Malaki Branham: Man-to-Man Defense
Despite putting together an applaudable rookie campaign with the Spurs, Malaki Branham has multiple holes in his game that need filling before he transforms into a player that impacts winning for a competitive team. The teenage swingman steadily raised his three-level scoring efficiency every month, and that bodes well for his long-term outlook, but his defense was well below average throughout his first go-round.
Branham was a defensive liability. Teams frequently targeted him because of his so-so athleticism, and he let opponents shoot 51.8%, the fifth-worst mark of the 40 rookies that faced over 100 shot attempts this season. The Ohio State alum lacked the fundamentals to conceal his subpar footspeed and lateral mobility. Focusing on the finer details in the film room could go a long way toward making him serviceable on this end.
Blake Wesley: Paint Touch
As San Antonio's third and final first-round pick from the 2022 NBA Draft, it should come as little surprise that Blake Wesley experienced significant growing pains as a rookie. The 19-year-old shot under 35% from the field while committing nearly two turnovers per game in limited minutes off the bench, and there are several areas he must shore up if he wants to earn a spot in the everyday rotation for head coach Gregg Popovich.
Wesley is an unpolished prospect with intriguing physical tools, and as we discussed earlier this month on Air Alamo, adding touch inside the paint is his key to unlocking a long-term future with the Spurs. The fledgling point guard finished in the bottom second percentile in efficiency at the rim and on runners this season. And his blistering first step is less advantageous if he can't capitalize after beating his defender off the dribble.