LAS VEGAS – After being selected with the No. 11 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, Malik Monk flew well under the radar during his rookie year in the league. Some of that can be attributed to an ankle injury that cost him valuable development time in the summer before his inaugural NBA campaign, but even when he got on the floor for 63 games during the season, the former Kentucky guard was relatively anonymous in a minor role for the Charlotte Hornets.
Monk, however, quickly reminded the NBA world of his considerable talent on Friday, exploding out of the gate in his Las Vegas Summer League debut. In the opening minutes, Monk flashed the athleticism that makes him an intriguing prospect despite modest size.
From there, Monk’s calling card came to the surface in the form of his potentially dynamic long-range shooting. The 2017 lottery pick started 4-of-4 from the floor (and 3-of-3 from three) in the first 3:26 of the opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Monk made it look easy in the process.
Monk rested to some degree for the rest of the first quarter, but after reentering late in the period, he left his mark again with two more buckets, including an impressive buzzer-beating jumper.
Considering that Charlotte scored only 24 points as a team in the 10-minute quarter, Monk’s 10-point output was jaw-dropping and, if not for the presence of a game involving Mo Bamba and the Orlando Magic simultaneously in the gym next door, he likely would have received even more attention.
In some ways, Monk is remembered more for being drafted ahead of Donovan Mitchell than what he could still prove to be at the professional level. In the aforementioned 63 games as a rookie, the 6’3 guard struggled to just a 47.7 percent true shooting and it was evident that the time he spent away from the floor as a result of the ankle injury cost him in a big way.
Still, there was real progress made in the opener, including an emphasis on his improved decision-making and evolving nature as more than a scorer. Monk finished with only two assists but it was clear that he was more comfortable facilitating for teammates and he was candid about that maturation after the final buzzer.
When asked about areas he focused on prior to Summer League, Monk noted strength and decision-making, saying he “had everything else” but simply needed to improve in those attributes.
“Malik did a great job of making the read,” Hornets assistant and Summer League head coach Jay Hernandez said after the game. “Whatever was available to him. He had some really, really nice passes. Some of them didn’t result in assists but, overall, he was trying to make the right play. And when you’re able to score the ball the way he does, you’re going to attract a lot of attention.”
On a Las Vegas afternoon in early July, though, there was nothing subtle about Monk’s reintroduction to the parts of the NBA that may have forgotten him over the past 13 months. He may have a long way to go but Monk’s talents remain real, and in a weird way, he will likely still be overlooked as he enters his second season in Charlotte.