Malik Monk is making an early case for Sixth Man of the Year

Jan 6, 2024, 2:29 PM

Malik Monk #0 of the Sacramento Kings looks to shoot a three-point shot against the Orlando Magic d...

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 03: Malik Monk #0 of the Sacramento Kings looks to shoot a three-point shot against the Orlando Magic during the first half of an NBA basketball game at Golden 1 Center on January 03, 2024 in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Malik Monk is playing the best basketball of his career to start the 2023-24 NBA season. He’s played in all but one of the Sacramento Kings’ 34 games, averaging 14.9 points, 5.4 assists, and 2.6 rebounds on 44.5 percent from the field and 41.6 percent from three in 25.6 minutes.

His 41.6 percent conversion rate comes on 6.5 three-point attempts per game, both career-highs for the seventh-year guard. Aside from field-goal percentage, every statistic listed above is a career-best rate for Monk.

While he doesn’t start for the Kings, he’s often on the floor in closing moments, which is telling. Head coach Mike Brown highly values his spark and production to the second unit, particularly when De’Aaron Fox gets some rest. He’s vouched for Monk to garner recognition for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award plenty of times last season, even more so in 2023-24.

Monk acknowledged his interest in winning the hardware Friday night after his team’s 135-130 victory over the Toronto Raptors. “Of course (I want to win it),” he said. “I should have won it last year, too.”

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The Kentucky alum makes his teammates better when he’s out there, and his offensive versatility is extremely valuable. When De’Aaron Fox is off the floor, Sacramento’s typical 116.3 offensive rating falls to 107.8, the lowest on the team.

Monk’s off-court numbers are second worst, where the Kings bolster a 112.8 rating compared to 117.0 with him participating in the action.

“He’s huge for us, regardless of when I’m on the court or not,” Fox said Friday morning. “He’s taken a lot of ball-handling duties this year. He’s done a great job, and we want to continue to build off of that. Me playing with him has allowed me to also play off the ball and continue to get better in that aspect of my game.”

According to Cleaning the Glass, Malik Monk assists on 30.2 percent of his team’s makes when on the floor — topping his previous career-best of 25.5 percent from last season. With their emphasis on paint touches, spacing, and pace, Monk continues to be a picture-perfect offensive fit in Sacramento.

With the ball in his hands, he can break down his defender off the dribble and spray out to shooters or finish it himself. When players like Fox or Domantas Sabonis are handling, Monk remains an active off-ball threat with his cutting and 43.6 percent catch-and-shoot percentage on triples.

Sabonis outlined the value of having multiple playmakers on the floor Friday night. “It makes it so easy,” he said. “That’s what makes us difficult to guard. They take Fox away; I go to the other side and get Malik.”

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While his dynamic offensive production has been known for years, Monk could previously be out of control and inconsistent at times, but that’s improved 40 percent of the way through this season.

He managed 12 games with 20+ points last season and is already at nine this year. Even more jarring is that he’s tallied 11 games with seven or more assists, nearly doubling the six he contributed last year with plenty of games remaining. He has six games with at least 20 points and five assists, tying his number from last season.

When Malik Monk was asked where he improved in year seven, he pointed towards reliability. “My consistency, playmaking, and just selections,” he said. “The selections I’m making on the court. Everything else is just going to fall in line.”

His most recent standout production came Wednesday night against the Orlando Magic, where he managed a season-high 37 points, nine assists, three rebounds, and two steals on 12/20 shooting, including 7/13 from three in a double-overtime victory.

Trey Lyles described him as “almost like a microwave” Friday morning. “Once he gets going, he’s going,” he continued. “I think he showed that (against Orlando), and he’s continued to show it throughout the season. We know that we can rely on him to make big plays, make things happen offensively, and be vocal with us and the coaches. Stuff like that. So, we rely on him for that, and he does it night-in and night-out.”

He currently ranks sixth among reserves in points per game and second in assists. Of bench players attempting at least ten shots per game, Malik Monk is eight in percentage.

Not to mention ranking eight in the entire league (starters included) in three-point percentage among players attempting six per night. He’s as dynamic as they come offensively and has been essential to the Sacramento Kings offense again this season.

If Malik Monk maintains his improved consistency and the Sacramento Kings continue to climb the standings, he should have a strong case for the NBA’s 2023-24 Sixth Man of the Year award. Oh, and he’s playing himself into a hefty contract this offseason when he’ll be an unrestricted free agent.

When is the next Sacramento Kings game?

Who’s ready for a Sunday matinee?

Sacramento will conclude its four-game homestand against a team that has dominated the Kings in all three matchups this season: the New Orleans Pelicans.

The Pelicans hold a 3-0 record against Sacramento while winning each game by an average of 17.0 points.

Be sure to tune in right here on Sactown Sports 1140 for all of your Kings vs. Pelicans coverage, beginning at 1:30 PM PST on Game Night before a 3:00 PM PST tip-off from Golden 1 Center.

Upcoming Schedule

  • Sunday, January 7th – Sacramento Kings vs. New Orleans Pelicans – 3:00 PM PST
  • Tuesday, January 9th – Sacramento Kings @ Detroit Pistons – 4:00 PM PST
  • Wednesday, January 10th – Sacramento Kings @ Charlotte Hornets – 4:00 PM PST
  • Friday, January 12th – Sacramento Kings @ Philadelphia 76ers – 4:30 PM PST
  • Sunday, January 14th – Sacramento Kings @ Milwaukee Bucks – 4:00 PM PST

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Malik Monk is making an early case for Sixth Man of the Year