As Malik Monk continues his breakout season in Los Angeles, seemingly everyone in the Lakers organization wants to claim that they were the first to want him in purple and gold.
Frank Vogel has made note that the team tried to trade for him at the trade deadline last season, something reiterated in a piece by Jovan Buha of The Athletic in which it was revealed the team tried to trade for him in 2019-20 as well.
LeBron James jumped in and talked about how he and then-Lakers assistant coach Jason Kidd watched film on Monk last season and pushed for the team to trade for him. At the very least, Monk said it was a text from James that sealed the deal on him coming to Los Angeles in the offseason.
But Rob Pelinka may have dropped the hammer in the one-upmanship. In a recent profile of Monk by Dave McMenamin of ESPN, Pelinka, who has been with the franchise longer than either James, Kidd or Vogel, revealed that the Lakers were eying Monk all the way back in the 2017 NBA Draft.
The front office, too, had scouted Monk when they were deciding what to do with the No. 2 pick in 2017. The Lakers eventually selected Lonzo Ball.
“I remember when UCLA played Kentucky. We were looking at Lonzo and De’Aaron Fox. [But] Malik has just been really a standout [since then] because of the combination of his athleticism and his shooting,” says Rob Pelinka, Lakers general manager and vice president of basketball operations. “So, definitely a player we’ve tracked for some time — and early in the free-agency process, [we] reached out.”
It’s certainly plausible and even believable Monk caught the eye of Pelinka and the front office in 2017. With the No. 2 pick, the Lakers were considering both Lonzo Ball and De’Aaron Fox, Monk’s college teammate, of UCLA and Kentucky, respectively. The two sides played one another twice in that season alone, the latter coming in the NCAA Tournament.
Is it believable the team targeted him with the No. 2 pick? No, though that’s not something Pelinka indicated. The Lakers did end up with three first round picks that year — used on Ball, Josh Hart and Kyle Kuzma — but Monk was taken well before the end of the first round when Hart and Kuzma were drafted. Theoretically, the Lakers could have tried to trade up for Monk, which would have really put an end to the debate about who wanted him first.
Ultimately, though, it’s just been a hilarious game of prominent Lakers figures trying to claim they all wanted Monk first. That it’s become a competition is mainly a result of Monk having a breakout season with the Lakers, which is a net positive for all involved.
But this probably means Magic Johnson is going to claim he watched him at a summer scrimmage at Kentucky in the near future or something soon before #ScoutWithBron begins talking about his high school tape. It’s exciting to envision how far this one will go.