Before the draft, it seemed so obvious. The Hornets would take Donovan Mitchell with the 11th pick, a talented and athletic yet mostly unexciting backcourt prospect to slot in behind Kemba Walker and Nicolas Batum. Mitchell has the defensive ability in spades, but he lacked the firepower that could help give Charlotte the dangerous offense that it desperately needs. With Mitchell and the newly-acquired Dwight Howard on board, it seemed likely that Steve Clifford and company would reclaim their usual spot as a top-10 defense and continue to struggle to score the ball, likely resulting in another first-round exit.
Things changed when Malik Monk, one of this year’s most electrifying prospects, slipped out of the top 10.
It’s not as if Monk’s presence will immediately transform the Hornets into one of the league’s top offenses – he’s still only 19, and he’s not an elite, franchise-altering player. What he is an exciting player that can score in a number of ways, one that could eventually start next to Walker in what would be one of the league’s most dangerous backcourt duos.
Dreams of a dynamic duo will have to wait, though. Monk still needs time to grow, and he’s not without his flaws – if he was, he wouldn’t have been available to be snagged by Charlotte.
In year one, Monk will likely be used as a sixth man that can spread the floor and occasionally pour in points during a hot streak. His deadly long-range shooting will be immediately vital to a team that was 18th in the league in three-point shooting percentage last season – and plans to play lineups with both Cody Zeller and Dwight Howard on the floor. As he grows more comfortable, he should be able to create some offense on his own, taking pressure off Walker and Batum, allowing the former to get some rest and the latter to settle in a more natural playmaking role. Monk’s athleticism and speed should also boost Charlotte’s transition scoring, allowing the team to score easy points before opposing defenses can get set.
What will hold the former Kentucky Wildcat back, at least early, is his defensive ability and rebounding. Despite his stunning athleticism, Monk struggled in both areas during his time in Lexington and will need to improve to the point of not being a complete liability if he wants to earn major minutes. With Clifford’s coaching and that natural athleticism, though, it wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see him hit some level of competence on that end of the floor in the future. And until then, he’s got a great safety net in Dwight Howard’s shot blocking and one of the league’s best perimeter defenders in Michael Kidd-Gilchrist lining up beside him.
Despite his flaws, Monk is still an exciting player to have. He has all the tools to be an absolute force on the offensive end and the athleticism to eventually become a solid defender. And even if neither of these things happens, his shooting ability immediately makes him an important and valuable rotation player. His presence on the wing alone will be enough to create even more space in the lane for Walker’s dynamism, Batum’s creativity, or Zeller’s finishing.
In Donovan Mitchell, the Hornets had a solid player that would keep the status quo in Charlotte and not do much to excite the fan base.
In Malik Monk, they have an absolute steal and a player that could potentially transform the team.