Pelicans draft: A fast riser who could be a surprise lottery pick

The New Orleans Pelicans have three picks in the 2022 NBA Draft, including the 8th overall pick.

They are hoping to grab another impact talent to add to a roster that made the playoffs this season and will be getting star Zion Williamson back.

This draft is fairly deep with talent but lacks the surefire star power of last year, when there were clearer options at the top. This could be one of those drafts when the best player drops out of the top-5, which is exactly what the New Orleans Pelicans are hoping for.

Every year there are a few players who rocket up draft boards because of a strong showing in the NBA Combine, and this year, that player may be Malaki Branham, the freshman guard from Ohio State, who has been turning heads and may have turned himself into a lottery pick.

He’d be a reach for the New Orleans Pelicans at eight, but does have a skillset that they need.

Pelicans draft: Malaki Branham’s strengths and weaknesses

Malaki Branham is a 6-foot-5, 180 lb. guard who can shoot from all three levels. He averaged 13.7 points, 3.6 rebounds and two assists per game for Ohio State while shooting 53 percent from 2-point range and 41.6 percent from beyond the arc.

He has a little bit of CJ McCollum vibe, as he is a good athlete but lacks an explosive first step. However, has great body control, so is very good at getting to his spots and knocking down shots.

He wasn’t a high-volume 3-point shooter in college, but he did knock down over 40 percent of them and hit 83 percent from the line, so projects to be an above-average shooter at the next level.

He has a long wingspan, so could be a very good on-the-ball defender in the NBA, one who can defend all three spots on the perimeter.

Branham has the potential to be a two-way contributor who will eventually be a lights-out shooter.

2022 NBA Draft: How Malaki Branham fits on the New Orleans Pelicans

Although the Pelicans don’t have a huge glaring weakness in their roster, one area of positional need would be more size and versatility at the guard position behind CJ McCollum.

If the Pelicans were to part ways with Devonte’ Graham or Kira Lewis Jr., it would be in lieu of a bigger guard who can not only defend but knock down shots.

Branham may not be ready to contribute right away, but the Pelicans wouldn’t need him to, as they are ready to compete now, already have several good young players and have time to develop this pick.

He’d give the Pelicans their eventual replacement for CJ McCollum and fits the sort of long, position-less, hard working players they have on their roster.

Branham is a long shot to crack the top-10, but he has draft experts buzzing and some team could take a flyer on his potential.