For all of Rob Pelinka’s misfires on veteran minimum contracts this summer, the Lakers GM hit on one: Malik Monk.
Monk has been the Lakers’ third- or fourth-best player this season, averaging 12.9 points a game, shooting 39.5% from 3, finding a comfort level playing off LeBron James, and being healthy for 65 of the team’s 71 games. He’s been a key part of the Lakers closing lineups for much of the season. Monk is having the best season of his career in Los Angeles.
Monk has played so well it will be difficult for the Lakers to retain the free agent. However, the team wants to keep him and, more importantly, Monk wants to stay, the fifth-year wing out of Kentucky told Dave McMenamin of ESPN.
“The partnership has been a win from both sides,” Pelinka says. “Both for the Lakers, in terms of the productivity he’s had for us and then I think on his side, just showing people what he can do in big moments in big games. … He’s a guy that we would see as hopefully a part of our future.”
“We’re very loyal people,” Marcus [Morris, Malik’s brother and advisor] says. “The Lakers were calling him nonstop once free agency opened. So we don’t forget about that. On the other side, it is a business. … But I would love to see him in a Laker uniform.”
Monk would too. “It’s a beautiful experience, man,” he says. “I love it.”
As Marcus said, this is a business, and that’s where things get tricky for the Lakers.
Monk is a free agent this summer after playing on a $1.8 million veteran minimum contract this season. Because it is his first season with the Lakers (there are no Bird rights in play yet), the most the Lakers can offer him next season is 120% of that, or a little under $2.2 million. Monk has outplayed that number and will get larger offers from other teams in free agency.
The Lakers can offer Monk their $6.3 million taxpayer mid-level exception to return. A series of questions come with that idea: Will the Lakers offer it (it limits bringing in another free agent)? Will other teams offer more, such as the standard mid-level exception ($10.3 million)? Is Monk willing to take a discount to stay in Los Angeles? If Monk comes back for one season, after that the Lakers will have his early Bird rights and can then offer up to 105% of the standard mid-level to keep him (likely around $11 million), but that would have Monk betting on something happening a season from now, and in the NBA things can change a lot in a year.
Monk has played well in Los Angeles and shown what he can do in a way he never did (or was given the role to) in Charlotte. There is a strong relationship between Monk and the Lakers now, but whether that will be enough remains to be seen come July.