Atlanta seemed to pick up steam in the postseason, but one thing has become abundantly clear: Trae Young doesn’t have a ton of help in the backcourt. His team needs to bring in a player who can hold their own with the ball in their hands and reduce Young’s astronomical usage rate to improve his overall influence on the game.
19-year-old Malaki Branham is skillful and tough. He’s not going to win many footraces or post the highest vertical at the combine, but Branham has sneaky athleticism that he uses to slither through the lane for tough finishes or complete pull-up jumpers at difficult angles. His touch is soft and accurate, making him an effective slasher who can put some pressure on the rim.
Branham shot a dazzling 42.5% from three in his lone college season, though he wasn’t a very proficient shooter beforehand. Still, he proved that he can not only drain jumpers but get to his spots in a variety of manners. He plays ferociously at his own pace, muscling up his opponent to find angles for his attack with each fresh shot clock. While he’s not much of a pure playmaker, Branham is a capable passer within team constructs who might be able to improve upon that with time and growth.
Most importantly to his fit alongside Young, Branham is a capable defender who is cerebral yet physical. That’s a difficult combination to find from young prospects—particularly those under the age of 21. His long reach allows him to pester smaller guards while still holding his own against traditional wings. This is an absolute must for any player the Hawks feature next to their star point guard.