Spurs rookie scouting report: Malaki Branham


Welcome to the second installment of my newbie search report series for Pounding the Rock. We examined Jeremy Sochan in part one, and it’s time to take an in-depth look at Malaki Branham, the 20th overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft and the middle child of San Antonio’s three teenage first-round picks.

The Ohio State guard was one of the best freshmen in college basketball last season, with a meteoric rise following a COVID hiatus that positioned him as a possible lottery target. As the 17th-ranked prospect on my Big Board, Branham was one of the biggest steals in this class, but he’s by no means a finished product.

Malaki Branham | Ohio State | Freshman | Guard |


Height: 6′ 5”


Weight: 195 pounds

Wingspan: 6′ 10”

Date of birth: 5/12/2003

Stats (32GP)

Per game: 13.7 PPG/3.6 RPG/2.0 APG/0.7 SPG/0.3 BPG

Per 36: 16.7 PPG/4.4 RPG/2.4 APG/0.9 SPG/0.4 BPG

Shooting Divisions: .498 FG%/.416 3P%/.833 FT%


  • Excellent efficiency from the short middle area, he shot 38 of 77 (49.4%) and ranked in the 87th percentile from that area while creating 81.8% of his 2-point field goals from the hoop.
  • Plays at a methodical pace at midrange, uses jab steps to establish possession before using spins, jabs, bomb feints, jumps to create enough space to shoot, gets a good lift but stays balanced in the air, stops a dime, uses a variety of different footwork when throwing up
  • He does a great job of attacking aggressive closes with fake shots to get defenders airborne and then using a couple of dribbles to create space for his mid-range jump shot.
  • He also showed the potential to shoot midrange off curls and pin downs, he only had 31 possessions shooting off screens off the ball at Ohio State, but he looked fluid and comfortable using curls and pin downs to create good looks inside the ball. bow. or to get to the edge.
  • Among the most efficient pick-and-roll scorers in the nation. He shot 53 of 89 (59.6%) and ranked in the 95th percentile for that type of play. Branham had an excellent understanding of snaking screens off the ball, switching gears, catching defenders in the back or hip before becoming a midfielder or running back, and allowed bigs to seal off rim protectors before attacking the basket. .
  • I’m a little worried about his ability as a straight line driver. A lot of his shots were remarkably wide because they deflected him off his path to the rim. He relied on the seals on the big ones to break free and didn’t create much space one-on-one or quick rips. He also had that problem against the big guys. How will his completion translate to the NBA?
  • Branham doesn’t have the fastest first step or the best lift in a crowd, but he uses his strong frame to patiently work his way to the rim against his defender. He possesses exceptional body control and has the touch to finish off with either hand. He loves how he can play so controlled off two-foot takeoffs, he went 10-for-21 (47.6%) on runners, but tends to shy away from direct contact at the rim.
  • He drained 44.2% of his 3-point shots from above and ranked in the 82nd percentile on all jump shots from above, does a great job of framing the basket, jumping to his shot and has a fast, fluid, albeit low shot. . , he also made 53.1% of his catch-and-shoot 3s unprotected, relocating well off the ball.
  • Branham didn’t show much utility shooting 3s on the move or screens and struggled beyond the arc in transition. There are some legitimate questions about the versatility of his shot on and off the NBA 3-point line, but his jump shot is fundamentally sound.
  • He’s a solid passer with some secondary advantages in handling the ball. He can hit the man spinning overhead, find the big man on pick-and-pops, throw the ball into the dunker’s spot when two defenders committed to advancing him and make good post entry passes. Branham keeps the ball moving, and he should be a solid connective tissue guy who executes simple reads.
  • Branham averaged 6.3 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game in .388/.333/1,000 shooting splits before the COVID pause at Ohio State. He exploded with 35 points against Nebraska and averaged 17.0 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game with shooting splits of .528/.432/.822 over the last 22 games of the season.
  • Much of his shooting diet consisted of mid-range jump shots. He doesn’t generate much separation, but that could improve as he adjusts his handling and adds more combo moves to his repertoire. He rejects too many threes in favor of two longer ones.
  • Branham himself created 63.7% of his shots from the field this season, but he could expand his range, especially off the pick-and-roll. He would be much more valuable if he made guys pay to go under the screens instead of scrambling to get to their spots near the paint. He only made three unassisted 3-pointers all year.
  • He shot 4-for-7 (57.1%) and ranked in the 90th percentile on isolation plays this season. Despite the low volume, Branham is likely to have some advantages in isolating the last clock with his undeniable ability to hit tough shots. This ability is something I would love to see teams explore off the bench or in the G League next season.
  • He could see him become a guy who gets to the line more often as his career progresses. Branham averaged 4.2 free throw attempts per game after the COVID hiatus at Ohio State. His methodical playstyle and masterful use of fake bombs is a solid foundation to build on in the future.


  • There are some concerns regarding its lateral mobility. Average athletes often outplayed him on the dribble and on quick shots on the perimeter. The fluctuating effort of possession in his possession did not help his cause.
  • Branham isn’t the best defender on the team right now. He has a relatively low awareness of guarding cutters and shooters and fell behind in rotations. Branham was not the best communicator on switches. He also plays too upright away from the ball. In general, he needs to improve in these areas.
  • You need to work on your screen navigation. Branham got caught on screens more often than he’d like and he didn’t always make that second or third effort to get back on the play. He probably shouldn’t be in charge of fending off shooters.
  • If he cleans up some of his bad habits, Branham has the size and wingspan to at least become passable on the ball and as a team defender. He could afford to be more active with his hands and more engaged as a help defender with attacks on drivers.
  • He’ll probably be able to defend 2-3, though I’m not sure he’ll have much switching ability to go to the next level. However, its build and length give it a solid foundation of tools to pair with similarly sized players. You would benefit from packing on more muscle. This idea also applies to the other extreme.
  • Too often he was upright and off-balance in closing, leaving him susceptible to being brought down by dribbling. He doesn’t have the foot speed to make up enough ground to recover and make a difference on the play.
  • Despite being a physical driver, he doesn’t accept contact or make the guys feel it when his man drives against him, allowing his assignments to get past him with minimal resistance.
  • Branham plays a little too flat and tight to his man on the perimeter. These flaws allow his man to get past him, as he doesn’t have the tools to recover. His footwork, positioning and discipline need work.
  • Branham is not a great event creator. He only put up 1.4 combined steals and blocks per game. Despite his size, he doesn’t deflect or get his hands on the ball as often as you might think.
  • He tends to get his feet on the pump fakes, and that got him into trouble from time to time. He made some fouls when he got stranded in the air, and you should reduce those mistakes to maximize his defensive impact. Branham doesn’t have much room for error.

All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference, Synergy Sports and Bart Torvik.