Few players jumped off the screen in the Los Angeles Lakers’ preseason-opening loss to the Brooklyn Nets the way Malik Monk did. He showcased the fluidity and efficiency as a scorer that makes him a fairly natural fit alongside Russell Westbrook, LeBron James and Anthony Davis. There wasn’t much defense in the game, but he was far from the worst player on that side of the court. In general, it was quite the impressive debut, all things considered.
All that said, the Lakers backcourt rotation is incredibly crowded, and a couple of the guys Monk will be competing with for bench minutes head into this season with a little more organization capital. So, this week, in a rare Monday episode of “I Love Basketball,” Sabreena Merchant and I wonder whether Monk might be able to overcome his standing within the Lakers to earn a consistent role.
Yes, ideally speaking, we’d all like to think of pro sports as one of the last remaining meritocracies. That just isn’t the case, though. We know that Kendrick Nunn and Talen Horton-Tucker both make more per year than Monk and, well, their Klutch ties are also something to consider. If Monk is clearly better than both, sure, he’ll earn himself a spot in the rotation. But if it’s relatively close, those guys are going to get a longer look.
Monk also has to compete with Wayne Ellington given the things they bring both bring to the table. Monk might have more defensive upside, but that isn’t saying much, and if Ellington is an elite spot-up shooter, that slight defensive uptick might not matter. Add to that the fact that Ellington has been in the league much longer and will thus have some extra sway in the locker room and, again, Monk might be fighting an uphill battle here.
Now, this isn’t to tell everyone to ignore Monk altogether. He is certainly talented enough to show out and earn himself consistent minutes. I just wanted to outline the things he’s up against if such a scenario was to play out.
We discussed all that, Frozen vs. Frozen 2, labor ethics and more.
And for a short-form recap pod, check out Lakers Lowdown, in which Anthony Irwin recaps the previous day’s news and gets you ready for the day ahead in LakerLand, every weekday morning on the Silver Screen & Roll Podcast feed.