Malaki Branham, Guard, Ohio State
E.J. Liddell, Forward, Ohio State
Here is another chance to see two NBA-caliber guys work together. Branham and Liddell, like many players in this class, are all over the place on draft boards, but could be good options for Minnesota if it wants to go in a more unexpected direction.
Branham has been one of the best offensive freshman guards in the country, especially in averaging 20.6 points over his final eight games. At 6-foot-5, he’s a slippery ball-handler with long arms and 49.2/42.5/82.6 shooting splits. If the Wolves want to move on from Malik Beasley, Branham is a guy who could step into that spot eventually.
I say “eventually” because Branham has major issues defending at the college level, let alone the NBA, because of his inconsistent focus. If he’s matched up with Loyola-Chicago’s Lucas Williamson in the first round, it will be a great test for the Big Ten Freshman of the Year. Williamson is experienced and tough, has won back-to-back Missouri Valley Defensive Player of the Year awards and is more than capable of taking advantage if Branham falls asleep on defense.
Liddell is an older player as a 21-year-old junior but presents a lot of intriguing possibilities as a strong, skilled, small-ball big. He stands 6-foot-7, 240 pounds, and he can shoot, pass and score from the post. He improved his shot and perimeter defense en route to All-Big Ten First Team honors this year, and he’s a surprisingly disruptive interior defender for his height because of his strength and timing.
Still, he isn’t as great an athlete as you’d want, as undersized as he is, and he needs to improve his ball-handling. But he’s improved every single season, and he could step in and make an impact right away as a bench big.