Last summer, Malik Monk experienced a free agency in which he was virtually unwanted by all except the the Lakers. After a breakout season in Los Angeles in which he became a key figure for the Lakers, he’s hoping to repay that favor from last offseason.
In a piece with Jovan Buha of The Athletic, Monk spoke about his desire to return to Los Angeles and his willingness to sacrifice money to do so.
“Money is always a part, man, but I don’t think it’s the biggest priority in my free agency this year,” Monk said. “It’s me feeling like I’m having a home and I can go out there and do the same things I did this year.”
Monk said he’d consider accepting less money than his market price to stay with the Lakers for the taxpayer midlevel exception.
“They might not be able to pay me as much as I want,” he said. “But I could be here and be way more comfortable as a Laker than going to any other team (that would pay) me $5 million more. So it’s just me trying to figure out what team would really want me.”
There is a catch to his willingness to take a discount, and it seems to hinge on what he’s willing to take a discount from. As Buha notes, the market for Monk this season will likely be something near the full mid-level exception (MLE) at around $11 million annually.
It’s completely fair to credit Monk, then, for being willing to take a pay cut of the full MLE to the taxpayer MLE of about half that salary annually. He’s spoken in the past about hoping to make Los Angeles his home longterm.
The problem as it pertains to the Lakers, though, is that there just so happens to be the possibility of someone slightly better than Monk being interested in joining the Lakers on that taxpayer MLE this summer. If the Lakers sign Kyrie Irving, for many reasons, Monk may no longer be a consideration for them. One of the few areas the roster has depth in heading into the offseason is the guard rotation, especially so if Irving signs.
But offseasons are unpredictable and Monk’s willingness to be flexible in his contract could be important for the Lakers this offseason. He showcased not just an overall improved ability but also an ability to play and succeed alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis, an important ability for anyone on the roster.
Is that enough for the Lakers to use their only avenue to sign a non-veteran’s minimum contract on him over, say, a 3-and-D wing? We’ll see how the summer plays out and what deals are made, but it certainly wouldn’t be the worst outcome if a fan favorite like Monk returns.