When you draft a player 20th overall or later, you expect them to be a solid role player at best, not a starting piece on a championship team like the one the San Antonio Spurs are trying to build. Malaki Branham has only played in 22 games, but the 19-year-old shows that he could be in this league for a long time and play high-level basketball.
In those 22 games, Branham has averaged 6.7 points, 1.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and shot 32% from deep. It’s worth noting that neither Tre Jones nor Devin Vassell could top those numbers in their first 22 games, with the exception of Vassell’s rebounding and shooting.
Malaki Branham can be a long-term piece for San Antonio
Right now, Vassell and Johnson have established themselves as the wings of the present and future; Branham showed in college that his shooting could rival the current stars’. He plays with a very high IQ, doesn’t make boneheaded mistakes, and can easily get himself to the basket to score. On the current roster, I think Branham will not crack into the rotation, but I also think that can be a good thing.
Even when things don’t go his way, Branham plays hard and doesn’t let himself get down. Next year, I’m hoping for a Sochan, Wembanyama, Vassell, Johnson, and Jones starting five. Still, with trade rumors suggesting that McDermott and Richardson are not long for San Antonio, I truly think Branham can start next season as the first man off the bench.
From 20th overall pick to possible All-Rookie Team to the sixth man on an improving team is not a bad series of events for a 19-year-old. There’s nothing wrong with never cracking the starting five. In eight years as the Spurs’ sixth man, Patty Mills showed 21 productive minutes a night and never hung his head about it. Branham’s demeanor on the court indicates that he would be comfortable with the same role, and his hustle and pop off the bench would be unmatched, giving the second unit some much-needed wind in their sails.
Depth wins games in the NBA, and Branham can be a solid contributor night in and night out when his number is called to check in. Not cracking the starting five won’t be a problem, and it could propel the team onward.