As the Lakers near something close to full strength, Malik Monk has begun to emerge as one of the team’s best guards not just off the bench but overall. His high level of energy, playmaking and 3-point shooting ability makes him a great complement to the Big Three of LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook.
Monk’s role has fluctuated this season. Though he only started a pair of games early in the season, Monk’s minutes have varied off the bench, ranging from as few as five minutes to as many as 44 minutes. While those minutes have steadied later in the year, Monk has applied some of the lessons he learned through his first four years in Charlotte to his new situation in Los Angeles.
“Just being ready, man,” Monk said of what’s led to him having success with the Lakers. “You never know when your number is going to be called. And that’s the biggest thing that I took from Charlotte, just to be prepared and always practice and work out like you’re going to play the next game. You never know when your moment is going to come, you never know when your number is going to be called, so you’ve just got to be prepared for it.”
Last season with the Hornets, Monk was forced to learn that lesson early in the year. After battling COVID during training camp and finding himself outside of the rotation looking in to start the year, Monk eventually took advantage of the opportunity given to him, scoring a career-high 36 points a small handful of games back into the rotation.
It sparked a run for him that led to his career year. While he never had to work his way into the rotation in Los Angeles, his ability to stay ready regardless of how many minutes he might be given that night is not an easy task and certainly something that has to be learned during an NBA career.
The Lakers have certainly been better off of late with a ready and prepared version of Monk. Over the last five games, the Lakers have a +13.6 net rating with Monk on the floor versus a -8.6 net rating with him off the floor, ranking as the best and worst marks among rotation players on the team, respectively.
Monk’s play won’t make or break the Lakers this season but in a team searching for contributors around its Big Three, Monk’s emergence in recent weeks has been a positive sign both individually and for the team as a whole.