CLEVELAND, Ohio — With the scouting combine and agency pro days behind them, the Cleveland Cavaliers have entered the next stage of the pre-draft process.
Owning three picks in the 2022 NBA Draft — Nos. 14, 39 and 56 — the Cavaliers will host projected lottery pick Malaki Branham for a workout on Wednesday at Cleveland Clinic Courts, sources tell cleveland.com.
Branham, the 6-foot-5 swingman who has been rising up boards because of his character, diverse skill set, length (6-foot-10 wingspan), shooting prowess, attitude and upside, is one of about 10 players the Cavs have on their radar at No. 14, sources say. Branham — capable of playing the 2 or 3 — could go even higher, recently receiving top 10 buzz and considered a “safer” prospect.
While the Cavs will narrow their focus closer to the June 23 draft, they are said to be casting a wide net early in the process, recognizing how difficult it is to gauge who will still be on the board. As is the case every year, Cleveland’s front office has given film breakdowns to head coach JB Bickerstaff so he can become familiar with these potential picks and better understand their strengths and weaknesses.
Sources say Bickerstaff has received 10-12 different player cutups — and Branham is one of them.
Branham is expected to be the first lottery-range player coming to Cleveland for a workout and interview, something the organization views as critical when conducting its due diligence. Most of the other recent pre-draft workouts have been with players more likely to be taken in Round 2. Because of where the Cavs are slotted, some of the upcoming workouts will be 1-on-0. Others will be 1-on-1, 2-on-2 or 3-on-3 — a chance to see prospects in a more competitive environment against guys in the same draft range.
Beyond Branham, the Cavs are still working with various agents to finalize dates for other prospects. But they are expected to have many of the talked-about guys around No. 14 — Tari Eason, Ochai Agbaji, TyTy Washington, Ousmane Dieng and Jeremy Sochan, among others — come to town.
Branham’s Ohio State teammate, EJ Liddell, has been forced to reschedule a few different times — even though the Cavs are still hoping to bring him in for a workout this week. Liddell’s immediate fit isn’t ideal given the Cavs’ currently crowded frontcourt, but sources say Liddell is one of the many possibilities with the 14th pick — probably further down the priority list. Plus, power forward Kevin Love’s contract expires at the end of the season and Liddell would provide future depth.
The next few weeks will be busy. Numerous prospects will come through Cleveland. Conversations will continue. Film will be re-watched. This choice isn’t as straightforward as last year, when the Cavs had a small candidate pool for the No. 3 pick, ultimately selecting Rookie of the Year runner up Evan Mobley.
Branham, who would love to play for his hometown team, gets a chance to make another positive impression on Wednesday. Named Ohio Mr. Basketball during his senior year at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary High School, Branham spent one collegiate season with the Buckeyes. Branham averaged 13.7 points on 49.8% shooting and 41.6% from 3-point range to go with 3.6 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 29.6 minutes.
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