While a lot of former Wildcats like Shai-Gilgeous Alexander and De’Aaron Fox are thriving in the NBA, there is another tier of Kentucky player that is pining for a larger role during games.
Both Malik Monk and Hamidou Diallo are restricted free agents at the end of the 2021 NBA season, looking for another contract and opportunity to play in the NBA.
Monk, who is having an emerging season with the Charlotte Hornets, is a prolific scorer coming off the bench for them, will the organization bring him back?
Over his previous three seasons, Monk has not lived up to the draft expectations he had coming into the NBA in 2017 with De’Aaron Fox. Monk’s best season came last year when he averaged 10 points in 20 minutes a game before being suspended for violating the NBA’s substance abuse policy.
However, since February started, Monk has upped his average to almost 15 points per game, while still coming off the bench, including a career-high 36 points. He attributed this increase and the team’s success to the group enjoying the game.
Malik Monk on how much fun the team is having:
"It's amazing. It starts with Melo…He just brightens up the day. He's always saying something crazy, always saying something funny. That just brings joy to everybody. He always has us laughing. It's always good to play happy."
— At The Hive (@At_The_Hive) February 9, 2021
The Hornets hold a qualifying offer for Monk for the 2021-22 NBA season, as well as his Bird rights, to re-sign him and go over the salary cap since he was a former first-round pick.
If Monk continues to trend in the positive direction and manages to not get suspended again, he could develop into a prolific bench scorer and extend his NBA career, similar to the mold of three-time NBA Sixth Man of the Year winner, Lou Williams.
Monk has been the Kentucky afterthought from the 2017 NBA draft, which saw both his teammates De’Aaron Fox and Bam Adebayo sign max contract extensions before the season started. Only time will tell if it’s Malik’s turn next.