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Malik Monk is instant offense, but can he be the point guard the Mavs need?

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The undersized Kentucky guard can shoot, but it’s not yet clear how his skills fit in an NBA offense.

Kentucky v North Carolina Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

ALERT: WE HAVE REACHED DRAFT MONTH!

*LIGHTS FLASHING, ALARM SOUNDING, MAVS MANIAACS DANCING*

With just a few weeks left until the draft, teams are conducting final assessments and interviews and players are running the workout circuit and picking out suits. Over the last few weeks, we’ve taken a look at those prospects expected to go in the top five (just in case), at players the Mavs might consider if they want to take a chance on a player with major upside, and at players they should target if they acquire a second-round pick.

But now, as we close in on the draft, we’re focusing on some of the Mavericks’ more realistic prospects. These are players who could be drafted as high as three, but could just as easily fall to the Mavericks at nine (all it takes is a single Sacramento/Orlando/New York blunder).

First up is Kentucky combo guard Malik Monk.

The basics

In his single season at Kentucky, Monk put up 19.8 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists in 32.1 minutes per game with a PER of 21.7.

Ultimate upside

Ray Allen

Safe comparison

Lou Williams

Strengths

SHOOOOTERRR! Malik Monk is a pure athletic scorer, dangerous across the floor with an ability to get hot like no other prospect in this class. He’s the player college teams were relieved to hold close to his average, with a flamethrower for a right arm that can be lit at any moment, as evidenced by final game in the NCAA Tournament this year. Monk was silent for almost the entire game, then hit two threes in the final 50 seconds to nearly send it to overtime...if it weren’t for UNC role player Luke Maye deciding to go Jimmy Chitwood at the buzzer.

Despite his slight frame and shooting ability, Monk displays impressive athleticism in the open floor. He did not attend the combine, so there are no current (accurate) measurements for Monk, but it’s clear from his highlight-reel dunks that he has a vertical. And unlike most sharp-shooting guards, Monk goes hard to the hoop in transition rather than just looking for his jumper, opening up the floor for himself and others and creating opportunities to get to the free-throw line (where he shoots 82 percent).

Outside of transition, Monk lives away from the basket and off the ball. Active on the perimeter coming off screens, 80 percent of Monk’s points came away from the rim. That might be concerning to some, but when you’re as efficient as Monk (he’s a 45 percent spot-up shooter), it can be deadly. Monk also perfected a quick first step and 1-2 dribble jumper on aggressive closeouts and was nearly as accurate (43 percent).

But the most underrated aspect of his offensive game is his potential in the pick and roll. It’s what has many scouts believing he could eventually see time as a point guard in the NBA. His ball handling needs work, but Monk still proved able to use screens effectively. He has great touch on his lob passes and a floater that’s effective over bigs. Those are tools that guards his size need in the pros.

Weaknesses

Speaking of size...at 6’3” and 195 pounds, with a reported 6’4” wingspan, Monk doesn’t have the typical length and bulk you’d want from your shooting guard. He does have wide shoulders, so it’s possible he could fill out. But more likely, Monk will need to grow into a point guard or be paired with a versatile point who can guard shooters. Whoever drafts him will have to figure out what position makes the most sense for him.

Defensively, Monk spent time guarding the point, and when engaged he can be a strong ball stopper. He will probably never be elite, but he has the quickness and the tools to hold his own if he focuses. Too often at Kentucky he’d become lazy off the ball or take too many gambles defensively. Ultimately, Monk will probably only be a one-position defender.

Monk could use some muscle on the other end of the floor, as well. When an opponent made a point of pushing him off his spot or used length and power to disrupt his rhythm, he had a habit of retreating. Rather than countering their aggression by going strong to the rim, Monk often avoided contact. But with more muscle, his comfort level taking it through traffic will likely grow.

The biggest question is whether he has the tools to be a primary ball handler, creating offense for himself and others from the point guard position, or he’s destined to simply be an undersized off-ball shooter.

Fit with the Mavericks

Outside of His Holiness Dirk Nowitzki and maybe Seth Curry on a good night, there is no one on the Mavericks who can shoot like Monk. And more than anything, the Mavericks need offense.

Still, it’s hard to project where Monk fits in with the Mavericks’ current roster. If he is to be a starter (which isn’t guaranteed with Carlisle at the helm), he either plays point guard or starts at shooting guard, bumping everyone down a position. But that would force either Dirk or Nerlens Noel to come off the bench, and that seems unlikely.

But the Mavericks should be picking for the future, not for this season. And maybe that means guys like Wes Matthews are not part of the team’s long term plan. Malik Monk could be the shooting guard of the future. But Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson would still have to be on the lookout for a pass-first point guard with size and the ability to guard multiple positions. And that’s at the core of the Monk questions: can a team mold him into a point guard? Do you match him up with a ball handler with size? Or is he best suited as a flame throwing sixth man?