"Those who do not learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them."
For scouts, looking at their pas evaluations is essential practice. Prospect grading is some combination of art, science, research and luck. The luck aspect can always factor in, where externalities or unforeseen developments derail or stymie a player's growth. Still, relying on luck is bad practice, especially when trying to come up with guidelines for how to engage on the science and research aspect. You either win or you learn, so let's look back and learn.
I once foolishly put Malik Monk as the number 3 on my board in 2017's draft class. Ahead of him were Markelle Fultz (a mistake nobody can be blamed for with his unforeseen circumstances) and Lonzo Ball, whose size and playmaking IQ were fully displayed at UCLA. Monk sat just behind those, ahead of a Jayson Tatum (4th) whom I worried about torpedoing possessions with inefficient shots and a De'Aaron Fox (6th) who couldn't shoot in half-court settings. Monk was nine spots higher than Donovan Mitchell (12th).
Investing in human beings means human error is prone to occur. Just as an NBA lottery pick needs the right situation to succeed, the person needs to be right in order to realize their potential. While an outside observer who isn't privy to personal connections with these players, interviews or character witnesses, my evaluations have always gone on feel for skill and what the tape says.
It's hard to know whether talent, personality or both have derailed the first three years of Monk's career. He's started only one game, performed really poorly when given opportunities and was suspended this March for violating the league's anti-drug policy. The suspension was open-ended and for "more than just marijuana", which makes the 'what if's' around Monk's on-court production secondary to his health and well-being. If he has bigger issues going on in his life, let's all hope he addresses them in a meaningful way.
Nevertheless, I'll press on from a film and skill standpoint. How can we be sure Monk's play is due to poor mental health and other factors, not just the fact he didn't perform well as a pro? As such, this piece will serve as equal parts reflective about his Kentucky experience and optimistic that he's ready for a leap forward this year and could be a trendy candidate to see an uptick in production. The latter coming to fruition could serve as some vindication for the type of pro I believed Monk could always become.