For the Sacramento Kings and their fans, free agency is usually pretty lackluster. It’s a known and obvious fact that Sacramento isn’t the most desirable place to live in California, especially for young, millionaire NBA players. But players can get over the location as long as the team wins, which is the typical train of thought in other small markets like Milwaukee or Utah as well. The Kings haven’t done much of that in quite some time, and as a result their chances of drawing in talent have been slim to none.
But that all changed on July 6, when Malik Monk decided to take his talents to the City of Trees. Though everybody knew it was possible, I was still somewhat shocked when he actually came over from the Los Angeles Lakers. As I mentioned earlier, players think a lot about winning and location when entering free-agency.
What I didn’t consider was how strong Monk’s relationship with his former teammate and good friend De’Aaron Fox truly was. The duo were mesmerizing at the University of Kentucky and the old footage has Kings fans very anxious to see how they’ll look together at this level.
Malik Monk on joining the Sacramento Kings and playing with his old teammate at Kentucky in De’Aaron Fox: “I talk to Fox everyday… I’m ready to play with my teammate, my brother.” pic.twitter.com/SpDIdhuUYI— Cameron Salerno (@cameronsalerno1) July 9, 2022
This upcoming season will be Monk’s sixth in the league. He spent the first four years with the Charlotte Hornets, where he was drafted but wasn’t able to live up to the hype, even while showing flashes of elite offensive potential. After his rookie deal ended, Monk chose to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers last season in an attempt to start fresh.
In 76 games with L.A., Monk averaged career highs in points, rebounds, assists, field goal percentage and minutes per game with 13.8, 3.4, 2.9, 43.7% and 28.1, respectively. These aren’t eye popping numbers, but for the role Monk will be playing in Sacramento, they are intriguing to say the least.
What is the best case scenario for their season?
Monk will be turning 25 this year, which puts him in the range for what most consider to be an athlete's prime. With training camp underway, Monk is now competing with Sacramento’s other big acquisition Kevin Huerter for the role of the starting shooting guard. Huerter is younger, bigger and arguably better. However, Monk’s aforementioned bond with Fox could play a massive in role in his minutes.
The best-case scenario for Monk is that the chemistry he shares with Fox ignites a flame in him many around the league likely thought had died out. In this situation, he would be the Kings’ starting shooting guard and set another career high for points per game, while also making Sacramento’s back court one of the league’s most exciting with him and Fox looking like they’re in college again.
What is the worst-case outcome?
The worst-case scenario? Monk plays how he did with the Hornets. The occasional ESPN top-10 highlight or an insane shooting performance, but inconsistent and generally subpar. If he plays this way, he will be downgraded to the King’s last option at shooting guard behind both Huerter and Terence Davis. It doesn’t seem very like he will fall off that hard, but you never know. The chances of Fox allowing him to play that poorly are minimal.
What do you think is the most likely role for them?
“Of course I want to start,” Monk told reporters Monday at Kings Media Day. “But I don’t mind coming off the bench, either. I’m going to go out there and be the best version of myself I can be and do everything I can for [coach] Mike Brown so we can win.”
Even though there is a chance we could see Monk in the starting lineup every once in a while, his most likely role will in the second unit alongside Davion Mitchell in what would surely be one of the league’s toughest secondary backcourts. In the second unit, Monk will be looked at to score often and efficiently. He will be their best 3-point option and also remove some pressure from Mitchell to score.
Monk also won’t have to worry about guarding the other team’s best scorers in this role. He may have to guard them here and there, but just until Fox or Huerter sub back into the game. This will let him do what he does best and put on a show on offense. When the bench has the ability to excite the crowd just as much as the starters do, you’ve got a great situation on your hands.
In short, Monk will be crucial to the Kings’ success this season. And if he brings the type of passion he has shown in his recent interviews, he should be in for a great year.