The NBA Draft is now just two days away, meaning workouts are done and it's time to start finalizing decisions. And in the last of our Denver Nuggets draft profile series, we'll be covering a second Ohio State star, Malaki Branham.
Branham was not expected to be a one-and-done player when he joined the Ohio State Buckeyes for the 2021-22 season. However, he exploded onto the scene with an incredible freshman year.
Alongside E.J. Liddell -- also covered in this series -- Branham helped lead Ohio State to a NCAA Men's Tournament appearance. He was the team's best perimeter player on both ends of the floor.
Here, we'll take a look at the strengths he brings with him, some areas of improvement, and what he could do if he were selected by the Nuggets.
Branham has shown the capabilities of taking just about any defender one on one. His ball-handling skills allow him to create space and find lanes to the basket, leading to easy scoring opportunities.
The ability to create his own shot makes him a difficult player to guard, especially if teams attempt to place a bigger wing on him. His speed at the college level should be easily translatable to the NBA.
The Freshman Ohio State product shot immensely well from behind the three-point line during the college season. He finished the year at 41.6% over 32 games, combined with 49.8% from the field and 83.3% from the free throw line.
Branham did not have such incredible shooting numbers before college, but a clean form and solid advanced metrics may hint that his hot shooting is sustainable to the NBA level.
Branham has the physical tools to be a very strong defender in the NBA. He is capable of staying in front of quicker guards while also having the frame to reasonably contest most wings.
Ideally, he'll be successful against 1-3, and could largely be matched up against opposing primary playmakers and creators.
Areas of Improvement
Generally, there is no issue with a player being score-first. Branham is that type of player, and he'll likely play that role for a majority of his NBA career.
Even still, improvements in his playmaking would make him truly dangerous on the offensive end. Any way he can keep defenders guessing will allow him to focus on his primary skillset: scoring the basketball.
Fit With Nuggets
Any guard/wing combo with defensive acumen should slot in nicely on the Nuggets roster. Branham has the type of skillset that would usually be considered "plug-and-play" in most systems, so it's safe to say he'd fit in Denver.
Of course, the Nuggets do have plenty of depth at the guard position. But having a player who brings slightly different tools to the court would create a wide variety of lineup options for Michael Malone.
Branham may or may not be available when the Nuggets make their No. 21 selection. If he is, he could be of immediate assistance should Denver decide to go that direction.