Most Intriguing Players In NBA: Carter, Garuba, MonkNovember 18, 2022
It’s been a weird week in the NBA to say the least. Every time I start to think “this team is separating themselves from the pack,” they drop two of the next three games or lose to an unexpected opponent. The Bucks are awesome … except when they play the Hawks (I will note Khris Middleton hasn’t played and Jrue Holiday missed the second game against Atlanta). The Hawks are really good … until they play teams with length at all five positions like Boston and Toronto.
Our mighty Utah Jazz have tumbled losing three straight, which is partially expected, but I was ready to crown this team as the next iteration of the Iguodala Nuggets. The Suns are fantastic, but Deandre Ayton has been a shell of himself. Cam Johnson is out for a few months with a knee injury. Jae Crowder might be on the move, according to multiple outlets. Cam Payne has filled in admirably for Chris Paul and Mikal Bridges is taking a step as a scorer.
There have been some credible rumbles this week that the Suns have made progress on finding a trade resolution to the Jae Crowder saga. Crowder’s cryptic IG story appears to address to feed into that notion …
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) November 17, 2022
I could go on and on, but the point remains that the winds keep shifting, a significant reason I love the early season. The sample size we have at this juncture allows for some truly wild, wacky, and unexpected things to play out. It rocks.
The Boston Celtics stand alone atop the NBA for the time being. I’m not ready to crown them as inevitable champs, but they have been the most complete and dominant team on the season. You’ve heard about the league-leading offense, humming at an absurd 120.1 points per 100 possessions clip, per Cleaning the Glass. On defense, the foretelling of Boston’s demise was ill-fated.
The team is 12th on the season on that end of the floor, paltry and subpar compared to the way they took the NBA by storm last year. Marcus Smart has been good, but not the DPOY version of himself. Al Horford has taken a step back, although I think that’s more to conservation than losing gas. It is worth noting that Derrick White and Jayson Tatum have both been amazing and would warrant All-Defensive consideration. And of course, they’ve missed Robert Williams III.
Still, the switches haven’t hit the same. The communication hasn’t been to the same standard. The scrams aren’t there in a way we’re accustomed to seeing. I’m not worried, nor do I think the fuss has been warranted. The Celtics have the third-best scoring differential in the fourth quarter in the NBA, including the fifth-best defense, allowing only 104.2 points per 100 possessions.
I want to see them play with the tenacity and ferocity they had last season, which is admittedly hard to do for an entire year. They have it in them, and we’ve seen them turn it up when it’s necessary. Boston continues to answer questions to some of the playoff issues they had in the Finals, and that’s the bigger storyline here.
And now, with all of that out of the way, let’s take a look at the league’s Most Intriguing Players this week.
We have to start by heading out to Sacramento. Shout out to the 8-6 Kings! They’re 6-2 in November! Light the Beam!
Malik Monk cannot take the band-aid off. Ever.
Monk is developing some excellent two-man synergy with Domantas Sabonis. We’ve even gotten some of the electric De’Aaron Fox/Monk transition play like we saw at Kentucky when the two of them starred in the backcourt for John Calipari.
The playmaking has hit to a higher degree in this up-tempo, high motion offense. Monk, to his credit, has helped the team achieve that. He is thriving and it’s awesome to watch.
If Garuba could play starter’s minutes, he’d warrant All-Defense honors. He’s that good on that end of the floor. His hand speed and hand-eye coordination are unreal. He’s remarkably strong with a low and sturdy base. I’d go as far as saying that he may have defended Giannis Antetokounmpo the best I’ve ever seen anyone defend him, including the likes of Onyeka Okongwu, Draymond Green, Thad Young for that one season, and Al Horford.
He’s so disciplined and sound. It’s almost like watching a highly technical boxer picking apart opposition. Never off-kilter, but playing with an edge.
But I’m not here to write about his defense. What matters is doing enough and being aggressive to a degree on offense that he can play more and showcase his defense. It’s early, but there are encouraging signs. He’s carving out a role as a screener, hand-off hub, roller, and occasional popper. He’s played double-digit minutes in every game the team has played November, and that’s in due part to starting to look at the rim.
He’s taking fewer than four attempts per game in November. It needs to be more without question, but that he’s starting to even take anything is encouraging. There were moments the opening weeks of the year and in his limited play with the club last season that he didn’t even contemplate taking a shot. He’d get an offensive board and auto-pilot kickouts. Now, he’s starting to find some assertiveness.
His game against the Mavericks, which the Rockets won, showcased what Garuba appreciators and purveyors believe in: scoring easy baskets out of hustle seals. Popping and shooting without thinking. A few rolls. Stellar backline defense and switchability.
There’s a really intriguing player there who could also fit around the top picks of the organization, which can’t be said of all of Houston’s numerous role-player prospects.
If you missed it, Carter put up a career high 36 points last week against the Thunder.
Carter should not be expected to score 20+ points a night, but man, it’s been awesome to see him find some aggression, much like Garuba. Mike Budenholzer mentioned earlier this season that Carter needed to take more shots and be less passive within the offense, and that’s played out recently, as he’s taken double-digit shots in five of the last six games.
There has to be a blend, of course. Carter taking 13 shots a game isn’t going to happen when the Bucks are mostly healthy. On the other hand, we’ve seen Carter’s playmaking open up by taking more shots.
He’s more of a combo guard who can continue plays, attack off of secondary actions, or start initial actions due to the gravity and screening of Milwaukee’s bigs. He has the basic pick-and-roll reads down pat. He has pretty fun and budding synergy with Brook Lopez. His pull-up three isn’t going to bend defenses — he’s shooting 31 percent on one pull-up attempt per game — but he’s solid relocating and moving without the ball. He has some juice off the bounce inside the arc.
With how incredible his defense has been, I’m leaning towards the idea that Carter should be part of Milwaukee’s starting lineup, even when the team is fully healthy. It’s probably imperfect, to a degree. And yet, I can’t help but think that Carter remains the answer as a starter this season if that blend can be found. Regardless of how this plays out long-term, it’s been awesome watching Carter put together the best stretch of his career, and help the Bucks win some games.