By: Tyler Chuck
The 2017 Sacramento Kings draft is being praised as one of the best drafts in the league in a draft that many consider to be the best since 1998. Their haul of De’Aaron Fox, Justin Jackson, Harry Giles, and Frank Mason III is a huge overhaul for a team in need of a pivot. In Kentucky, North Carolina, Duke, and Kansas, they drafted players from some of the top programs in college basketball. This was a good draft for Sacramento.
Yet I can’t stop thinking about what could have been- a backcourt of De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk. After the Kings draft De’Aaron Fox at #5, Malik Monk fell all the way to #10, giving the Kings the opportunity to draft one of the most explosive backcourts in NBA history. But what did the Kings do? They traded the #10 pick to Portland for #15 and #20. Portland drafted Zach Collins and Malik Monk was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets at #11.
The NBA is currently run by guards. With the Splash Brothers, Wall and Beal, Lillard and McCollum, and Lowry and DeRozan, a solid backcourt tandem can take you far (and in the Warriors case lead you to a championship). It’s not too often that a team has is in position to draft two amazing guards in the same draft that played together in college.
I was shocked that Monk fell past #8 to the Knicks. Leave it to Phil Jackson to pass on pairing the most exciting attraction with the storied Madison Square Garden. And then Monk fell past #9 to the Mavericks, who opted for Steve Francis like Dennis Smith Jr. When a player like Monk falls like he did, he gets a chip on his shoulder (see Draymond Green), causing a motivation like no other, which would have given him even more of a drive. Oh what could have been…
I’ve got to be honest, I’m a huge sports fan, but college basketball can be a bit tough to watch sometimes. The combination of the one-and-done rule leaving a dearth of recognizable names and the wide dispersal of talent across the league doesn’t make for the most exciting brand of basketball across the board.
But the 2016-2017 Kentucky Wildcats were exciting. Led by a Fox and Monk, they made for compelling basketball, especially as they began to learn to play with each other at the end of the year. I found myself watching their games, cherishing the unique talents, knowing it would end after a short season. John Calipari teams have a way of doing that- his factory of recruiting and producing NBA superstars has fans tuning in each year to see what special freshmen could do in 35 or so games together. The teams struggle at the beginning, but finish as a well-oiled machine that gets going and doesn’t get to operate for all that long. And like a Star Wars movie leaves me wanting more…
Fox and Monk’s games complement each other perfectly. Fox is extremely quick and Monk is a deadeye shooter that can spread the floor. Fox and Monk stepped up on the biggest stage. Fox got his revenge against UCLA and Lonzo Ball in the NCAA tournament, outduelling the #2 pick en route to 39 points. Monk went nuclear to score 47 against North Carolina. Monk gets as hot as anyone I’ve ever seen. It reminds me of when Klay had 60 in three quarters against the Pacers or when Kobe scored 81 against the Raptors. And Monk scored his 47 in a 40 minute game… just imagine what he could do the full 48 minutes.
These guys are brothers. They chose to play together in their abbreviated college experience at Kentucky and figured out all the kinks it takes to play with each other. And the raw emotion that they showed together after their tourney loss to eventual champion UNC is special. Fox and Monk care so much about winning and they care so much about each other. They seem like the sort of duo that would try to play together again once they hit free agency.
I’m so sad that my pipe dream had a chance and fell through the cracks. In Sacramento Kings fashion, they over thought a perfect pairing that could have led their team for a decade. Oh well, dreamers can dream. There’s always next year.
Cover Photo via 247 Sports