20th Pick: Malaki Branham
If I was to grade this pick solely based off of the month of February, when Branham looked like one of the most prolific scorers in the league, I’d give an A+. It’s been pointed out before, but Malaki’s rookie developmental arc pretty closely mirrored his freshman season at Ohio State. After a slow start to the season—he didn't truly play until December, and even then only started to receive consistent minutes in February—he grabbed hold of a top eight role in the rotation, and never let go.
Similar to Blake Wesley, Branham has had some issues tuning in his aggressiveness; at points he’s too passive and other times he won’t even look towards his teammates. Spurs fans who watched the second of the two Wemby games in summer league definitely remember Malaki (who was, at the time, 1-16 from the field) pulling a three with the game on the line. It did not fall. That said, Malaki seems to be a bit of a gym rat, and is always striving to get better. I’m buying his stock.
Grade: B. I could see this grade skyrocketing in the first month of the season as Victor’s gravity provides the shooters on the team a lot more space to work with.
Side note— this is not an indictment on either Branham or Wesley, but for the Spurs to have made two selections at the guard position and for neither to be Jaden Hardy (who went 37th to the Dallas Mavericks) definitely knocks those grades a bit. As of this writing, Hardy is by far the most polished prospect at point guard—a position of need for the Spurs—and has an argument to be the most talented of the three (the debate there is between him and Malaki).