A Much Improved Malik Monk Is the Key to the Hornets’ Success

    For Charlotte Hornets second-year guard Malik Monk, the major difference from his rookie season to this year is simple. “Being on the court,” Monk told

    October 24, 2018

    For Charlotte Hornets second-year guard Malik Monk, the major difference from his rookie season to this year is simple.

    “Being on the court,” Monk told Stadium. “That’s just really the biggest part.”

    He’s not wrong.

    After playing just 13.5 minutes per game in 2017 (and even that number was inflated by him logging nearly 19 minutes per game over the final 18 contests), Monk is getting the third-most minutes on the team this season. This has resulted in more efficient overall play as well as a bump in his scoring average.

    “I came in with a chip on my shoulder because I knew if I worked, I was going to get the minutes,” Monk said. “Now I just got to show what I’ve been working on.”

    “We’re continuing to try to develop him,” Hornets Head Coach James Borrego said. “His work ethic has been great all summer.”

    The Hornets have exploded out of the gate in Borrego’s offense. They’re attempting almost seven more shots per game, nine more three-pointers per game and playing at a faster pace. This has benefitted Monk, who is hitting 40.7 percent of his threes. He said that his efficient shooting has helped the rest of his game.

    “Knocking down the three opens up everything,” Monk said. “You spread the floor and they’re going to run at you if you’re knocking the shot down, and that opens everything else for your teammates.”

    “He’s obviously a scorer first – that’s his mentality,” Borrego said. “Now, we’re challenging him to play within a system, to move the ball, share the ball, and he’s creating for us.”

    Borrego said before the season he would go with the players that gave him the best chance to win the game that particular night and so far, Monk has been a big part of that objective. According to NBA.com, Monk is featured in all of Charlotte’s most used fourth-quarter lineups. Furthermore, he’s becoming the ideal backcourt mate for Kemba Walker.

    “He gives us another threat, another dimension out there to play next to Kemba, especially [at the] end of games,” Borrego said.

    Walker appears to have taken a massive leap as a scoring threat in Borrego’s system. He’s averaging 10.9 more points per game and his shooting percentages aren’t outrageous to the point where natural regression will take place. Walker is shooting just 48 percent within three feet of the hoop, according to basketball-reference.com. This number should increase, keeping his overall percentages afloat.

    His usage rate has jumped to 34.7 percent, but as long as Walker maintains his efficiency, Charlotte will be okay with that number. This has also allowed Monk to take on a complimentary role in the backcourt.

    “I don’t think we expected Kemba to come out and shoot it like this,” Borrego said. “But it was our belief that we could play at this level, that we could play at this pace, shoot the number of threes that we’re shooting, and he’s a main part of it.”

    “You gonna see something,” Monk said of Walker’s hot start. “You gonna see something crazy every night. He’s going to teach you a lot, too, just by watching him.”

    Charlotte has improved defensively this season, partly due to Monk’s ability on the perimeter to pick up bigger wing players. The Hornets have moved up four spots in team defensive rating and jumped eight spots in points per game allowed. They have the eighth-best point differential in the league.

    According to NBA.com, Monk and Walker have the third-best defensive rating among two-man lineups to play at least 12 minutes during the fourth quarter. That duo also has the second-best offensive rating and third-best net rating in those circumstances. With Monk and Walker getting significant run late in games, the Hornets have increased their scoring output in the fourth quarter.

    The guards are also Charlotte’s top two scorers in the final 12 minutes. That should help them turn the tide on the team’s otherwise rough luck in close games recently.

    Borrego’s system appears to have unlocked the talented duo in the early season, and Monk said he’s enjoyed playing under the first-year head coach.

    “He shows that he’s comfortable with all the players and has trust in players, so I like that about him,” Monk observed.

    For Charlotte to have success this season, it was imperative for Walker and Monk to develop their chemistry. That they’ve done it so quickly – and effectively – in just four games has been the icing on the cake.

    Earlier in the preseason, Borrego explained that he would have to balance winning games with developing Charlotte’s talented, but inexperienced, players.

    Monk’s current play has made finding that balance a lot easier.


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