The case for Malik Monk as the Sixers' first-round pick

The case for Malik Monk as the Sixers' first-round pick

Over the weeks leading up to the 2017 NBA draft, we'll be making cases for the Sixers to draft several prospects. Our series will kick off with options at No. 3 (or trade downs) followed by second-round possibilities. The 2017 NBA draft will take place on June 22 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

Malik Monk
Position:
SG
School: Kentucky
Height: 6-3
Weight: 197
Wingspan: 6-3½ 

The latest in a long line of Kentucky guards to make a one-year stop in Lexington, Malik Monk has one of the most impressive résumés out of John Calipari’s program in recent memory. John Wall, Devin Booker, and Jamal Murray all spent one year hooping for Big Blue Nation, but none of them managed as many points as Monk, whose 754 were good enough for the program’s freshman record. He connected on 104 three-pointers, just under 40 percent on the year from deep, and averaged 19.3 points per game. It’s simple what Monk brings to the table — he’s a pure shooter and can score in bunches.

As usual, Kentucky had a roster stuffed with NBA prospects (cough, De’Aaron Fox, cough), but the Wildcats had a hard time losing when Monk was the one locked in. His percentage beyond the arc sat at 41.3 in UK wins, but just 32.7 in losses. Often, 32 times in fact, Monk powered the Wildcats to a win, and if it weren’t for drawing eventual national champion North Carolina in the Elite Eight, he might have led the way to earning the trophy at the Final Four in Phoenix.

While it is the crux of his game, the jump shot isn’t all Monk brings to the table. His hops are explosive for someone of his height, something he exhibited on plenty of dunks last season. That same athleticism aids him on the other side of the ball, where, with some growth, Monk projects to be a fine defender.

The case for Monk
The Sixers believe they have some young pieces in place for a title-contending roster. Joel Embiid can dominate inside. Ben Simmons, playing the point or not, should be a high-caliber starter. Dario Saric is a valuable asset with his size and stroke. But Nik Stauskas is not the long term answer at shooting guard. Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot had some nice moments at the end of his rookie season, although he hasn’t sold anyone yet that he's a clear-cut starter. Free-agent additions, whether that’s Kyle Lowry, J.J. Redick or someone else, will help, but the need for a knock-down, assassin-type shooter is apparent. Monk could fill that void.

Monk hit at least three threes in a game 18 games during his lone college season. And while the range is key for any effective shooting guard at the next level, it doesn’t do much good if the shooter can’t get himself open. According to DraftExpress’ scouting report on Monk, half of his attempts came off the dribble. His ability to create his own shot and use his athleticism to elevate for good looks is where he really makes himself a “scoring machine” — as Dickie V labels him in the clip below:

Things didn’t change when it mattered most, either. Monk would join a Sixers team that could use a go-to guard for end-of-game situations, and his 47-point effort against UNC at a neutral site in December deems him qualified. He went 18 for 28 from the field and 8 of 12 from deep, including a go-ahead three from the wing in the final seconds. There was also the time when he drained a triple while falling out of bounds to send the game to OT and save Kentucky from losing at home to an inferior Georgia team:

Monk’s offensive skills don’t stop with his jumper. His ball-handling skills need polishing, especially against the enhanced defenders he’ll see in the league, but he’s athletic enough that he’ll be able to create chances around the rim. Kind of like this:

The case against Monk
He is slightly undersized. At 6-foot-3 and just under 200 pounds, he’ll be going against bigger defenders. Plus, size only helps at the other end of the court. Despite Monk’s explosiveness, the Sixers could elect to go with someone like Josh Jackson, whose size and athleticism are guaranteed and whose shooting ability will hopefully come with time. You can teach shooting. You can’t teach size.

Additionally, Monk will need to expand his game. A killer jumper is nice, but it’s obviously easier to defend if there’s no other option. With the small sample size of just one college season, the risk is that Monk won’t become the complete player the Sixers need. And with such a stacked draft class, other prospects might have more of a well-rounded package of skills to offer.

Analysis
A lot of things will happen before the Sixers are on the clock with the No. 3 pick. Monk and the rest of his peers will work out for plenty of teams. Front offices will begin to form a more concrete opinion of which direction they want to go in. The Celtics and Lakers will make their selections. Heck, a trade could even lead the entire process down a path no one saw coming. 

But there are some constants, one being that the Sixers need better shooting. If they decide that is the need they want to fill with their first-round pick, Monk is the man they should want. If that means taking him with the third overall selection, then do it. If they are confident he will slide to them a few spots back, then, by all means, take the additional benefits of that trade and move back.

This is a shooter’s league. Guys like Steph Curry and James Harden can win games solely because of their seemingly unending range. That’s not to say Monk is the next Curry, but he can contribute to an area where the Sixers’ roster currently lacks. Hindsight will always be 20/20 when looking at this draft class down the line, but the choice is clear now if the Sixers' vision includes adding a shooter.

Draft Malik Monk.

Josh Hart drafted in 1st round, goes to Lakers; undrafted Kris Jenkins reportedly joins Wizards

Josh Hart drafted in 1st round, goes to Lakers; undrafted Kris Jenkins reportedly joins Wizards

Josh Hart heard his name called, while Villanova teammate Kris Jenkins did not.

Hart snuck into the first round of Thursday night's NBA draft, going 30th overall to the Utah Jazz. However, the Wildcat is headed to the Los Angeles Lakers, via a trade.

While Jenkins went undrafted, it looks like he'll have a shot with an NBA team. Jenkins will join the Washington Wizards this offseason to compete for a roster spot, according to a report by NBA.com's David Aldridge.

After winning the national title as a junior with Villanova, Hart collected plenty of accolades in a standout senior season. The 6-foot-5 wing was named a consensus first-team All-American, Big East Player of the Year and took home the Julius Erving award as the top small forward in the country.

For the 32-4 Wildcats, Hart, a Silver Spring, Maryland native, averaged 18.7 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.5 steals per game, while shooting 40.4 percent from three-point range.

"I'm my biggest critic," he said last week after a pre-draft workout for the Sixers. "I drive myself as much as I can. I demand perfection from myself."

As Hart travels west, Jenkins, on the other hand, will head home for his NBA opportunity. The 6-foot-6 forward, beloved for his buzzer-beating three-pointer to win Villanova its 2016 national championship, is from Upper Marlboro, Maryland. He worked out for the Wizards in early June. He also worked out for the Sixers on Tuesday.

"It's a blessing," he said after his session with the Wizards, via the Washington Post. "You always root for the hometown team, you always want them to do well. Honestly it's humbling to be in this position, to grow up in this area, to have some games here and play college ball here and then come back and work out for the Wizards."

After flirting with the NBA draft process following their title-winning season, both Hart and Jenkins decided to return to school for their senior campaigns.

They both took to Twitter on Thursday night following the draft — Hart in excitement, Jenkins more in a humorous manner.

Sixers 'dug very deep' into Markelle Fultz's perceived weaknesses

Sixers 'dug very deep' into Markelle Fultz's perceived weaknesses

CAMDEN, N.J. — You don't have to do much research on Markelle Fultz to find his perceived shortcomings.

Washington finished 9-22 his only season there. Draft experts also questioned his effort, especially on the defensive end of the floor.

None of that concerned the Sixers when they made him the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft Thursday night (see story).

"One of the weaknesses was, 'Does he bring it every night defensively? Did he have that killer instinct?'" Sixers head coach Brett Brown said following the pick. "I think if you take a high character person and you take an athlete, you have the foundation to coach him to be an elite defender."

There isn't much question about Fultz's offensive game. The 19-year-old guard averaged 23.2 points, 5.9 assists and 5.7 rebounds per game in his only season with the Huskies. He also shot an impressive 41.3 percent from three-point range.

His skill set as a shooter and scorer seems to complement the skills of franchise centerpieces Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. With his selection, president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo is hoping the Sixers can start to build a winning culture.

But does Fultz's nine-win season at Washington concern him at all?

"You look at every aspect of evaluating a prospect," Colangelo said. "We've dug very deep on this and we feel that regardless of whatever the performance of the University of Washington Huskies was last year, it's not relevant to who Markelle represents, what he represents as a player, and how he is going to fit in and help us turn this program around."

Fultz took an interesting path to being the No. 1 pick. He didn't make the varsity team at famed DeMatha High School in Maryland as a sophomore (see story). A growth spurt helped bring more attention to his game.

He chose Washington because of the relationship he had developed with its coaching staff. He also thought he'd have the opportunity to play with sophomores Marquese Chriss and Dejounte Murray. Instead, both players were surprise one-and-dones and Fultz was forced to carry the team on his shoulders.

"He wasn't always considered the best prospect, but he emerged and earned the right to be the best prospect," Colangelo said. "You're talking about a young man who goes to the University of Washington, didn't have great team success. Unfortunately, part of that may be personnel driven, part of that may be circumstantial.

"To do what he did at the level of the Pac-12 and to be able to average 23 points a game, six rebounds and six assists. You're talking, again, about great performance on the floor, a player that does so many different things and we believe someone that's going to help make his teammates better. "

Colangelo mentioned that Fultz "has the tools" to become an excellent defender. Fultz stands at 6-foot-4 with an impressive 6-foot-10 span. He also has plenty of athleticism and strength to compete defensively against NBA ones and twos.

Brown acknowledged that defense could be the biggest hole in Fultz's game, but feels like he could get the most out of Fultz on the defensive end.

"I think that down deep he understands the knock against him and I believe that when we get him with our program, he understands how we see the world here," Brown said. "It's gonna be an evolution, no doubt. But it's a willing defensive player and it's a willing athlete, a gifted athlete under a roof of a quality person. I think having those types of qualities lets you have a far better chance to mold him into the type of defensive player we need here."