The Charlotte Hornets’ top draft pick was benched in favor of Michael Carter-Williams after the team lost six straight games.
Steve Clifford chose to bench his star rookie because he needed more defense. After losing six straight games, he chose not to play Malik Monk a single minute against the Los Angeles Clippers. The Charlotte Hornets‘ head coach said that “It’s not Malik’s fault, it’s just his position; [Michael Carter-Williams is] a difference-maker defensively.” (CharlotteObserver.com)
This was the first time this year that the 11th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft didn’t play in a game for Charlotte. He saw at least nine minutes in the Hornets’ first 14 games of the season. In a surprising turn of events, Monk has fallen out of the team’s rotation while second-round pick Dwayne Bacon is still getting important minutes off of the bench.
The Kentucky product saw 19.8 minutes per game was averaging 8.8 points, 1.9 assists and 1.9 rebounds. He’s been struggling to find his shot shooting only 34.6% from the field and 33.3% from the three-point line. His lack of offensive production hasn’t been enough to overshadow his poor defensive play.
Monk’s defense was a big question mark coming out of college. His size is making him a bit of a liability on that end of the floor. To try and cover up his defensive woes, Coach Clifford was playing Malik at point guard so that he wouldn’t be forced to cover bigger shooting guards. That worked while Michael Carter-Williams was out rehabbing from offseason knee procedures but now that MCW is back, it looks like the rookie has fallen out of the rotation.
Even though the 19-year old is struggling, it isn’t out of the norm for a rookie to have a rough start at the professional level. Even Lonzo Ball, who was the second overall pick, is having his fair share of problems in the NBA. It takes time for most first-year players to adjust to the speed and style of the league.
It will be interesting to see if this trend continues going forward. If the hamstring injury that Jeremy Lamb suffered against the Clippers keeps him sidelined, it could mean a return to the rotation for Monk. At some point, you’d have to think that Malik will earn his minutes back.
It’s far too early to completely give up on such a promising rookie but for the time being, the Hornets need win games and Steve Clifford is electing to go with defense over offense. So until Malik improves his play on that end of the court or Charlotte’s defense as a whole gets better, it’s unlikely that he will see significant minutes anytime soon.