NBA Draft: Grading every first-round pick after rookie year

2022 NBA Draft Class. Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images
2022 NBA Draft Class. Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images /
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NBA Draft
SAN ANTONIO, TX – MARCH 29: Malaki Branham #22 of the San Antonio Spurs laugh with Gregg Popovich head coach of the San Antonio Spurs in the half during game against the Utah Jazz at AT&T Center on March 29, 2023 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images) /

20. San Antonio Spurs – Malaki Branham, Ohio State

The San Antonio Spurs used their first pick in the 2022 NBA Draft on a do-it-all forward defender, and they promptly used their next two picks on small guards to try and juice the offense. Malaki Branham was frequently mocked to go in the lottery, so when he fell to pick No. 20 it looked like the Spurs may have gotten excellent value.

One year later, the jury is still out, but it certainly doesn’t look like they ended up with a bust. The Spurs need shot creators, and Branham showed plenty of flashes in that area, using creativity as a ball-handler to gain separation. His jumpshot looks smooth, but he was too confident in it, settling for midrangers instead of getting to the rim. When you factor in that he was shooting just 30.2 percent from 3-point range and 44 percent from the field overall, and Branham needs to attack the rim more and step back and pull less often.

When you factor in shaky passing and terrible defense, it’s clear Branham has a lot of work to do to become a long-term starting guard. Still, on-ball shot creation is the league’s most valuable skill, and he should have time with the Spurs to see if he can bring the rest of his skillset along. Jaden Hardy looks like a better option in that role as a player the Spurs could have taken here instead, but we’ll hit them harder at pick No. 25 for not taking him there. Here, the Spurs would have been well-served taking Walker Kessler.

Grade: B