Charlotte Hornets need offense. Malik Monk provides offense. Time to give him a shot

Rick Bonnell
·3 min read

The Charlotte Hornets matched their worst offensive output of the season Wednesday. They might not have their leading scorer Thursday.

Doesn’t that make the game against the Toronto Raptors a great time to explore how Malik Monk could help?

The Hornets scored just 93 points in a home loss to the Dallas Mavericks. It took more than 20 minutes of the first half to reach 30.

Worse yet, small forward Gordon Hayward, averaging 22.5 points this season, suffered a left hip strain in the second half. While Hayward was scheduled to fly with the Hornets to Tampa, where the Raptors play their home games this season, it’s quetionable that he’ll be at full strength in this game.

(UPDATE: Hornets listed Hayward Thursday morning as probable to play.)

Meanwhile, shooting guard Monk sits. That is how it’s been since a positive test for COVID-19 caused him to miss 10 days of the preseason. He played 10 minutes late in a Jan. 4 loss at Philadelphia and one minute of garbage time Wednesday. Other than that, Monk hasn’t had cause to take off his warm-ups.

Same offensive issues

In a 6-6 start, the Hornets have been surprisingly good defensively and predictably shaky offensively.

Entering the Mavs game, they were eighth in the NBA in defensive efficiency (allowing 1.046 points per possession), but just 20th offensively (scoring 1.055 points per possession).

Coach James Borrego values defense first, as demonstrated by his using Cody and Caleb Martin ahead of lottery pick Monk this season. The Hornets have been sound defensively both in man-to-man and a 2-3 zone.

The offense has been mediocre, particularly so for the starting five, which averages less than a point per possession.

All that math amounts to this: Bad offense at the start of games leads to constant deficits early. Wednesday, the Hornets trailed 32-16 by the end of the first quarter and never led. The Mavericks had the size to clog up the lane, which made the Hornets excessively dependent on 3-pointers.

“We shot a lot of outside shots (10-of-38 from 3). We were five-out (no players in the post) instead of putting pressure on the rim,” said Charlotte guard Terry Rozier. “We didn’t have any guy really attacking the paint.”

Monk knows how to attack; he sure did in 13 games last February, when he shot 47% and was the Hornets’ best player.

On the outs

I don’t know what to make of Monk being so far out of the rotation. Borrego has said he’s not unhappy with Monk, that Monk just has to wait his turn.

I spoke one-on-one with Monk at the end of December. He said then he hasn’t gotten much feedback from the coaches as to why he’s not playing.

“Super, super, super freaking frustrating (with) the waiting,” Monk said.

This is a big season for Monk, the final one of his rookie-scale contract. In that run last February, he looked so efficient: Scoring, but also making smart plays for teammates. Then, a suspension under the anti-drug policy ended his season, but Monk had a strong summer before training camp.

His ability to create offense is obvious. The Hornets’ need for better offense is also obvious.

That makes it obvious — particularly if Hayward misses games — that this is prime time to test how Monk can help.