As we transition into a new NBA season, it is an opportune time to make pre-season projections. While predicting a team’s overall record or potential breakout players may be challenging, analysing statistics and offseason moves can help.
Perhaps the most challenging category to predict is award winners. Considering that only one player will win a respective award, combined with other variables such as unexpected injuries and roster adjustments, it can be very difficult to hit on who will win.
However, sometimes a player can pick up right where they left off from the previous season, making them an enticing candidate for an award. A player like Malik Monk falls right into this group.
Last season, Monk had an incredible year with the Sacramento Kings. The team finished last season with 48 wins and as the third seed in the Western Conference. While a good chunk of credit goes towards their All-NBA players De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis, Monk’s play off the bench significantly contributed to the Kings’ success last season. It would not surprise me if Monk establishes himself as the premier Sixth Man of the Year in the NBA this upcoming season.
Malik Monk: The Premier Sixth Man in the NBA This Season
Impact off the Bench Last Season
In his first season with the Kings, Monk was one of the best players in the league coming off the bench.
In 77 games played, Monk averaged 13.5 points and 3.9 assists in about 22 minutes per contest. Monk also shot well from the floor, averaging 45/36/89 shooting splits. He recorded 12 20+ point games and posted a career-high 45 points in one of the Kings’ most memorable wins of the season over the Los Angeles Clippers.
Monk’s contributions would carry on through the Kings’ first-round playoff series against the Golden State Warriors. He averaged 19 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game in the seven-game series. Despite the Kings coming up just short of advancing to the second round, Monk showcased his value as a vital scorer off the bench for Sacramento.
While Monk didn’t go on to win Sixth Man of the Year, he finished fifth in the voting, receiving three second-place and 13 third-place votes. Overall, Monk had a remarkable year off the bench for a Kings team that outperformed many people’s expectations.
While Monk has an excellent chance of winning Sixth Man of the Year this upcoming season, some noteworthy competitors could also make a case for winning the award.
First is none other than last season’s winner, Malcolm Brogdon. In 67 games for the Boston Celtics, he averaged 14.9 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 3.7 assists. Brogdon posted the highest scoring average among players who did not start a single game last season. He was the third-leading scorer on the Celtics and a good perimeter defender for Boston. Now, especially with Marcus Smart no longer with the team, there is a chance Brogdon could compete for the award once again if he plays primarily off the bench.
Another potential candidate is last year’s runner-up, Immanuel Quickley. Quickley had a notable season for the New York Knicks. He averaged 14.9 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game in 81 games. What hindered Quickley’s case was that he started in 21 games for the Knicks, and Brogdon strictly came off the bench. If Quickley can play primarily off the bench this season, he also has a good chance of winning the award.
One sneaky candidate for the award could be the Warriors’ standout acquisition this offseason, future hall of famer Chris Paul. Paul has been a starter essentially since he entered the league. However, his role may change to now coming off the bench. If the Warriors are one of the best teams in the West this season, and Paul is a consistent contributor off the bench, he could have a shot at winning the award.
The Last Word
Monk’s chances of winning Sixth Man this year are very high. The Kings will be running it back with mostly the same core as last season, allowing him to flourish with the familiarity of playing alongside his teammates and under head coach Mike Brown. Monk has gotten progressively better since entering the league and is now entering the prime of his career at 25.
Last season, Monk’s per 36-minute stats were 21.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 6.2 assists per game. While he likely won’t reach 36 minutes per game this season, there is a chance he will crack 30, especially after what he showcased last year. If he gets this added playing time within the rotation, Monk could see a significant jump in his numbers, which could help him secure the spot as the top sixth man in the league.
However, the Kings’ success will be a key factor in Monk achieving that recognition. Since Sacramento is a relatively small market, they will have to build on their momentum from last season to continue gaining their respect. Luckily for Kings fans, their team appears ready to establish themselves as a legitimate playoff contender. If Monk could be the offensive force coming off the bench that many project him to be, he will be the premier sixth man in the NBA this upcoming season.