Over the next week, as we prepare for NBA Free Agency on June 30 at 9:00pm AZ time, Bright Side of the Sun will be exploring the market and proposing different additions to the Phoenix Suns roster. Some will make sense. Others might not. But hopefully this year I finally get one right. Why? So I can softly whisper, “I told you so…”
We continue to explore the backup shooting guard position, as we kick off this free agent target by once again spinning the “what if” wheel, and seeing where it lands if James Jones can somehow move off of the Landry Shamet contract and free up minutes behind Devin Booker at shooting guard.
The target to fill that role this time? Unrestricted free agent Malik Monk.
After 4 seasons with the Charlotte Hornets, after being taken 11th overall by the franchise in the 2017 NBA Draft out of Kentucky, Monk averaged 9.1 points in 17.8 minutes off the bench. In 233 appearances with the Hornets, he started just 1 game.
Monk struggled to reach expectations with the franchise. While at Kentucky, the 6’2” shooting guard was a knock down three-pointer shot maker, hitting 39.7% of his 262 attempts in his one year at the university. That number fell when entering the NBA as he shot 34.2% in his rookie season and 33.0% in his sophomore campaign.
Just as Mink was turning a corner and earned his first career start, he was slapped with a suspension in his third season for violating the league’s anti-drug program. While it ended up costing him the remainder of his season – only 8 games – it tarnished his reputation with the front office in Charlotte.
While he displayed progression every season in the NBA, and made 40.1% of his three’s in 2020-21, he wasn’t offered a rookie extension prior to the start of the season. Who could forget the 29 points off of the bench on 5-of-10 from deep to propel the Hornets to a 124-121 victory over Phoenix that season?
It wasn’t enough.
The team had back loaded their roster with talented guards and Monk wasn’t part of their future plans. When the opportunity arose for Charlotte to bring him back as a restricted free agent last offseason, the team declined his $7M qualifying offer, releasing their former lottery pick into the world of free agency.
Malik signed with the Los Angeles Lakers, inking a veteran minimum deal for just one year and $1.7M. During an offseason in which it appeared that the Lakers were signing nearly every member of the 2012 USA Olympic Team – Carmelo Anthony, Russell Westbrook, Dwight Howard, Trevor Ariza – Monk was the lone youngin’ at 23 years-old.
What Monk was doing was betting on himself and hoping that a year amongst such poultry veterans would benefit him long term. “These guys have been doing it a long longer, and so I can ask lots of questions and I can learn,” Malik stated. “Not just about being on the basketball court but off the court as well. That was the biggest thing.”
The gamble paid off as the Lakers battled injury after injury throughout the season. This freed up opportunity for Monk to garner minutes. He started 37 of the 76 games in which he played, putting together career highs in points, games played, minutes, assists and true-shooting percentage. He shot 39.1% from deep and averaged 17.0 points in games in which he started. He was a bright spot for the Lakers and, seeing as their cap situation is a mess, he most likely will not be re-signed by the team.
Per Jake Fischer from Bleacher Report, the expectation is that Monk will garner $5M - $10M in salary this offseason.
Expectations among league personnel polled by B/R for Monk’s next salary are quite varied but have ranged from an average annual value between $5 million and $10 million, far above the minimum number that the Lakers were able to sign him for this season.
This brings us to two questions: Can James Jones make the money work? Is Monk willing to join Phoenix as a backup shooting guard?
If the answer is, “yes” to both questions, then his addition would we welcomed in Phoenix. He is wiry and quick, explosive and lethal. Yes, he needs to dial it in on defense, but offensively he would keep the machine rolling while Booker gets a breather. Something Landry could not consistently do.
Monk has grown as a player by betting on himself. Perhaps its time for Jones to cash in on that bet.
Would you like to see the Suns pursue Malik Monk in free agency?
This poll is closed