By John Schmeelk
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The Knicks select eighth in the upcoming NBA draft and there is a consensus top 10 of available talent.
They are: Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, De’Aaron Fox, Josh Jackson, Jayson Tatum, Johnathan Isaac, Malik Monk, Dennis Smith Jr., Frank Ntilikina, and Lori Markannen.
Three of those 10 players will be available when the Knicks select. I’ll focus on the three guards that are options Phil Jackson should most consider. First up is Monk, who has the smallest chance of being available when the Knicks’ turn comes around.
The Basics: Monk was a one-and-done player for John Calipari at Kentucky, and was the leading scorer for a team that made it to the Elite Eight before losing to North Carolina.
Measurements and statistics from DraftExpress.com:
Wingspan: 6-3 1/2
Weight 197 pounds
Stats as a Freshman at Kentucky: 19.8 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.5 blocks, 45 percent FG, 40 percent 3-point, 82 percent FT.
What I Like: Monk can flat out score. He can hit jumpers in catch-and-shoot situations, but is also able to get open looks by creating space off the dribble. He has a quick release and can make tough contested jumpers. He is not afraid to take the big shot and has range to the NBA 3-point line. He has quickness to get around people if they overplay the jumper. He did a lot of his damage off the ball at Kentucky, sprinting around screens to find open looks.
He is an explosive leaper with the ability to go above the rim to dunk, or hang in the air to finish. He is an underrated passer with the ability to find big men rolling to the basket. He’s also able to quickly get the ball to players in good post position. He has shown flashes of being able to guard quicker players when he is engaged. Being a SG/PG tweener isn’t as big of a deal in the triangle, where ball handling duty is often shared.
What I Don’t Like: His size is a huge red flag. There are not many shooting guards in the NBA with a 6-3 wingspan. He struggled creating for himself in college from time to time and finishing near the rim with contact. Those issues could be exacerbated in the NBA. He also does not have an elite handle. His ability to make tough shots sometimes led to poor shot selection. He can be streaky.
If he does find it too difficult to play shooting guard there isn’t enough evidence that would indicate he could play point guard full time as a distributor and ball handler. He will have to guard opposing point guards since he isn’t strong or long enough to guard 2s. His defense in college was very inconsistent and that is a real problem at the pro level.
The Ceiling: If he can continue to improve his handle, drives and shoot more consistently he could become a preeminent scoring guard in the NBA. He could average 25 a game and get a shot for himself or his teammates whenever he wants.
The Floor: His shot remains streaky, and he never finds the ability to create consistently on his own. In this scenario he becomes a bench sparkplug that can score in bunches, but has trouble creating his own shot and guarding anyone. He would play primarily off the ball and need screens to get open looks.
My Best Guess: He should be a 30-minute per game player and average around 18-22 points as someone who relies mostly on his quick-release jumper. He will struggle defensively, but be a better creator than most give him credit for.
Conclusion: Monk will be a much-needed scorer for the Knicks, especially if they find a taker for Carmelo Anthony. Scoring without needing to dominate the ball is a rare skill in today’s league, and it will make him very valuable.
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