortunate as they often spoil otherwise smart rotations by Malik.

And the most negative shortcoming is Malik’s screen navigation. He just struggles at “lock


trail,” letting cutters and shooters fall through his grasps without resistance. For a player of Malik’s athleticism on the defensive end, he should be able to stick to opponents like a leech instead of being brushed off like a mosquito; and currently, when it comes to defending screen-involved actions, Malik is more column B than column A.

This poor screen navigation plagues an area of the defensive side of the ball that should suit Monk and his smaller frame: defending opposing guards.