Much has been made of the Atlanta Hawks potentially trading for a star this offseason ranging from Rudy Gobert to Ben Simmons and everything in between. There is still a chance they continue adding to their core in the NBA Draft on June 23. What they do with that pick is just as fascinating of a topic.
On one hand, they have to be ready to take the next step after making the Eastern Conference Finals last season and then being bounced in the first round this year.
But if a certain type of prospect comes available, would that alter that thinking?
That is the situation they could find themselves in if they are indeed faced with taking Ohio State’s Malaki Branham when they are on the clock with the 16th overall pick. Branham offers many traits the Hawks should be targeting this offseason.
Malaki Branham would be an interesting option for the Atlanta Hawks at 16th overall
We recently went over a mock from Tankathon.com that had the Hawks taking versatile LSU forward, Tari Eason. This comes from The Basketball Network staff who broke down what Branham could offer at the next level.
Branham was ranked 35th in the 2021 RSCI recruiting class and, after a slow start, burst onto the scene in conference play. At 6-foot-5, he plays with patience and is a smooth three-level scorer. He is comfortable operating in the pick-and-roll, midrange, and has shown promise as a spot-up shooter.
The Hawks ranked second in the regular season shooting 37.4% from three-point range in the regular season. But they struggled to 32.6% from deep in the first round of the postseason against the stingy Miami Heat.
Branham shot 41.6% from three on the season, though, that fell to 32.7% in the Big 10 and NCAA Tournaments.
Branham is full of potential and is hitting his stride as a scoring threat, certainly one to watch during the pre-draft process as he rises.
What isn’t mentioned in that summary is that Branham possesses a 6-foot-10 wingspan which helps him on defense and the boards – the Hawks also struggled with positional rebounding beyond Clint Capela – as NBADraftRoom.com broke down.
Malaki is a hard-nosed guard/wing who brings great effort on the defensive end, on the boards, and has natural leadership abilities. He’s strong, athletic, and plays with an edge.
Those are all things the Hawks need. The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor mocked Kentucky guard to them with the 16th pick. He did not love the pick, however, largely because of the size of the 6-foot-3 Washington alongside the 6-foot-1 Trae Young on defense.
He did think the positive impact that Washington could have on Young outweighs the potential negatives defensively,
“It’s even more important for Trae Young. Get that guy going off the ball, dude. Trae’s gotta lean into his inner Steph instead of his inner Harden…Trae’s too good of a shooter to not be sprinting off screens and dribble hand-off actions and just thriving in the corner…from relocations. If he buys into that, that’s how you get the best out of Trae Young.”
Branham – who averaged 2.0 assists in his lone season in Columbus – could offer a lot of what O’Connor wants the Hawks to find from Washington in a bigger package more suitable for lineups next to Young.
The biggest roadblock to this becoming a reality is the Hawks have not worked Branham out to this point.
He does compare favorably to other bigger guards they have worked out, though. And they did select Jalen Johnson out of Duke with the 20th-overall selection last summer despite him not being among the 90 players that they worked out during the pre-draft process.