In a season full of disappointment, there has been no brighter spot for the Lakers than the breakout campaign they’ve gotten from Malik Monk. A minimum contract signing who had very few suitors in a unique position after not being extended a qualifying offer in Charlotte, the Lakers showed real faith in Monk, and it has more than paid off this season.
Monk has established himself as one of the few consistent contributors for the team in recent months, whether it’s off the bench or in the starting lineup. It’s a mutually beneficial partnership, too, as the Lakers have needed Monk’s production and he has revitalized his image around the league with his performance this season, all while becoming a fan favorite in the process.
One of the immediate thoughts from fans seeing Monk excel is how the Lakers can keep him long-term. The short answer to that is that it’ll take a fair amount of financial sacrifice from Monk next season. But in a piece from Jovan Buha of The Athletic, Malik’s agent (and brother) Marcus spoke about their outlook for the future and where the Lakers fit into that, all while hinting Monk might be willing to try and make the financial gymnastics work.
“It seems like the outside world talks about it more than he does,” Marcus said. “He never brings it up. Like, dude just wanna win games for the Los Angeles Lakers right now. And he’s focused on doing what he has to do to be on that floor and to win those games. …
“He’s very appreciative of what the Lakers have done and what they are doing. And he works for the Los Angeles Lakers. And for him to be thinking anything beyond that and trying to help this team win, it wouldn’t be fair to them for believing in him. So I don’t even have those conversations with him. …
“Right now, he’s a Laker. And hopefully, he’ll be a Laker forever.”
Those are not normally the words of an agent trying to maintain any and all bargaining power for an impending free agency. But not all players have the same priorities when it comes to free agency and Malik’s may not necessarily be on maximizing the amount of money he can earn, landing spot be damned.
In fact, Malik might know better than any how important it is to find the right team, system and franchise. After toiling away in Charlotte, Malik has landed in Los Angeles and looked like the lottery pick he once was while realizing the potential he never did with the Hornets.
In the same piece, Malik himself said he was preference was to remain in Southern California with the purple and gold:
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t look at my future with anything,” Monk said. “I love it here. I’d love to play here again, man. But you never know what’s gonna happen with the NBA. You never know what happens. It’s a business, at the end of the day. But I’d definitely love to play here.
“But I don’t know. It’s hard to call the future.”
Because of the nature of the CBA and the Lakers only having Monk under contract on a veteran’s minimum this season, how much the Lakers can offer Monk is severely limited, particularly if they want to avoid a hard cap, and they will. The most likely solution would be for the Lakers to sign Monk to a one-year deal using the taxpayer mid-level exception, coming in at roughly $6.2 million.
After that season, the team would own Monk’s Early Bird Rights, and would have far more flexibility in the length and size of the contract he can be offered, making it more feasible for him to stick around long term and on a fairer deal, but he would have to be willing to take less in the short term. For more specifics on how the Lakers may be able to keep him, check out Eric Pincus’ piece for Bleacher Report on the matter.
But those are problems for months from now. Instead, Monk, the Lakers and fans should enjoy the breakout campaign from the young guard this season and hope he can provide enough for the Lakers to make a postseason run this spring.