Over the weeks leading up to the 2017 NBA draft, we'll be making cases for the Sixers to draft several prospects. Our series will kick off with options at No. 3 (or trade downs) followed by second-round possibilities. The 2017 NBA draft will take place on June 22 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
The latest in a long line of Kentucky guards to make a one-year stop in Lexington, Malik Monk has one of the most impressive résumés out of John Calipari’s program in recent memory. John Wall, Devin Booker, and Jamal Murray all spent one year hooping for Big Blue Nation, but none of them managed as many points as Monk, whose 754 were good enough for the program’s freshman record. He connected on 104 three-pointers, just under 40 percent on the year from deep, and averaged 19.3 points per game. It’s simple what Monk brings to the table — he’s a pure shooter and can score in bunches.
As usual, Kentucky had a roster stuffed with NBA prospects (cough, De’Aaron Fox, cough), but the Wildcats had a hard time losing when Monk was the one locked in. His percentage beyond the arc sat at 41.3 in UK wins, but just 32.7 in losses. Often, 32 times in fact, Monk powered the Wildcats to a win, and if it weren’t for drawing eventual national champion North Carolina in the Elite Eight, he might have led the way to earning the trophy at the Final Four in Phoenix.
While it is the crux of his game, the jump shot isn’t all Monk brings to the table. His hops are explosive for someone of his height, something he exhibited on plenty of dunks last season. That same athleticism aids him on the other side of the ball, where, with some growth, Monk projects to be a fine defender.
The case for Monk
The Sixers believe they have some young pieces in place for a title-contending roster. Joel Embiid can dominate inside. Ben Simmons, playing the point or not, should be a high-caliber starter. Dario Saric is a valuable asset with his size and stroke. But Nik Stauskas is not the long term answer at shooting guard. Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot had some nice moments at the end of his rookie season, although he hasn’t sold anyone yet that he's a clear-cut starter. Free-agent additions, whether that’s Kyle Lowry, J.J. Redick or someone else, will help, but the need for a knock-down, assassin-type shooter is apparent. Monk could fill that void.
Monk hit at least three threes in a game 18 games during his lone college season. And while the range is key for any effective shooting guard at the next level, it doesn’t do much good if the shooter can’t get himself open. According to DraftExpress’ scouting report on Monk, half of his attempts came off the dribble. His ability to create his own shot and use his athleticism to elevate for good looks is where he really makes himself a “scoring machine” — as Dickie V labels him in the clip below:
Things didn’t change when it mattered most, either. Monk would join a Sixers team that could use a go-to guard for end-of-game situations, and his 47-point effort against UNC at a neutral site in December deems him qualified. He went 18 for 28 from the field and 8 of 12 from deep, including a go-ahead three from the wing in the final seconds. There was also the time when he drained a triple while falling out of bounds to send the game to OT and save Kentucky from losing at home to an inferior Georgia team:
Take us to OT, Malik pic.twitter.com/V4KWi21Zoj— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) February 1, 2017
Monk’s offensive skills don’t stop with his jumper. His ball-handling skills need polishing, especially against the enhanced defenders he’ll see in the league, but he’s athletic enough that he’ll be able to create chances around the rim. Kind of like this:
Monk is flexin' on them today. pic.twitter.com/ozj3nYuGp7— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) February 25, 2017
The case against Monk
He is slightly undersized. At 6-foot-3 and just under 200 pounds, he’ll be going against bigger defenders. Plus, size only helps at the other end of the court. Despite Monk’s explosiveness, the Sixers could elect to go with someone like Josh Jackson, whose size and athleticism are guaranteed and whose shooting ability will hopefully come with time. You can teach shooting. You can’t teach size.
Additionally, Monk will need to expand his game. A killer jumper is nice, but it’s obviously easier to defend if there’s no other option. With the small sample size of just one college season, the risk is that Monk won’t become the complete player the Sixers need. And with such a stacked draft class, other prospects might have more of a well-rounded package of skills to offer.
A lot of things will happen before the Sixers are on the clock with the No. 3 pick. Monk and the rest of his peers will work out for plenty of teams. Front offices will begin to form a more concrete opinion of which direction they want to go in. The Celtics and Lakers will make their selections. Heck, a trade could even lead the entire process down a path no one saw coming.
But there are some constants, one being that the Sixers need better shooting. If they decide that is the need they want to fill with their first-round pick, Monk is the man they should want. If that means taking him with the third overall selection, then do it. If they are confident he will slide to them a few spots back, then, by all means, take the additional benefits of that trade and move back.
This is a shooter’s league. Guys like Steph Curry and James Harden can win games solely because of their seemingly unending range. That’s not to say Monk is the next Curry, but he can contribute to an area where the Sixers’ roster currently lacks. Hindsight will always be 20/20 when looking at this draft class down the line, but the choice is clear now if the Sixers' vision includes adding a shooter.
Draft Malik Monk.