The NBA needs to make room for Malaki Branham at All-Star Weekend

San Antonio Spurs v Houston Rockets
San Antonio Spurs v Houston Rockets / Carmen Mandato/GettyImages

Malaki Branham notched 18 points on incredibly efficient 8-of-11 shooting in his Ohio homecoming against the Cavaliers on Monday night, bolstering what has already been an unforgettable February for the Spurs rookie. His impressive performances could thrust him to frontrunner status for Rookie of the Month, so how did the NBA leave a player up for such an esteemed honor at home for their annual All-Star Weekend festivities?

Before anyone gets up in arms about another unjustifiable instance of San Antonio erasure, the league had a rational motivation for excluding Malaki from the Rising Stars Challenge. When they announced the official rosters for this event on January 31, Branham was fresh off an 18-game stretch of shooting 38.7% from the field and 23.7% from three. Can you blame Adam Silver for not extending him an invitation?

Despite stumbling into the new year, Branham has flipped the script in the weeks leading into Valentine's Day, and Spurs fans everywhere are in love with how well he is playing right now. The rookie guard has averaged 17.4 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 2.9 assists on excellent .490/.400/.714 shooting splits through seven games this month. He leads all rookies in scoring and made threes during that timeframe.

All 21 first and second-year players selected to partake in the Rising Stars Challenge next weekend are healthy and ready to go, meaning the league will have to make an exception for Branham. But with the Ohio State alum dominating the rookie leaderboards as of late, is there any cause for them to hold out on a late invitation?

Of course not. Though the Rising Stars Challenge modified its format to a mini-tournament of three games with 40-point target scores, nothing has changed about the defense-optional atmosphere of the laid-back affair. If anyone could intensify the all-out offensive fireworks, it would be natural-born bucket-getter Malaki Branham.

The six-five swingman can stuff the stat sheet with his three-level scoring skills, and who wouldn't want to watch Malaki suit up alongside his fellow teenage teammate Jeremy Sochan? The Silver and Black faithful have sat through the unfamiliar slog of a rebuilding season, and Branham has more than earned the spotlight. Is it asking too much of the NBA for them to do San Antonio a solid?

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