Some of the more touted prospects may not fall to No. 11 on the Knicks — even if Charming 6-foot-8 point guard, Dyson Danielsignited by Australia’s G League.
Indications that Daniels helped his stock in the Chicago draft rained on deep jumpers after pro day — a question mark about him. So the new narrative is that Daniels might be in the top 10.
So if the Knicks’ opportunity to both satisfy point guard needs and pick the best available player disappears, they need a backup plan.
They probably don’t care too much about a defensive specialist like versatile combo forward Jeremy Sokan, who can’t shoot from the perimeter.
And that happens to be 19-year-old Malaki Branham’s specialty. Few in the draft can match the 6-foot-5 Ohio State shooting guard’s ability to shoot from long, which is why he’s an unexpected set-and-forget player.
A month ago, the Ohio native was not considered a lottery pick and was considering staying at Ohio State for his sophomore year. Things have changed, although Branham will almost certainly be at No. 11.
Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau doesn’t necessarily like 3-point shooters. He likes 3-point shooters. So did Hall of Famer Tim Hardaway, a first-year scout for the Knicks.
The Knicks interviewed Branham in Chicago on Thursday. The Nets also met Branham, but they didn’t pick until No. 23.
When asked how the Knicks see his role, Branham said: “I’m going to be a little bit off the ball. [because] my shot. They like the way I shoot.
“I feel like I’m used to it. Scoring on three levels, shooting high. I feel like I’m going to be a better defender against the best players in the world.”
At Ohio State, where the season was interrupted by the COVID-19 outbreak, Branham shot 49.9 percent overall and 41.3 percent from beyond the arc. He averaged 13.7 points but turned 1.78 turnovers per game and wasn’t a rebounding guard.
Could the Knicks use another shooting guard? This is debatable.
They already have Evan Fournier as a starter, who set the franchise record for the most three-pointers made in a season. But with his tepid man-to-man defense, Thibodeau often doesn’t let him play late. They’re developing two-way shooting guard Quentin Grimes, who was selected by Thibodeau with the 25th overall pick last season.
If the plan is to trade Fournier in the offseason, Branham makes the most sense. The Knicks are hoping to trade Fournier at the trade deadline, but his long-term $78 million contract makes things tricky. Most scouts agree that Fournier is one of the worst starting shooting guards in the NBA.
Enter Branham, more of an athlete than Fournier or swingman RJ Barrett.
“I feel like I’ve won the lottery, yeah,” Branham said.
The Knicks interview focused on trying to understand how players deal with adversity. One of the main themes of playing in New York is dealing with fan outrage on social media and intense scrutiny from Gotham’s press corps. Julius Randle failed last season.
“They kind of wanted to get to know me, and I’m a hard worker,” Branham said. “If adversity hits, I’m not going to stop there. I’m going to get over that adversity. All these teams just want to get to know me and see what a hard worker I can be.”
Matt Babcock, a former agent who covers the basketball news draft, tweeted at the combine: “I’m not sure there’s a more popular name in Chicago this week than Malachi Branham. … At this point, I think there’s a good chance he’ll be in the lottery.”
Branham said he doesn’t focus on mock drafts.
“Just getting into the NBA is my dream,” Branham said. “I’m excited to continue developing my story. I don’t care about mock drafts. I don’t want to be distracted [from] main target. I don’t want to be dumbfounded looking at them. “