Malik Monk is playing the best basketball of his NBA career

Dec 12, 2023, 2:37 PM | Updated: 2:51 pm

Malik Monk #0 of the Sacramento Kings reacts after making a three-point shot against the New Orlean...

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 04: Malik Monk #0 of the Sacramento Kings reacts after making a three-point shot against the New Orleans Pelicans in the fourth quarter of an NBA In-Season Tournament Knockout Round game at Golden 1 Center on December 04, 2023 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 plays with an energy apparent to everyone who tunes in. Whether you’re watching on a screen or live from inside Golden 1 Center, his impact is evident and contagious.

Since joining the Sacramento Kings in 2022, Monk has seemingly been unlocked, especially as a playmaker. Before joining the Kings, his career-high assist percentage was 16.9 percent in his rookie season.

Last season, he set a personal best of 25.0 percent, which has risen to 28.5 percent through 21 games in 2023-24. While there were flashes of his ability to create for others once drafted to the Charlotte Hornets, he was not given ample opportunity to do so. Also, he needed time to develop as a player.

While there was clear progress during his lone season with the Los Angeles Lakers, Monk has explained how being alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis limited their need for his distributing.

Now, Sacramento has fully embraced his impressive ball-handling and decision-making while allowing him the freedom to score. It’s evident in his statistics, which are littered with career highs.

Fifteen points per game is his best since being drafted, as are the 4.9 assists per night. Impressively, his conversion rate has remained similar despite increased shot attempts and overall usage.

Forty-four percent from the field, a ridiculous 43.2 percent from three, and his typical elite free-throw shooting currently rests at 90.0 percent.

“(Monk) has been really good off the bench,” Keegan Murray said after their 131-118 victory over the Brooklyn Nets. “He’s been really consistent off the bench, and that’s been big for us, his consistency. I feel like he’s kind of elevated his game from last year, and it’s really cool to see.”

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Aside from pushing All-NBA campaigns for De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis (or even MVP, in Fox’s case), head coach Mike Brown mentions no potential award more than Malik Monk for Sixth Man of the Year. The same was true last season, but Monk’s moments of inconsistency led to him being outpaced by other viable candidates.

To Brown, Monk’s 21 points and nine assists on Tuesday night, his fifth showing with at least 20 points and five assists, warranted another call for early-season award consideration.

“I’d like to just give (Monk) a shoutout because he definitely deserves it,” he said. “He definitely was a spark for us tonight, handling the ball, creating, knocking down shots, and then I thought he was good defensively too.”

When asked about potential reasons behind Monk’s leap in production this season, Brown pointed towards the non-game repetitions that the seventh-year guard embraces.

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“His attention to detail and his work have gotten better this year,” Brown continued. “We do different shooting drills that we track, and he’s shooting the heck out of it in those shooting drills, and he’s getting them in often. He’s working before practice. Sometimes, he’s coming back at night. So, with him being as locked in as he is and that continuing to increase, it doesn’t surprise me with the way that he’s playing.”

Monk’s current contract expires at the end of this season, and he’s set himself up to earn the largest paycheck of his career up to this point. Seeing a player’s commitment and dedication outside of games pick up in contract years is not atypical. Still, the noticeable improvement from Malik Monk is a welcome sight for Sacramento, no matter what.

One of the most valuable and sought-after shots in their offense is ‘spray threes,’ which are paint touches that ‘spray’ out to open shooters. De’Aaron Fox is elite at creating those looks, but Monk excels in his own right.

The Kings want to play fast, physically (without fouling), and together. While Monk is still improving his defensive physicality, his ability to create is essential (for himself and others) to Sacramento’s high-caliber, fast-paced offense.

Their 117.6 offensive rating, with him on the floor, falls to 109.8 while the 6’3 guard rests — second-worst behind the non-Fox minutes, per NBA Stats.

“Every time I step on the court, I get a little lift from everybody else,” Monk said. “It’s just me being me and the team, I think, just following my lead like always.”

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Monk’s 15.0 points per night currently rank fifth among bench players behind Bogdan Bogdanovic, Tim Hardaway Jr., Cole Anthony, and Immanuel Quickley. Also, 4.9 assists per night place him fourth, with Chris Paul, Austin Reaves, and Tre Jones being the only other reserves ahead of him.

If Malik Monk continues to provide impressive creations for himself and his teammates while limiting his blunders, the Kentucky alum might slither into Sixth Man of the Year conversations. He’s also proving he deserves a lucrative deal this coming offseason, thanks to his prominent impact on and off the court.

When is the next Sacramento Kings game?

The Kings will play their second game in as many nights on Tuesday when they face a Los Angeles Clippers team that will also be on the second night of a back-to-back.

Back on November 29th, Sacramento dropped a 131-117 loss to the Clippers as Kawhi Leonard (34 points) and James Harden (26 points) outlasted a 40-point effort from De’Aaron Fox.

Be sure to tune in right here on Sactown Sports 1140 for all of your Kings vs. Clippers coverage, beginning at 6:00 PM PST on Game Night before a 7:30 PM PST tip-off from downtown Los Angeles.

Upcoming Schedule

  • Tuesday, December 12th – Sacramento Kings @ Los Angeles Clippers – 7:30 PM PST
  • Thursday, December 14th – Sacramento Kings vs. Oklahoma City Thunder – 7:00 PM PST
  • Saturday, December 16th – Sacramento Kings vs. Utah Jazz – 7:00 PM PST
  • Monday, December 18th – Sacramento Kings vs. Washington Wizards – 7:00 PM PST
  • Wednesday, December 20th – Sacramento Kings vs. Boston Celtics – 7:00 PM PST

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Malik Monk is playing the best basketball of his NBA career