Charlotte Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak publicly reminded Malik Monk on Monday that the status of being a former NBA lottery pick is fleeting.
“At some point, you’re no longer a young prospect/developing player. You have to get on the court,” Kupchak said of Monk, a shooting guard. “He’s entering the third year of a four-year (rookie) contract, and I’m sure he feels there is some urgency here.”
The Hornets drafted Monk 11th overall in 2017 out of Kentucky, hoping he’d be a big-impact scorer-shooter. He never started in his first two NBA seasons, and has averaged 7.9 points and 38 percent shooting from the field. Monk is currently in the Hornets’ second unit, playing behind Dwayne Bacon, a second-round pick in the 2017 draft.
This is clearly a show-it season for Monk. He displayed his potential in the Hornets’ last preseason game against the Detroit Pistons, with 18 points and seven assists. Monk would be a restricted free agent in the summer of 2021, and he’s a long way from having shown the Hornets or the rest of the NBA he’s worth a big second contract.
Kupchak said the encouraging aspect of that performance against the Pistons was how aware he was of feeding teammates.
“It’s not just scoring with him,” Kupchak said. “I know he can do that, but he was a really good playmaker in that last game.
“I don’t sense that that’s (what he’s) going to do every game — that’s still a work-in-progress. But that was a great building block for him.”
Kupchak addressed a range of topics with media Monday:
About $45 million in guaranteed salary comes off the Hornets’ payroll after this season when contracts for veterans Bismack Biyombo, Marvin Williams and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist expire. That would create significant cap space for the first time in several seasons.
However, Kupchak reinforced a point he made to the Observer in September — that the Hornets won’t be far enough along in a post-Kemba Walker rebuild to be a major player in free agency next summer.
“ I just don’t think right now that’s the way we will build this team,” Kupchak said. “I think we have to concentrate on the draft and making the savvy trade when we can.”
On Rookie PJ Washington
“He’s done some things that I didn’t see (from scouting him) in college; particularly shooting the 3-ball,” Kupchak said of Washington, who shot 50 percent from NBA 3-point range. “I know he increased his range in college, and became a good mid-range shooter, something that is not really valuable (in the NBA). He’s worked on his game, and not only become a big man who can be productive now in the paint, but also make 3s. So far, so good.”
In a series of transactions over the weekend, the Hornets signed rookies Caleb Martin and Jalen McDaniels to multi-year contracts and now have Kobi Simmons and Robert Franks on two-way contracts.
“Player development is one of the things we felt we really needed to concentrate on,” Kupchak said.
“I’m not sure I anticipate any of those guys spending much time up here with the Hornets (this season). I wouldn’t be surprised if all four of those guys were (with the G-League Greensboro Swarm) and playing a lot of minutes down there.”
Since the Hornets likely won’t win many games this season, Kupchak was asked how he’d measure progress beyond the record:
“Win or lose, I want our players to play with energy. I want our coaches to coach with energy. And as the season goes on, I want to see improvement.”
Balancing youth with vets
The Hornets plan to devote more playing time to young guys this season, but that isn’t a freeze-out of the veterans.
“We have older players, veteran players, who we’re hoping for leadership from. They can’t be overlooked,” Kupchak said. “They need attention, they need improvement.”
Walker was an All-NBA guard and a three-time All-Star as a Hornet. He’s now with the Boston Celtics. How Kupchak described the difference from last season:
“We don’t have anybody on this team who is going to automatically get minutes.”