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Why the Knicks should look into acquiring Malik Monk

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The New York Knicks had an opportunity to take Charlotte Hornets third-year shooting guard Malik Monk in the 2017 NBA Draft. They looked closely at the Kentucky Wildcat during the pre-draft process (only to take a Wildcat the next year in Kevin Knox) and instead, controversially to this day, selected raw French guard Frank Ntilikina, then 18, with the eighth overall pick.

At the time, Phil Jackson was the president of basketball operations and had desperately attempted to institute the triangle offense for the Knicks, with the teenaged Ntilikina regarded as the “perfect” model for a triangle point guard. Monk, a streaky shooter with range, was not prioritized by New York, and to this day the Knicks have severely undervalued shooting compared to their peer franchises.

Just because they didn’t select Monk, turning 22 years old in the first week in February and averaging 8.7 points a game for the Hornets, doesn’t mean the Knicks can’t rectify their poor decision to prioritize “triangle” qualities in their draft prospect. By no means is that a slight on Ntilikina, who is turning into one of the better perimeter defenders in the league, but as we have seen in their return for one-time All-Star forward Kristaps Porzingis from the Dallas Mavericks, it’s never too late to re-engage with a passed-over prospect. The Knicks have Dennis Smith Jr., selected immediately after Ntilikina and two spots ahead of Monk in the 2017 draft, on the team. Smith has struggled mightily in his third season and first one he started at the beginning of the campaign in the Big Apple. It’s likely Smith is not on the team in the near future, possibly departing by the NBA’s trade deadline next month.

It’s unclear whether Charlotte would be interested in a one-for-one swap of the 2017 draft guards, but a deal involving both Malik Monk and Dennis Smith Jr. makes sense on paper. The larger thought experiment, however, involves getting Monk on the Knicks—a team that spent the offseason signing seven veterans, many of whom had conflicting and overlapping strengths and weaknesses on the hardwood. New York also signed Wayne Ellington and Reggie Bullock in the summer, two venerable shooters, but the former has somehow lost his mojo and the latter was not healthy to play until the New Year. Monk could augment the Knicks’ desperate need for more shooting and declaration by the front office that the franchise intended to rebuild and go young. His shooting splits are nothing to brag about, but it would signal to the world that the Knicks want to invest in a projected floor-spacer and good outside shot-maker.

While the team appears to be eschewing the “sellers” label, for some reason only a higher power knows why, the Knicks are indeed seeking an infusion of talent to be in New York past this season. That could mean trading for another player on the same trajectory and similar rookie contract timeline as Frank Ntilikina (and sophomore forward Kevin Knox and promising center Mitchell Robinson) in order to build chemistry and inject shooting prowess in the team past the 2019-20 season.