Malik Monk & Dwayne Bacon: Grading the Charlotte Hornets Rookies

The Charlotte Hornets selected Malik Monk in the first round and Dwayne Bacon in the second round, here is how they have done so far in the first 11 games of the season.

It has been 11 games, and the Charlotte Hornets are 5-6. Nicholas Batum has been out, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Michael Carter-Williams, Cody Zeller and Frank Kaminsky have all missed time. The injuries have led to head coach Steve Clifford to try new lineups, rotations and place more trust in his rookies Malik Monk and Dwayne Bacon. Each has shown flashes of talent and productivity, while each has struggled with rookie mistakes. The NBA is tough, and this is to be expected. When Nicholas Batum and Michael Kidd- Gilchrist return, expect the rookies minutes to go down, notably Bacon's. Each will play a role throughout the season and will be counted on to produce. Here is how they have done so far, and how they can get better. 

Malik Monk's Offense

Well, Monk certainly doesn't lack confidence. Once he is in the game, he is putting it up. Shot selection will need to improve, but I would much rather have a player with confidence than one who is shell-shocked. 11 games into his young career Monk is averaging 9.9 points and 2.4 assists on 35% shooting from the field. Despite the poor shooting percentage, Monk is averaging 10.5 shots per game. Of those ten shots, six are from three. That is good, as it's a more efficient shot, the problem is Monk is only shooting 33% from three. Expect that to go up; he's got a beautiful stroke, just needs to work on shot selection. 

One area where Monk has struggled the most is a pick and roll ball handler. 30% of the time he is on the court he is a ball handler in a pick and roll. Part of this is due to the injuries to Nicholas Batum and Michael Carter Williams, which has led to Monk playing more back up point guard. He can do that a little, but he is better off the ball. In pick and roll situations he only has a score frequency of 26% according to Synergy Sports. In spot-up situations that number jumps to 37% and his adjusted field goal percentage is an impressive 59% in spot-up situations. 

Another area where Charlotte may want to get Monk more involved is in transition. Monk is lighting fast, and ranks in the 89th percentile in transition scoring, with a high 64.3% score frequency. Charlotte is playing more quickly this year ranking 12th in pace. They should give Monk the green light to push the ball more in transition because he delivers. 

Even though Monk is only averaging 2.4 assists, his assist ratio is a solid 16.4, and his turnover ratio is 9.5. Both of these are solid numbers for a rookie. Monk has shown some chops passing, but he is still a scorer at heart. Passing is where most of his turnovers happen. Settling into more of an off the ball role will be better for Monk. 

Bottom line is Monk is best off the ball spotting up. He is not just a catch and shoot player, it also opens up driving lanes and for him to shot off the dribble where he can be deadly. Watch this play. 

Cody Zeller gets the ball on the right elbow. Monk cuts to the lane and then drifts out to the right corner. Zeller passes it to Carter-Williams at the top of the key, who after two dribbles passes it to Monk in the corner. Frank Nkittina well covers monk. No problem, Monk takes one dribble, steps back and drills a three. This is a big-time shot, and a tough shot to make. It shows you what Monk is capable of on offense. Give him time!

Malik Monk's Defense

While Monk is shooting poorly on offense, he has shown flashes of brilliance on offense. The defense has been a struggle, but considering the circumstances and the fact that he is a rookie, Monk has done okay. Overall he ranks below average in the 42nd percentile. For a rookie that's not bad. Most rookies are below average on defense. Like he is on offense, Monk has struggled to defend the pick and roll, more than he has defending spot up players.

Monk is only 200 pounds and can have trouble fighting through screens; he gets crushed sometimes. However, against spot-up players, he ranks in the 46th percentile allowing just a 38% score frequency. He plays hard and has shown good instincts. This will take time, more time than his offense. Again once Batum and Gilchrist come back that will help because Steve Clifford can hide Monk on weaker offensive players. Playing more two will also help him defensively because he will be in less pick and roll situations. 

Again this will take time and even more time than his offense. That comes more naturally to him. Hornets fans should just be happy he is around average so far and has shown signs that one day he can be a solid defender. 

Dwayne Bacon's Offense

Now the second rookie, taken in the second round. Bacon has started six of the 11 games, with all the injuries, and it's clear he has earned Steve Cliffords trust. Bacon has good size for a wing at 6-foot-7 221 pounds, and that alone has probably earned him some starts at the three. Like Monk, Bacon is also struggling with his shot. For the season Bacon is averaging six points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists on 35% shooting from the field. Bacon is a little less trigger happy than Monk and is only attempting 6.4 shots per game. Just 2.2 of those are threes, and he might want to consider shooting more of those because he is shooting 37% from deep.

Too often he settles for tough pull up long two's So far Bacon's most significant contribution has been on the glass. Averaging almost five in only 24 minutes a game is good especially playing with Dwight Howard. He has a solid rebound rate of 10.3. On offense overall, it has been a bit of a struggle.

Like Monk, Bacon struggles as a pick and roll handler. He should probably not be doing it at all. His score frequency is only 28% in pick and roll situations. Also, like Monk, he is much better as a spot-up player, where his score frequency jumps to 37%. Bacon doesn't have the best handle and would be better served to spot up off pick and rolls. There he can either shoot or drive for a pull-up jumper. He must work on getting to the rim more; he has only attempted nine free throws this season.

This is an issue for both rookies. Also, Bacon is not a great passer, so I would take the ball out of his hands and allows him to play off his teammates more. Remeber this is a second-round pick, who has been thrown into the fire, struggles were bound to happen, but there are also ways to utilize him better. 

Unlike Monk, Bacon also struggles in transition. He is not as fast and as I said he is not much of a ball handler. At this point in his young career, Bacon should spend most of his time spotting up. Watch this play!

Kemba gets himself in a bad spot and kicks it out to Bacon who is standing out at the top right of the key. Once Bacon catches it, Manu Ginobili closes out hard, which opens up a driving lane for Bacon. Bacon takes two hard dribbles, gets to the middle of the paint and shoots a nice floater for the easy bucket.

Dwayne won't get a lot of plays called for him, so he needs to capitalize on opportunities like this. In college, he was at his best in the midrange, where he can shoot midrange jumpers or floaters. He has more of an old-school game. For now, while he is learning the NBA game, he should stick to spotting up, it's for his best and the Hornets best. 

Dwayne Bacon's Defense

People might be surprised by this, but Bacon is struggling more on defense than Monk is. Struggling, he ranks in the 17th percentile overall. His most significant weak area, like Monk, is defending the pick and roll, where he ranks in the 16th percentile. He has been far better defending the spot-up action, where he ranks in the 38th percentile. Still bad, but better. Also defending dribble handoffs has been a struggle, where he ranks in the 30th percentile.

The one bright spot is Bacon has been surprisingly good defending players coming off screens. Bacon ranks in the 69th percentile and only allows a 37% score frequency. In these situations, Bacon uses his size well and can fight through screens and beat his man to the spot. Besides that, it has been mostly a struggle for Bacon on defense. This leads me to wonder when Batum and Kidd-Gilchrist get back, will Bacon even play? My guess is no, but Monk will still play he has been the better of the two, and it's not close. 

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