After selecting one of the top 10 defense specialists, Spurs turned his gaze to the other end of the floor, selecting Malaki Branham as the 20th guard and Blake Wesley as the 25th.
The election was a little surprising, but Spurs said he was looking for the best player available anyway, and taking two more defenders in the first round and just a few choices shows that they meant it. The addition of two newcomers does not contribute to the already congested backyard congestion, but it is an infusion of scoring and ball handling that was missing from the list.
Let’s start with Branham. It’s probably a safer choice than most fans would prefer, but it may pay off for San Antonio sooner or later. The 19-year-old guard may not have the elite physical tools to become a star, but the combination of his shooting skills and self-creation can benefit from the bench, especially if Lonnie Walker IV leaves the vacant agency. The Ohio State’s product hit an impressive 41 percent of three-pointers and was even better in college as a midfielder in a single year, which can make an immediate contribution despite his young age. With less use, its efficiency numbers can improve, which can make it steal so late in the first round.
The key question for Branham is whether he can adapt to the new role he is likely to be asked to play in the NBA. He doesn’t have the ball that much, at least at the beginning of his career, so he has to trade some jumpers for a top three. In the same way, he must always be included in the defense, which may not be natural for him as a beginner. It certainly works for Branham, but the talent is to be able to make an impact early in his career if given the chance.
Wesley may take a little longer to develop, but it may be worth the wait. The Notre Dame guard was painfully ineffective in his only college season and, despite his significant advantage, could simply lack the stroke to get the game right away. In defense, he played a huge role in the attack for his team, but 30 percent behind the arc is just not good enough. As a major ball handler, he failed to make long balls, but given his modest performance numbers, it is highly unlikely that he will receive so many touches in this role early in his career. The fact that, according to Synergy Sports, it realized only 37.5 per cent of its unattended catch-and-hit opportunities, it simply does not bode well for its ability to acquire minutes as a beginner.
Wesley is expected to become more consistent in the end. He has enormous benefits as a scorer who can make simple readings and defend multiple positions, but may need patience to help him reach his full potential. In that sense, Branham’s choice could be considered positive for Wesley, as it could take immediate pressure to bet if a couple of veterans leave during the break. A few months in Austin may be all it takes for him to apply his impressive tools and engage in a battle for minutes that should be a crowded but young and talented backyard.
After Josh Primo’s election in 2021, most fans probably didn’t want to see one, much less two, first-round players on guard in 2022, but at least the skills of the selected players are different from what San Antonio already had. list. Ball handlers who know how to create for themselves are necessary to have variety and adaptability in the attack, and before Thursday Spurs didn’t really have them. Now they have two cases 19 years old, tall and talented.
At the end of the first round, it’s all about getting good value and Spurs did it. It may be difficult to figure out how to get everything in the backyard in minutes, but it’s a concern for another day.
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