Malik Monk Isn't Getting Enough Recognition
Kentucky's John Calipari era has given us so much in terms of great college basketball players and NBA draft prospects. From John Wall in year one, to Anthony Davis in year three and Karl-Anthony Towns in year six, Calipari's program has turned out great player after great player, and top-five pick after top-five pick.
We've come to expect this from the Wildcats. Well, after having four players go within the top 13 selections in the 2015 NBA Draft, the 2016 Draft was kind of a letdown. No Kentucky players were selected in the top five, and only two -- Jamal Murray and Skal Labissiere -- were selected in the first 30 picks. Tyler Ulis also came off the board later in the draft, but the class wasn't up to par with what we've come to expect over the last several years.
This year, we should be in for a return to the norm. Currently, there are three Wildcats due to go off the board with the top 20 picks in DraftExpress' most recent 2017 mock draft. That includes Malik Monk at ninth overall to the Dallas Mavericks.
What's so special about him? And, given his expected draft spot, how are we not paying enough attention to him?
One of Those Shooters
On the season, the freshman is averaging 21.9 points and 3.2 three-point makes per game on 41.2% shooting from downtown. That elite three-point shooting, in conjunction with 82.8% shooting from the line, makes for a true shooting percentage of 62.3%.
Historically, Monk's numbers put him in good company. According to Sports Reference, he's one of only 11 players in the last 25 years to average at least 20 points and 3 three-pointers on 15 field goal attempts and a true shooting percentage of at least 62%. That list includes great college basketball shooters like Damon Stoudamire, J.J. Redick, Stephen Curry, and Buddy Hield.
As good as he's been from a historical level, Monk's been even better since SEC play has gotten underway. Through 10 games, he has flat-out dominated within the conference with 22.8 points and 3.2 threes on 14.8 field goal attempts a game. And, for the year, he's at or near the top of the pack in various categories.
He rates second in the SEC in both effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage. Meanwhile, he's fourth in player efficiency rating and first in offensive box plus-minus. In addition, he's first in offensive win shares, third in total win shares and fourth in win shares per 40 minutes among SEC players.
A Tough Task
As you can imagine, though, Kentucky has also faced tough competition out-of-conference. They've battled Michigan State, UCLA, North Carolina, Louisville and Kansas, all ranked within the top 15 nationally at the time of their matchup. And, in SEC play, they've gone up against South Carolina and Florida, also ranked when they met. All that, according to Ken Pomeroy, makes for the nation's 21st-hardest schedule.
Against those seven teams, Monk has maintained his effective and efficient play. In 35.1 minutes per contest, the youngster has put up 23.7 points and 4.1 three-point makes on 50% shooting, 48.3% from three and 63.3% true shooting. His best game was a 47-point effort against UNC while his worst was an 11-point game at Florida this past Saturday. His best performances far outshines his duds.
For that reason, he appears on the midseason Wooden Award Watch. While that's a good sign, he was left off ESPN's top 5 Wooden rankings and, admittedly, my own list of midseason Player of the Year candidates. On a very good Kentucky team, he deserves much more credit than he's received.
It seems like this has also poured over into NBA draft talk -- everyone is concerned with dynamic point guards, like Lonzo Ball and Markelle Fultz, rather than a pure shooter like Monk, as Draft Express' mock shows. But, in today's NBA, proven shooters are a valuable commodity. The emphasis on pace, space and efficiency is perfect for a sniper like Monk.
Can we start giving him the recognition he deserves?