Our 2022 NBA Draft scouting report series continues with a look at Malaki Branham, a guard prospect out of Ohio State.
Malaki Branham is a polished score-first guard from the Ohio State University. He was particularly effective at getting into the teeth of the defense and finding ways to score in the mid-range and with the floater. He has a crafty package of moves that got him around defenders in the 4-8 foot range. This portion of the floor is notoriously difficult to score from, so it could be viewed as a positive that he was so efficient and effective from those spots.
Height: 6’ 5”
Weight: 180 lbs
– Shot Creation
– Off-Ball Movement
Branham is great on curl and fade actions off screens, as well as in dribble hand-off (DHO), and he uses those actions to get downhill and attack the defense. Once in the lane, he uses good footwork and spatial awareness to find his shot. He is very good at getting to his spot and finishing. He’s also good at navigating the pick-and-roll (PnR) as a ball-handler, frequently using it to find his shot, and he can make basic playmaking reads in those positions.
His craftiness and finishing is NBA ready at the moment, those are the skills that set him apart from his peers in his draft class. He’s a high-level shot creator, and if he really unlocks his playmaking abilities, he can find his way to a solid role in the league. His defense will likely be a bigger swing factor in his career, but improving his playmaking will be what gets him on the floor sooner.
– PoA Defense
Branham has some big question marks as it relates to competing at the next level. He is not the quickest or bounciest guy on the court, the above mentioned shot creation tools that he has are more a function of his craftiness and body control than his athleticism. He needed DHOs and PnR to get into space so he could get to his moves and spots. While that worked well for him in the NCAA, defenders at the next level can quickly close gaps in the mid-range and the paint, and a lot of those shots he had in college won’t necessarily be there for him in the NBA.
That lack of quickness and burst also hurt him on the defensive end. He frequently would get blown by on the defensive end, and doesn’t seem to have the quickness to navigate around screens effectively. It doesn’t seem to be an effort issue because he has solid awareness on the court and off-ball, but without the quickness to stay in front of defenders on the perimeter, his defensive upside is limited.
Branham is also not a dangerous 3-point shooter. He shot a good percentage in college (41.6%) but with only 2.8 attempts a game, it’s hard to say that he could do that consistently in the NBA. He’s shown catch-and-shoot (C&S) talent, but there are better C&S guys out there who are not defensive liabilities. If he can’t become a reliable 3 point shooter, then he will have a hard time making a case for minutes.
Conclusion & Hawks Fit
In my very personal, very subjective opinion, Malaki Branham is not an NBA ready player at the moment, and may not be able to maintain an NBA rotational spot if he doesn’t solve the big question marks in his game: playmaking and defense. If Branham can expand his playmaking ability, both handling and passing, and turns into a threat to finish PnR possessions both by scoring and passing, he could find his way to an NBA role. This is likely the part of his game that he can most control because his defense is not going to improve drastically due to his lack of quickness.
The Hawks desperately need the very two things that Branham does not do. So it’s difficult to see a natural fit on the Hawks roster. His shot creation upside is definitely a talent that the Hawks could use, and in his best form, Branham would be a high-level scorer off the bench in the NBA, like a Jordan Clarkson type of role. However, it would take a lot of development and time for Branham to get there, and that is something the Hawks don’t necessarily have with the current roster construction. It’s likely that Branham will be on the board when the Hawks’ #16 pick comes up, but I personally do not believe that Branham would be a good fit in Atlanta.