The basketball careers of De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk have come full circle.
As consensus top-10 high school recruits in the nation, both Fox and Monk decided to suit up for coach John Calipari at Kentucky for the 2016-17 season. Together, they led the Wildcats to 32 wins and an Elite Eight appearance in the 2017 NCAA Tournament.
Over five years later, Fox and Monk are reunited in Sacramento.
In quite literally the opening minute of NBA free agency, the Kings reportedly agreed to sign Monk to a two-year deal worth $19 million, per Shams Charania of The Athletic.
Monk, just 24 years old, is entering his fifth NBA season. The former Kentucky star was selected by the Charlotte Hornets with the No. 11 overall pick in 2017, six spots after the Kings nabbed Fox in the first round.
Monk never quite found his rhythm over four seasons with the Hornets, starting just one of 233 games and never averaging more than 21.3 minutes over a full season. But he signed a one-year deal with the Lakers last summer and posted career-best numbers: 13.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists in 28.1 minutes per game.
Cashing in on his career year, Monk immediately fills a couple of needs for the Kings’ roster.
First off, outside shooting. Sacramento ranked 25th in 3-point makes per game (11.4) and 24th in 3-point percentage (34.4 percent) last season.
A career 32.2 percent shooter from deep over his first three campaigns, Monk upped his clip to 40.1 percent on five attempts per game in 2020-21 and 39.1 percent on nearly six 3s per contest for the Lakers last season.
The Kings had four players attempt over five 3-pointers per game last season, and none of them bested Monk’s 39.1 percentage. Harrison Barnes was close, putting up 4.7 3-pointers per game and narrowly edging Monk with a 39.4 clip.
Secondly, Monk is incredibly athletic and fits well into general manager Monte McNair’s preference to play fast.
During their season together at Kentucky, Fox and Monk constantly were running the floor and throwing lobs to each other above the rim. It’s an exciting brand of basketball and one that certainly will get Golden 1 Center rocking this season.
There is a downside, however. Like his backcourt mate Fox, Monk isn’t an impact defender. At 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, Monk is a bit undersized to lock down opposing shooting guards.
Working with limited cap space, McNair still needs to address that side of the court as the offseason continues. Perhaps there are trades in the Kings’ future.
But for now? Sacramento can enjoy making an impact on Day 1 of free agency, the storyline of Fox and Monk reuniting and finally getting a bit of clarity on why the team let Donte DiVincenzo walk on Wednesday.
Signing Monk isn’t a move that soars Sacramento past rivals up the Western Conference standings. But it makes the roster better, improves team chemistry for a core still getting to know each other and is another step in proving at the very least, that the Kings should be fun to watch next season.