Malik Monk looking comfortable and effective made Wednesday a good night for the Charlotte Hornets.
In the Hornets’ final preseason game, a 116-110 home loss to the Detroit Pistons, shooting guard Monk had the kind of first half you’d expect of a former lottery pick.
Monk (18 points, seven assists) missed games and practices for the second straight preseason due to injury. He took full advantage Wednesday of a wide-open rotation, with Terry Rozier, Nic Batum and Marvin Williams all sitting out this game with injury or illness.
Rookie PJ Washington continued his strong preseason with 12 points, five rebounds and four assists. Washington, who looks like a regular-season starter, scored 10 or more points in each of the Hornets’ five preseason games.
Monk hasn’t played a lot this preseason, due to a toe injury, and this was his last chance to show out in the preseason. His first half wasn’t just impressive, it was efficient. He had 11 points and seven assists, constantly driving and finding big men for layups.
Monk isn’t a point guard at the NBA level, but there is no reason he can’t be a ball-mover in the mold of what he did Wednesday, because he automatically draws attention from defenses with the ball. On Wednesday, his judgment was strong; not known for great shot selection his first two seasons with the Hornets, he took seven attempts from the field (making four) in the first half, and they were all shots coach James Borrego would want him launching.
With top scorers from last season Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lamb gone, there is abundant opportunity for Monk to grasp.
It looks inevitable the Hornets are going to break a string of low-turnover seasons. They had 18 Wednesday and totaled 108 in five games. There are underlying reasons: A new roster with a new starting point guard (Rozier, who didn’t play Wednesday with mild left-knee tendinitis) and a lot of young players in the rotation. Also, the Hornets are pushing up pace this season, which can’t help but contribute to turnovers.
Making his case
With Rozier out, Devonte Graham started at point guard. Graham seems so comfortable this preseason, compared with his rookie season. He is clearly more confident taking 3-pointers from NBA distance, but it’s more than that: He now knows he’s an NBA player, and that’s no given when a second-round pick first enters the league.
The tutelage Graham got from Walker and Tony Parker last season really shows now in how he takes charge and isn’t surprised by what defenses throw at him.
Beyond the numbers
The minutes distribution behind Cody Zeller at center will be interesting. It figures to vary throughout the season, with Williams, Washington, Willy Hernangomez and Bismack Biyombo all options.
Biyombo doesn’t fit the youth movement, but if Borrego follows through on better defense as an imperative, you’d think Biyombo would play some. As early as draft night, the Hornets said the 6-7 Washington could play some small-ball center, but it’s a lot to ask of a rookie to keep switching positions.