As a former lottery pick, Malik Monk’s time in Charlotte featured him playing with only a handful of standout players. His time with Kemba Walker, one of the greatest Hornets in franchise history, topped the list before a season alongside Gordon Hayward and LaMelo Ball last year.
None of those names are big men, and that’s no accident. Since entering the NBA, Monk has never had a dynamic center to play alongside. Bismack Biyombo, Cody Zeller and a version of Dwight Howard unlike his current form are the most notable big men during Monk’s time in Charlotte.
So while it may not have been one of the biggest motivating factors in his decision to join the Lakers, Monk did make it clear during his introductory press conference that he’s really excited to play with Anthony Davis, one of the most versatile big men in the game, and he also outlined how important he thinks Davis will be to the Lakers.
“He’s a big man who can play the guard position and he can guard 1-5 as well,” Monk said. “So if LeBron isn’t the biggest part, then AD is probably the key to this. Or I wouldn’t say the key, we’re all keys, but AD is one of the biggest parts of this team, man, because what can he not do? I’m just looking forward to it.”
Monk’s game is not one defined in hardly any capacity by the big man alongside him — he excelled with the Hornets last season with Biyombo and Zeller — but Davis is the type of player that can open things up for a player like Monk on both ends of the court.
Defensively, Davis’ ability to guard multiple positions while also protecting the rim makes life easier for any guard. Particularly for Monk, a poor defender to this point in his career, Davis’ ability to erase mistakes at the basket will make life easier for him.
On the offensive end, though big men are not often thought of as players who make the game easier for others, but a superstar of Davis’ caliber will lighten the load for a sniper like Monk. Eyes will be on Davis whenever he touches the ball, and teams often double team him in the post. Monk could be one of the direct beneficiaries of those situations, for example, after being elite in catch-and-shoot scenarios last year.
Off the court, there will be a connection, too, with both players being former Kentucky Wildcats. Each spent just a single year in Lexington after a one-and-done season, Davis winning an NCAA championship and Monk advancing to the Elite Eight alongside De’Aaron Fox and Bam Adebayo. While that direct connection may not run deep between them, the network of former Wildcat players under head coach John Calipari is always tight-knit, and Monk confirmed that he and Davis know each other.
After years of battling in the lottery and for a play-in spot in Charlotte, Monk will now have a chance to play for more than those relatively small goals alongside some of the most talented players in the league, which could serve as a key to unlock his game and allow him to make a jump to the next level in his career. Of course he’s excited about that, and there are plenty of reasons to be excited to watch it, too.