Malaki Branham enters this draft having just turned 19-years-old in May. Once the freshman acclimated to the college level and received more minutes, he exploded for Ohio State. In his final 22 games, Branham averaged 17 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 2.1 APG, and 1.6 TOV on a dazzling 53/43/82 shooting split. Over that same span, he played six games against defenses in the top 35 of KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency stat. Branham produced 19.6 PPG, 4 RPG, 2.3 APG, and 1.6 TOV on a 59/37/92 shooting split versus these top defenses.
Malaki Branham Scouting Report
Branham earned Big Ten Rookie of the Year and a spot on the All-Big Ten squad due to his stellar play. His masterpiece was against Nebraska on January 2nd, where he poured in 35 points on 13/19 from the field and 6/10 from three. Branham was also an impact player in March Madness. Ohio State lost to 2nd seed Villanova in the Round of 32, but he shined with 23 points and 4 assists on a 52.6 FG% and 37.5 3PT%.
Weight: 194 lbs
College: Ohio State
Strengths: Branham is a superb shooting threat who thrived in the mid-range. He terrorized defenders off the pick and roll by pulling up for a mid-range jumper. When he elevated at an angle on fade-aways, Branham squared his shoulders and aligned them with the hoop, which is a fantastic indicator of success. Time seemed to slow on these attempts, as he had hang time and didn’t look rushed in the slightest. His range also extends to the three-point line; over his final 22 games, he shot 43.2% on 3.4 3PA. Branham’s sturdy mechanics and snappy release will allow him to get his shot off at the NBA level.
Branham isn’t an elite ball handler or playmaker, but he is solid in both departments and possesses great instincts. Branham used screens well as a ball handler by taking the optimal angle. He can dribble well with either hand and has the makings of a secondary playmaker. Overall, Branham flashes outstanding offensive potential as a scorer. The fact that he excelled against top defenses is extremely encouraging.
Weaknesses: Branham struggled to get to the rim on drives against elite defenders because his first step isn’t lightning-quick. He also needs to add more muscle to his frame so that he finishes through contact more efficiently. Branham’s overall shot selection must be tweaked, as he settled for mid-range attempts too often. He needs to take more 3PA off the high pick instead of dribbling a few feet inside for a long two-pointer. Once he becomes more comfortable around the basket, Branham can transform some of his pull up jumpers into desirable layups or floaters.
The biggest concerns reside on the defensive end. Ball handlers with tight handles were able to get past him on drives. His defensive stance is too wide, which limits his ability to pivot with his hips. I think NBA coaching can fix this issue and improve his on-ball defense. Branham’s balance is also affected due to the base. I don’t believe Branham has upside as a very good defender, but he can become a solid to good player on that side of the ball.
Malaki Branham Stats
Malaki Branham NBA Draft Ranking, Team Fit, Landing Spot
Draft Ranking: I am much higher on Branham than most, as he is 9th on my big board. His outside shooting, 6’10” wingspan, and shot creation provides ample room for optimism. His ability to thrive on and off-ball is a huge plus. I also believe a large portion of his defensive deficiencies can be fixed. He also just turned 19! If he grows to the heights I think he can reach, Branham may be the steal of this draft.
Team Fit: Branham’s best fit is with the San Antonio Spurs at 20th overall, although he may not fall that far. Dejounte Murray’s sensational defense would compensate for Branham, and surrounding Murray with perimeter threats is essential. His versatility as both an on and off-ball player gives San Antonio more options. They are also not looking to compete instantly, so he has time to develop.
Landing Spot: Branham likely falls in the 17-22 range of this draft. If they don’t trade the pick, the 76ers could select him at 23. It’s always beneficial to have shooting around Embiid, and Branham can give the bench some scoring juice, which it severely lacked. Philadelphia may want a more win-now prospect, but the value is incredible at 23rd. The Cavaliers also make sense at 14 considering the bench needs guard shooting. Branham would learn from Caris LeVert and take over in a couple of years at shooting guard. Mobley and Allen also erase his defensive mistakes.
Malaki Branham NBA Comparison
Speaking of LeVert, if Branham’s career was simulated 100 times, he would emulate LeVert’s production the majority of the time. Both players are perimeter threats on and off-ball, and they love taking mid-range shots. The defense and playmaking is comparable also. LeVert’s 2019/20 season with higher efficiency is the most likely outcome for Branham I believe. LeVert had 18.7 PPG, 4.4 APG, and 4.4 RPG on a 42/36/71 shooting split and operated as a secondary ball handler.
There are shades of CJ McCollum in Branham’s game. His mid-range and three-point scoring off the dribble potential remind me of McCollum, and Branham’s secondary playmaking upside would manifest into Blazers McCollum. The mediocre defense of McCollum is about in line with Branham, although Branham has higher defense upside. If everything went perfectly for Branham (development, fit, injury), his ceiling would be McCollum’s 2019/20 season – 22.2 PPG, 4.4 APG, 4.2 APG on a 45/37/75 shooting split. Having said this, it’s unlikely he becomes McCollum. LeVert is still the main projection for Branham, but it’s worth noting the possibilities.