Every year, the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award is given to the player who had the biggest impact for his team off the bench. It recognizes players who don’t get to start but bring their A Game night after night and provide energy and scoring off the bench when most of the starters are taking a breather.
For the Sacramento Kings, that guy is Malik Monk. Ever since they signed him last summer, Monk has been their energizer off the bench and often the one who carried the scoring load when needed. In the playoffs, he was one of their most important players, playing between 25 and 32 minutes every game and scoring in double-figures six out of seven times.
It was not quite enough to land him the Sixth Man of the Year award last season. Monk finished fifth in voting behind Malcolm Brogdon, Immanuel Quickley, Bobby Portis, and Norman Powell.
This year, the list of early candidates looks very similar with the addition of Tim Hardaway Jr. and Chris Paul, who is coming off the bench for the first time in his career.
As of now, Hardaway Jr. is leading all candidates in scoring with 20.3 points off the Mavericks’ bench during their 4-0 start to the season. Next in line is Malcolm Brogdon, but he is playing for the Trail Blazers now and is the only candidate not on a projected playoff team. That could hurt his case for winning the award again.
Malik Monk is making an early case for Sixth Man of the Year
Just four games into the season, Monk is already making a case for himself. While he is not playing quite as many minutes as most of the other candidates, he is right there with most of them when it comes to production.
So far, he is averaging 14 points, shooting 42.9 percent from the field 40 percent from three, 2 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 1.3 blocks. It was clear right from the start that Monk was a great fit for the Kings’ fast-paced system, and he recorded career highs in assists per game, free throw attempts, and free throw percentage.
Now, with a whole year in a Kings’ uniform under his belt, he could be even better. Even though it is still early in the season, he has already shown growth as a playmaker. His 4.5 assists per game would easily be a new career high if he can keep it up.
Over the first four games so far, we have not seen Monk explode for 30 points yet, but he has already shown his worth to the Kings’ and their mission to make the playoffs. Earlier this week, he put together a big performance in a tough overtime win against the Lakers.
De’Aaron Fox injured his ankle, and Domantas Sabonis had fouled out late in the fourth quarter, so Monk took matters into his own hands. He scored 11 of his 22 points in overtime, almost outscoring the Lakers by himself, and hit Kevin Huerter for a three to seal the deal. He did exactly what a Sixth Man of the Year should do in that situation.
As the season continues, we will probably see many more performances like this from Monk, as he is playing for a new contract as well as the Sixth Man of the Year trophy. Late in October, Mike Brown was asked about Monk’s chances for the award on the HoopsHype Podcast and voiced his optimism.
“He has a chance. Malik Monk is one of the most talented guys I’ve been around. He is not 6-foot-7, but if he was, he’d be All-NBA…His talent level is there. Now, he’s got to be locked in 24/7, 365 days a year, when it comes to hoops. If he is, and he doesn’t take anything for granted, he’s in great shape and locked in by playing every possession, the sky’s the limit for him,” he said about his backup shooting guard.
The competition is tough. If the Warriors put together a much better season than last year, Paul is probably the run-away favorite for the award. Monk is firmly in the mix, however, and if he can be a big part of the Kings’ continued development, he might as well be a finalist this time around.