The Los Angeles Lakers may have gotten one of the steals of the offseason when they agreed to a one-year deal with shooting guard Malik Monk.
Monk, who signed for the league minimum, is a high-volume scorer when he’s at his best, and he is a perfect fit for the Lakers as they try to add some shooting to their lineup.
Monk has impressed Lakers superstar Anthony Davis enough to where he’s still surprised that the team was able to add the University of Kentucky product in free agency.
After trading away Kentavious Caldwell-Pope this offseason, the Lakers need to find an option to replace him in the starting lineup.
Monk, Wayne Ellington and Talen Horton-Tucker are all viable options at the shooting guard position, but Monk may be the team’s best choice to at least start the season.
That’s right. The Lakers may have given Horton-Tucker a big contract this offseason, but Monk fits better with Russell Westbrook and LeBron James on the floor.
Here are a few reasons why:
1. Superior shooting
If the Lakers were strictly looking for a shooter to fill in at the shooting guard position, both Monk and Ellington would be viable options.
Even though Horton-Tucker has a ton of potential, he hasn’t found his 3-point shot to be one of his best weapons in the NBA.
The Lakers shouldn’t be worried by that, as Horton-Tucker still has plenty of time to grow, but it does mean that Monk is the better option in the short term to start.
Last season, Monk shot 40.1 percent from beyond the arc on an average of 5.0 3-point attempts per game. In comparison, Horton-Tucker shot just 28.2 percent from beyond the arc in the 2020-21 season.
Westbrook isn’t known for his shooting prowess, so pairing him with a guard that can knock down jump shots may be the Lakers’ best chance at unlocking his full value in the offense.
James and Davis are going to get their baskets regardless of who is on the floor, but Monk allows the Lakers to space the floor a lot better with his shooting ability.
Ellington could also fill this role, but considering Monk is just 23 years old, it makes more sense to see if he can reach new heights rather than playing a veteran who has a much lower ceiling.
2. Year-on-year improvement
It’s easy to say that a player has improved each season of his career, especially if he receives more minutes, but Monk has become a more efficient player as well.
Monk’s true shooting percentage, which is a measure of shooting efficiency that takes into account 2-point field goals, 3-point field goals, and free throws, has improved in each season of his career. He finished last season with a true shooting percentage of 56.9 percent.
In addition, the Kentucky product posted the highest offensive box/plus minus of his career (0.3), second-best turnover percentage of his career (11.3 percent, only his rookie season was better) and highest win shares of his career (1.0).
While one would assume this came from an increase in minutes and usage, Monk actually saw his minutes decrease from 21.3 to 20.9 per game last season.
He also posted the second-lowest usage rate of his career (23.8 percent) while still averaging career-highs in points and assists per game.
For Monk to keep getting better, the Lakers need to give him consistent minutes in a consistent role.
He should blossom playing along James and Westbrook in the starting lineup and could become an even more efficient “microwave” scorer.
3. Easing the load
The Lakers made an amazing title run with Caldwell-Pope in the 2019-20 season, but it’s no secret that he was inconsistent as a scorer during his time with the Lakers.
Caldwell-Pope averaged 9.7 points per game last season, even with the injuries to James and Davis, in 28.4 minutes per game.
Monk, on the other hand, averaged 11.7 points in just 20.9 minutes per game.
Last season, Monk had 20 or more points in eight of his 42 games, while Caldwell-Pope had just five such games in 67 appearances.
There are going to be nights where Monk can get hot and carry the load on offense, and it will take some pressure off Davis and James, especially if they take a night off for rest.
Monk is going to have his ups and down as any young player does, but there is no denying the potential he brings to the Lakers’ attack.