The case for and against the Orlando Magic signing Malik Monk

The Orlando Magic need shooting. One of the best shooters on the market is Sacramento Kings guard Malik Monk. Is this pursuit truly a slam dunk for the Magic?
Malik Monk is known for his shooting and is certainly a target for the Orlando Magic in free agency because of it.
Malik Monk is known for his shooting and is certainly a target for the Orlando Magic in free agency because of it. / Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

Ask anybody about the Orlando Magic's biggest need and they would inevitably say shooting. Even president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman publicly acknowledged it.

The team has been a poor shooting team for more than a decade now—the Magic have not been outside the bottom 10 in offensive rating since Dwight Howard's departure in 2012. The team finished 24th in 3-point field goal percentage and 29th in attempts per game.

Three-point shooting was especially a struggle in the Playoff series with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Orlando made only 30.9 percent of its shots in the seven-game series. As expected, the Cavs were happy to let the Magic fire from deep.

Everyone recognizes how important shooting is and will be to the Magic's development. It is the biggest single need the Magic have, whether they continue to develop internally or look outwardly for it.

It feels like every free agent the Magic are rumored to be chasing has to have this requirement.

The big names like Klay Thompson and Paul George certainly fit that bill. That should also include a target like Malik Monk from the Sacramento Kings.

He does not have the veteran cache of Thompson or George, but he is every bit a pure shooter as they are. He fits the Magic's timeline a whole lot better. And he could even bring some of the secondary skill sets the Magic are looking for.

Monk revived his career in his last two years with the Sacramento Kings, averaging a career-best 15.4 points per game and 5.1 assists per game. He shot 35.0 percent from deep on 5.9 attempts per game.

Monk had two games of 30 or more points (including 37 in the double-overtime win over the Orlando Magic in January) and 25 games of 20 or more points all coming off the bench. Monk proved to be a big part of the Kings' revival.

Sacramento will certainly try to re-sign Monk. But the Kings are limited to signing him to a starting salary of no more than roughly $17.4 million because of salary cap restrictions. That is a number the Magic could easily eclipse with their cap room.

It is also widely believed Monk is looking for a starting role after coming off the bench the last two seasons with the Kings (he finished second in Sixth Man of the Year voting this year).

The question then is whether Monk is the right player for the Magic to chase. His improved playmaking, size and shooting certainly check off boxes for Orlando. It is easy to see a natural fit—and Kings fans have been concerned about the Magic plopping down a big offer for him for a while.

The fit seems natural. But there are some concerns that are likely to give the Magic some pause.

The case for signing Malik Monk

Shooting is the Orlando Magic's biggest need and Malik Monk might be the best shooter available on the market. His ability to put together spurty games where he makes a bunch of 3-pointers is also extremely valuable. The Magic know what it feels like to be on the wrong side of that firsthand.

Monk shot 41.8 percent on catch-and-shoot 3-pointers according to data from Basketball Index. He made 51.4 percent of his corner threes last year.

He was not just a catch-and-shoot threat though, he can hit off the dribble and create his own 3-point looks. Monk made 31.8 percent of his pull-up 3-pointers.

Monk is a gravity-bending player the moment he steps on the floor for the Magic. Teams worry about his 3-point shooting at all times, but also know they cannot close out too hard on him.

That is something Orlando does not have, even if they have some decent shooters at least percentage-wise.

That is the ultimate appeal for a player like Monk. He is just a shot-maker.

But Monk does a whole lot more than that.

He has grown in the last few years as a secondary playmaker, averaging 3.9 and 5.1 assists per game in his two seasons with the Kings. He is a driver who looks to pass, turning his gravity and pull-up ability into something that sucks in defenses and allows him to kick out.

He averaged 17.4 drives per 75 possessions last year, according to data from Basketball Index. He was not especially strong at getting to the basket, but he had assists on 18.6 percent of his drives, placing him in the 96th percentile.

Monk overall averaged 12.8 drives per game (second behind only De'Aaron Fox on the team), according to Second Spectrum. He scored only 5.1 points per game off those drives but had 2.1 assists per game, passing off those drives a little more than 50 percent.

Monk is an intriguing playmaker in that sense and someone who can create creases for others as he attacks the basket. The Magic need someone else who can get downhill and hopefully get teammates easier shots.

That was something he did well for the Kings last year. The Kings score 17.79 points per 75 possessions off Monk assists. Monk is considered a good passer for his role too.

He averaged 6.1 high-value assists per 75 possessions -- assists leading to rim points, 3-pointers and free throws. That put him in the 93rd potential.

In other words, offensively Monk gives the Magic everything they are looking for. They need a secondary creator who can get downhill with the ball and space the floor.

Ultimately Monk's numbers look good on a per-possession basis. Whether the Magic ultimately invest in Monk and buy into him will come down to whether they believe this playmaking aspect is something that can translate to the Magic and the slower pace they tend to play.

The case against signing Malik Monk

The Orlando Magic have also made it very clear that the types of players they prefer to chase are players with size and length. Those are things that no one can teach. And the Magic have put a premium on players with two-way abilities and size.

Monk is listed at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds. He has plenty of size to play point guard. But paired with Jalen Suggs would leave the Magic a little small in the backcourt even with Suggs' prodigious defensive abilities.

Monk checks a lot of boxes offensively, but his defense is still a work in progress. He still leaves a lot to be desired on that end.

He is low on steals (0.9 steals per 75 possessions), low on deflections (1.62 deflections per 75 possessions) and just not an active defender by any metric.

Further, according to tracking data from, opponents shot 46.1 percent from the floor with Monk as the primary defender, only 0.3 percentage points better than expected. Monk was good at least on the interior opponents shot 2.9 percentage points worse than expected (57.3 percent) on field goals less than 10 feet.

That could suggest he would fit in as a help defender in a more aggressive and set-up defensive culture. But that is the question, Monk has never been asked to defend at a high level or for a team built on its defense.

The Kings were a poor defensive team the last two years—they improved to 14th in the league last year with a 114.4 defensive rating. But Sacramento had a 115.0 defensive rating with Monk on the floor—the team's starters all top the list for worst on-court defensive rating.

How much of Monk's defensive struggles are really about him and how much are about the Kings? Can the Magic create a defense that covers for his miscues? How much of this defensive identity are the Magic going to sacrifice to add a key offensive player?

These are a lot of the questions that signing Monk would ask. And that is the ultimately question the Magic are going to be asking as they plan to pursue Monk.

On top of all this, Monk missed the last nine games of the season and the two Play-In Tournament games with a sprained MCL. He has played in at least 70 games in each of the last three seasons. Injuries have not been a concern fro him, but the Magic would need an update on his injury progress before July 1.

The bigger question with Malik Monk is the cost

The next question will be about price.

While the Kings are limited in what they can offer Malik Monk while using their Early Bird Rights, the Magic are not about to overspend on a player either. They would almost certainly have to pay more than $20 million per year to get Monk away from the Kings.

Jeff Weltman has long favored front-loaded deals and he coudl certainly offer a big salary up front to give the team some more cap cushion moving forward after they pay their players coming off rookie contracts.

Orlando will have to ask itself whether Malik Monk is ultimately worth more than Jalen Suggs as they price Suggs' extension. The Magic's free-agent decisions will likely play off of the extension talks with the Magic's two extension-eligible rookie contracts this offseason too.

Monk undoubteldy is a target for the Magic. He is someone that the Magic should have on their radar for his offensive, shooting and playmaking prowess. He checks a lot of boxes for this team.

But he does not check every box. And the Magic will have to weight whether he fits the team's defensive identity and whether he would buy into that without taking too much away from it.