After a blistering end to his freshman season that saw him average 17 points per game from January 2 onward (13.7 PPG overall), Ohio State guard Malaki Branham has officially entered his name into the 2022 NBA Draft. Coming in as a four-star recruit, Branham was not expected to become Chris Holtmann’s first one-and-done player, but it’s looking increasingly likely that Ohio State fans have seen the last of the lanky sharp-shooting guard.
At 6-foot-5 and 180 pounds, Branham checks a ton of boxes NBA teams are looking at when evaluating potential draftees. He is long, athletic, quick, and explosive. He can score at all three levels, knocking down 41.6% of his threes as a freshman this season despite that not even being his strongest offensive tool. Branham cooks in the mid-range, making defenders pay dearly if they allow him to dribble to the elbow and pull up from that 10-12 foot range.
His defense needs work, and much of that has to do with his thin frame. Branham is easily bumped by larger, more physical players, but that was somewhat expected as an 18-year old freshman in the Big Ten. His age is another thing teams will find attractive, as he turns 19 just a few weeks before the draft. NBA teams are more likely to see the finished product (what he will be one or two years down the road) when they draft him rather than the player he is on draft day. At just 19 years old, he will be considerably bigger and stronger with a year in the NBA under his belt.
Branham has until June 1 to decide whether to remain in this year’s draft or come back to Ohio State for another season. Mock drafts have placed him anywhere from the 11th or 12th pick all the way back to the second round. What he hears from NBA teams at workouts and the combine will likely determine whether he returns to school for another year to improve his draft stock, or leave now and cash in on the momentum he’s built up over the past three months.
Whatever he chooses, good luck to Malaki in his future endeavors. He’s been a thrill to watch over the past five months, and has left a lasting impression on Buckeye Nation.