The day was December 16th of 2016. Kentucky was set to face off against North Carolina in the CBS Sports Classic. Two top teams in college basketball this season would get an early look at one another. But it wasn’t so much the match-up that people were talking about after the game, it was freshman star Malik Monk.
Monk finished the game with 47 points on 18 of 28 shooting. Monk got hot from deep and buried eight threes throughout the course of the game, sinking the game-winning three with 16 seconds left in the second half.
Now, this article is not about that game. It is about what Monk can do in the big leagues with the Philadelphia 76ers- who are clearly in need of help at the guard position. That game against UNC was a preview of how his game translates perfectly to the NBA.
The way the 76ers roster is set up now, it shows a surplus of big men and no guard play. They’re enjoying the evolution of big man Joel Embiid and his ability to protect the rim as well as pour in buckets in bunches. Ben Simmons, who oozes talent and potential with his speed and size, gives him the ability to run in transition and find his teammates. Jahlil Okafor, who has shown glimpses of stardom along his very underrated low post game, is yet another big man who can be a reliable scorer. Rounding out this list of big men is shot blocking specialist Nerlens Noel, who protects the paint at an elite level along Embiid.
With rumors swirling around the NBA atmosphere of the 76ers possibly moving on from one of their big men (most likely Noel or Okafor) to gain veteran experience or even a lottery pick, expect them to start building up their backcourt. With the guards currently on their roster, none of which seem to be a long term solution or even have that ability to take over a game.
Guards such as Sergio Rodriguez, T.J McConnell, Nik Stauskas, and veteran Gerald Henderson all seem to be bridge guards for a team rebuilding. Stauskas can contribute to the long-term solution for this team in transition based off of his pure shooting ability. McConnell offers good depth in a backup role behind the potential Monk, with his ability to get under the skin of guards he faces and maintain solid production while Monk gets a breather. Rodriguez and Henderson will have little to offer this 76ers roster once Monk and company start their 2017-2018 campaign.
Throwing Monk into the mix, you get a player that can push the ball on offense, get up and down the court like many of the elite NBA guards today like Russell Westbrook and another John Calipari product, John Wall. Monk can hit from deep and catch-and-shoot coming off of screens as he has shown during his short time at Kentucky. Monk is shooting 41% from beyond the arc and is hitting on 50% of the shots from the field, not to mention his astounding 21.9 points per game.
Monk can pull up off the dribble and drill his shots, as well as create his own offense, which will be big when the ball sticks and the offense becomes stagnant. Monk would have to share the ball along the aforementioned big men Embiid, Okafor, Simmons, and Noel who will all want the ball, as they should, given that they can produce and contribute heavily to a winning effort. However, of all the things that Monk can do, none is more important than his best attribute — his ability to be clutch and close out games.
Although the 76ers have a couple of big-time players and potential All-Stars, they do not have a guard who can consistently put them over the top and win them close games in the fourth quarter or overtime — with Monk, they will get that. When Monk hit his game-winner against North Carolina, we all got a small glimpse of how clutch this kid can be and how he is not afraid to take any shot he feels he can make. Embiid offers a great option for the 76ers with his shot making ability throughout the course of the game, however, come crunch time if this team needs a big bucket, expect to see Monk with the ball in his hands.