There’s a certain amount of risk involved whenever a team signs a player to a veteran’s minimum contract. By nature, a player available for a contract that low has inherent risks that come along with them.
When it comes to Malik Monk, though, the Lakers were about as certain as can be that things would work out in Los Angeles.
Even prior to signing him to a minimum contract this summer, the Lakers had long been attempting to acquire Monk, even willing to give up assets to do so. Revealed in Jovan Buha’s latest profile on Monk for The Athletic, dating back to the 2019-20 season, the Lakers had been in regular contact with the Charlotte Hornets, hoping to trade for Monk and bring him to Los Angeles.
Monk and Marcus were frustrated with Charlotte because several teams — including the Lakers in both the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons — had tried to trade for Monk over the past few years. They’d pushed the Hornets to accept the deals, particularly ahead of the 2021 trade deadline. But the Hornets refused to trade him — to the Lakers or elsewhere — claiming he was a part of their future. Then, they didn’t extend his qualifying offer or re-sign him, which further hurt his reputation around the league and partially caused him to lose out on millions of dollars.
“Teams don’t have access to all the information on the character of a person and who the person is,” Marcus said. “They’re not in the locker rooms. … I think all of that stuff played into why there wasn’t much interest. And, from me looking at it as if I’m the other 29 teams, I don’t blame them. … All of those things needed to happen. If those things wouldn’t have happened, he would be in the mindset that he’s in right now.
“He’s literally trying to kill every time he touches the floor. Because there are 29 other teams that had the opportunity to sign him.”
The Lakers obviously didn’t acquire Monk at either deadline, but trying to piece together what a package would have looked like is interesting in hindsight. Last season, it feels pretty likely a trade package would have centered on Montrezl Harrell considering he was acquired by the Hornets at the trade deadline and has long been rumored to Charlotte.
The year prior is a little more unclear. The Lakers had a championship roster with few young pieces. Perhaps the team would have been willing to swap Talen Horton-Tucker and the draft pick later used to acquire Dennis Schröder for Monk?
Fortunately for the Lakers, neither trade went through and Monk could come to the Lakers without them giving up an asset. For Monk, though, it came at the cost of millions of dollars. For example, if the Lakers had traded for Monk in the 2019-20 season, they could have picked up his team option the Hornets didn’t and perhaps extended him if things worked out, which the Hornets also didn’t.
Instead, he came to Los Angeles on a minimum contract and flourished. For Monk, it’s a place he can finally flourish and for the Lakers, it was ultimately a move they felt was low-risk that has paid off with a big reward.