NBA Summer League

Malik Monk and Two Rookies Lead Charlotte Hornets to Summer League Win

Summer League Scouting: Malik Monk Leads Trio of Strong Performances for Charlotte Hornets

By Matthew McQuade

The Charlotte Hornets kicked off their NBA Summer League debut yesterday with a 1 point victory over the OKC Thunder. Three players stood out above the rest. Hornets fans will be unsurprised to learn that Malik Monk led the team in scoring with 23 points. Strong showings from Devonte’ Graham and Miles Bridges will give Charlotte high hopes for their 2018 1st Round draft picks. Continue reading for a thorough breakdown of each player’s performance.

SG Malik Monk

Malik Monk has a full season of NBA experience under his belt, although his playing time was limited last year. As with other second year players in the Summer League, he looks more advanced than the rookies and G-Leaguers he shares the court with in Vegas.

Everything about Monk is flashy. He is a crowd-pleasing whirlwind of scoring excitement. He can heat up quickly as evidenced by his 11 point run in the 1st Quarter. Monk moved well without the ball and worked well off picks to free up space for his shot. In the following three clips watch Monk show three different options off a pick play:

Below, Malik Monk cuts off a pick for an open 3 at the top of the key:

Below, Monk curls to the hoop off the same play for an easy dunk:

This time Monk starts with the ball and finds Willy Hernangomez rolling to the hoop:

As you can see, Monk looks very comfortable off the ball and playing the pick and roll two man game. But for all his strengths, Monk still has glaring holes in his skillset.

At 6′ 3″, Malik Monk is undersized for a 2-guard. Hornets fans have hoped he would develop ball-handling skills to allow him to play the 1 and be less of a liability on defense trying to guard much larger and longer shooting guards. …..Let’s just end those hopes right now, because Monk is a wild passer and questionable decision-maker. He is too reckless with the ball. The same unpredictable flair that makes his scoring explosive, results in turnovers when he has to make decisions and run the offense. Monk is careless with the ball and should not be considered a ball-handler even for brief lineup stints. Here is how a typical play goes when Monk runs the offense:

One-handed passes rifled at his teammates feet, forced long passes to players who are not open, and whipping careless cross-court baseball throws will have Charlotte coaches biting their nails anytime Monk runs the point. But its not all bad news of course…

Monk’s shot is smooth and reliable when he is open. He is a natural shooter and scorer. He can catch fire similar to players like Klay Thompson, Jamal Crawford, and Lou Williams. The drawback is he is such a confident shooter that sometimes he tends to take poor shots. By this I mean long two-pointers which are high-risk, low-reward. Charlotte will not want Monk hesitating to shoot, but he would do better to limit the long, contested two point shots.

Despite his shortcomings, Monk brings a lot to the table. If he is paired with a consistent and reliable point guard who can defend shooting guards, Monk’s weaknesses can be covered while reaping the benefits of his explosive scoring ability. Which brings us to our 2nd standout player for Charlotte yesterday….

PG Devonte’ Graham

For everything I just wrote about Monk, Graham is the opposite. He is a tough and hard-nosed defender. He protects the basketball. He finds the open man accurately and on time. He makes the extra pass. And he always makes the right decision.

If he can consistently play the way he did in his first Summer League game the Hornets may have found the backup point guard they need for Kemba Walker. Even better, Graham is the perfect match to play alongside Monk. He mitigates Monk’s dangerous ballhandling without robbing Monk of opportunities to score. He lets Monk move without the ball setting up open shots and cuts to the hoop.

The next three clips show Graham’s court vision and passing ability. The passes are delivered with timing, accuracy, and decisiveness.

The first clip, below, is a simple decision to make the extra pass to the on-fire Monk. Graham is a solid shooter but unselfishly passes up his shot to make the pass to the better shooter Monk, who has the hot hand. It is clear Graham knows where he is going with the ball before he even gets it, showing good point guard instincts and staying one-step ahead of the play:

The next two plays are similar and remind me of Rajon Rondo and LeBron James; two players that look up the court as soon as they touch the ball and hit homerun passes for easy buckets before the defense can recover. Both these passes required decisiveness because the window was only open for a split-second. The passes also require precise accuracy. For a less skilled passer theses passes would be too risky, but Graham has the perfect touch:

Impressive stuff.

Defensively Graham will ideally take the tougher assignment to try to hide Monk. He is not big but Graham moves better laterally, and is sturdier in front of his opponent than Monk. Monk is a weak defender who reaches, takes chances, and can get lost in the sauce watching the ball.

So far so good. These two players fit like puzzle pieces. Im excited to watch them play together more to see if they can build on their immediate chemistry. Next up is the #12 overall pick in the draft out of Michigan State….

SF/PF Miles Bridges

NBA Summer League is a rite of passage for #1 draft picks. Truthfully these rosters are filled with a lot of anonymous players and fans tune in to watch their teams hyped up #1 pick more than anything else. In this case there was some good and bad but Hornets fans should come away optimistic about the future of their 1st round pick Miles Bridges.

First lets get the negative out of the way. Bridges was awful from the field. His 3 point shooting was particularly bad. He couldnt get anything to fall but we know he is a solid shooter so chalk it up to first game jitters, adjustments, and an off night.

More importantly Bridges displayed the attributes that made him a college All-American. Explosive athleticism, relentless motor, tenacious rebounding, and tremendous leaping ability. Bridges SKIES for rebounds. The pre-draft knock on Bridges was that he is undersized and a “tweener.” His first Summer League performance suggests those fears may be overblown. His superior athleticism and energy should make up for any height and length disadvantage.

If I was the Charlotte Hornets coaching staff I would send Bridges to crash the offensive boards every play. In this game he stole a number of rebounds from players in better position simply by out-jumping them and out-hustling them. Miles Bridges will provide a serious advantage on the offensive glass, but only if you let him crash.

Bridges outside shot would not fall in his first Summer League action but he had some nice, aggressive drives to the basket. His explosiveness jumps off the tv screen, he is an elite athlete even among NBA competition and its not close. If Bridges maintains his scrappy attitude and continues to make hustle plays he is going to be a very valuable forward in the NBA. I see him as a young, athletic PJ Tucker, or a stockier version of Jaylen Brown with less ballhandling.  Once his shot starts to fall he will be even more dangerous but his value right now lies in his rebounding and aggressive style of play.

I will leave you with this alley-oop on the break, definitely check out the young Hornets next time they play this summer. Leave a comment with your thoughts. You will be seeing these three guys during the NBA regular season, no doubt.

Comments (2)
  1. Illmatic says:

    Well, now two of these 3 guys are hurt. Guess it was fun while it lasted.

  2. Illmatic says:

    Is the Summer League curse a thing?