Kings Central

How Monk has improved as playmaker, defender with Kings this season

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Programming note: Watch Malik Monk's full "Kings Central" interview with Morgan Ragan at 6 p.m. PT on Wednesday on NBC Sports California prior to "Kings Pregame Live."

Malik Monk is in the midst of a standout campaign that's placed the Kings guard at the forefront of the 2023-24 NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award discussion.

But what exactly sparked Monk's continued improvements during his seventh season in the league?

During an interview with NBC Sports California's Morgan Ragan on "Kings Central," Monk shared that the freedom to operate as a playmaker with Sacramento has helped him average a career-high 5.2 assists per game during the 2023-24 NBA season.

"More opportunity," Monk told Ragan in regards to his improved play this season. "I played point guard my whole life until I went to Kentucky and [De'Aaron] Fox came and I had to move to off-guard. Thank you, Fox."

"So I was always used to having the ball, making plays and stuff like that, but when I got to the league I went all the way away from it and never had a chance to get it back until I came here [Sacramento] and [Kings coach] Mike [Brown] let me be free."

Monk detailed how that freedom creates a comfortable environment that allows him to maximize his talents, a luxury not readily available to every NBA player.

"Having freedom, that's the biggest thing for a player in the NBA to thrive," Monk shared. "Being comfortable. If you're free, you're comfortable. You know you can make a mistake and not look over your shoulder and come out of the game.

"So that's the biggest thing with players coming into the league, when people say, 'They're a bust,' they just haven't had the opportunity that some guys have. So I'm just getting the opportunity now."

Monk also explained how a shift in mindset allowed him to take a step forward on the defensive end.

"That's all it was, a shift in the mindset," Monk told Ragan. "And the want to. Defense, it's willpower, want to and effort … it's if you want to do it. We're in the NBA, we're the best. We can do it of course, it's just if we want to."

When asked if there is any extra work off the court that's led to him elevating his defensive output, Monk reiterated everything on defense begins with dedication and effort.

"Mental. Nothing off the court besides film," Monk explained. "You can watch film and and get better and try and to know other plays and beat them to their plays, but it's all willpower and mental."

Monk is averaging 15.4 points and 5.2 assists in 25.9 points per game during the 2023-24 season, serving as a crucial spark off the bench night in and night out.

Since joining Sacramento before the 2022-23 season, Monk has become an integral part of a Kings core that has reinvigorated basketball in California's capital.

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