Malaki Branham could be the Knicks’ 2022 NBA draft option

Some of the most touted prospects might not fall for the Knicks at No. 11 – even the intriguing 6-foot-8-point guard Dyson Daniels of the G-League Ignite via Australia.

Signs are that Daniels helped his stock tremendously at the Chicago Draft Combine after a Pro Day where he rained down in deep jump shots — one of the question marks about him. So the new narrative is that Daniels could crack the top 10.

So when the Knicks’ chances of both filling a need at point guard and picking the best available player evaporate, they need a backup plan.

They might not care enough about a defensive specialist like versatile combo forward Jeremy Sochan because he can’t shoot from the boundary.

And that happens to be 19-year-old Malaki Branham’s specialty. Few in the draft can match the 6-5 Ohio State shooting guard when it comes to putting off deep shots, and that’s why he’s a surprising one-and-doner.

A month ago, the Ohio native was not considered a lottery winner and was considering staying in Ohio State for his sophomore year. That has changed, although Branham will almost certainly be 11th.

Malaki Branham dribbles the ball.
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Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau doesn’t particularly like 3-point shooters. He likes 3-point shooters. As did the Knicks’ first-year scout, Hall of Famer Tim Hardaway.

The Knicks interviewed Branham in Chicago on Thursday. The Nets also met Branham, but they don’t pick until 23rd.

When asked how the Knicks view his role, Branham said, “I’m going to be a little bit off the ball [because] my shot making. They like how I take pictures.

“I feel like I already belong. Hit the ball on three levels, shoot at a high clip. I feel like playing against the best players in the world I’ll be a better defender.”

In Ohio State, where the season was disrupted by a COVID-19 outbreak, Branham shot 49.9 percent overall, 41.3 percent from 3. He averaged 13.7 points but made 1.78 turnovers per game and is not a great rebound guard.

Can the Knicks use another shooting guard? It’s controversial.

They already have Evan Fournier as their starter and he set the franchise record for most 3-pointers in a season. But because of his tepid man-to-man defense, Thibodeau often didn’t play him down. They maintain two-way shooting guard Quentin Grimes, their 25th pick last season, which Thibodeau pushed for.

Branham makes the most sense when Fournier is to be treated in the offseason. The Knicks wanted to get Fournier to close, but his long-term $78 million pact made it difficult. Most scouts agree that Fournier is considered one of the worst starting shooting guards in the NBA.

Malaki Branham duns the ball.
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Enter Branham, more of an athlete than Fournier or swingman RJ Barrett.

“I feel like I’m winning the lottery, yeah,” Branham said.

The Knicks’ interviews focused on getting a feel for how players deal with adversity. One of the key themes of playing in New York is dealing with fan anger on social media and the stern scrutiny of Gotham’s press corps. Julius Randle failed last season.

“They kind of want to get to know me, that I’m a hard worker,” Branham said. “If adversity strikes, I will not stop here. I will overcome these adversities. All these teams just want to get to know me and see how hard I will work.”

Malaki Branham

Matt Babcock, the former agent covering the draft for Basketball News, tweeted at the combine, “I’m not sure there’s a name that’s swarmed this week in Chicago more than Malaki Branham’s. At this point, I think it’s very likely that he’ll enter the lottery.”

Branham said he doesn’t pay attention to the mock drafts.

“Just being in the NBA is my dream,” Branham said. “I look forward to continuing to develop my story. I’m not interested in the mock drafts. I didn’t want to be distracted [from] The main goal. I don’t want to look at her and get stubborn.” Malaki Branham could be the Knicks’ 2022 NBA draft option


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