Can Brandin Podziemski extend the Golden State Warriors’ dynasty?

Brandin Podziemski, Golden State Warriors.

Brandin Podziemski, Golden State Warriors. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

Key Highlights:

  • As a rookie, Brandin Podziemski’s combination of IQ, physicality, and effort already makes him a solid starting player in the NBA
  • Podziemski’s biggest questions right now involve his spacing, size, and on-ball usage
  • Given his similarities to Jalen Brunson, there is a pathway for Podziemski to develop into an All-Star caliber player. Although, the more likely outcome is that he becomes a high-level starter.

Heading into the start of the 2022-23 NBA Season, there was a lot of talk about the Golden State Warriors’ two-timeline plan. They had a championship core in Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson (among others). But they also had young talent that they hoped to eventually pass the torch to in Jordan Poole, James Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga, and Moses Moody. 

Fast forward a year and a half, and while Kuminga has blossomed into an effective starter, Moody hasn’t taken the leap forward many would have hoped he would in Year Three, and Poole and Wiseman are no longer employed by the team anymore.

But the two-timeline dream is still alive thanks to the 19th overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, Brandin Podziemski. Despite being drafted outside the lottery, Podziemski has a real case to be a First-Team All-Rookie this year, and he’s already leapfrogged Thompson in the starting lineup.

The bottom line here is that Podziemski is already pretty good. But how much better can he get? And can he become good enough to prolong the Warriors’ dynasty?

The Good

Heading into the draft, Podziemski was a darling among Twitter scouts because, to put it plainly, the dude knows ball. He knows the right time to cut (first clip in the montage below), makes quick decisions (second clip), and timely rotations (third). All the things your coaches preached to you over the years, Podziemski has mastered.

Along with being a highly intelligent player, Podziemski also plays with a lot of hustle and physicality. He may only be 6’5, but he’s got the heart of a player who is 7’3. Podziemski is in the 97th percentile and 99th percentile among combo guards in offensive and defensive rebounding rates, respectively (per Cleaning the Glass).

And these aren’t the cupcake Steven Adams boxed-out rebounds we were seeing Russell Westbrook accumulate during his days in Oklahoma City. Podziemski is battling with giants, doing whatever is necessary to secure the loose ball.

Speaking of hustle, Podziemski creates a lot of turnovers, both via charges (leading the NBA in charges drawn) and steals (61st percentile in steal rate). Overall, Podziemski is in the 90th percentile in turnovers forced (per Thinking Basketball).

Podziemski’s inner fire and willingness to get his hands dirty make up for his lack of size and length. And his high basketball IQ makes him an easy player to plug and play in the Warriors’ movement-heavy offense.

As we alluded to earlier, Podziemski is already a solid starting caliber player in the NBA. He’s in the 67th percentile in Offensive Estimated Plus-Minus (OFF EPM), the 68th percentile in Defensive Estimated Plus-Minus (DEF EPM), and the 69th percentile in overall Estimated Plus-Minus (EPM), per Dunks & Threes.

Podziemski is also an integral part of the Golden State’s latest iteration of the “Death Lineup.” In the 307 non-garbage time possessions that Podziemski shares the floor with Curry, Green, Kuminga, and Andrew Wiggins, the Warriors are a +21.2 per 100 possessions (87th percentile).

The Bad

If Podziemski can help guide Golden State into the postseason this year, the biggest immediate concern for him will be how much value he can provide as a spacer. He’s only shooting 36.6% from three, and his other spacing indicators aren’t that great. Podziemski is only shooting 61.3% from the free throw line (6th percentile) and 35% on wide-open threes (24th percentile). Will he be able to hit enough triples to make teams guard him in the playoffs?

However, Podziemski was a 42.4% 3-point and 77.0% free throw shooter last season in college. So, there is reason to believe that his NBA numbers will level up soon, maybe even in time for the playoffs.

The more long-term issue with Podziemski is his size. Yes, he does counteract that to a degree in the regular season with his strength, effort, and intensity. But that stuff loses its luster in the postseason when you are playing teams with size who also play physical (like the Denver Nuggets).

In the play below, there is nothing wrong with Podziemski’s drive defense. But it doesn’t matter because Josh Giddey is bigger and stronger than him and can just elevate over the top of him for the finish.

That isn’t to say that small players can’t exist in the playoffs. But the little guys who usually thrive in the postseason are the ones who provide an immense amount of value on offense. Even if Podziemski sees an uptick in shooting percentage, to meet that value threshold, he’ll also need to have utility on-ball.

(Sidebar: If Podziemski ends up being an undersized off-ball player who gets by in intellect and effort, that’s still a good rotational playoff player. But if he wants to be a championship-caliber starter, his team will need to find creators with more size, which is harder to do, as most great on-ball creators are smaller. And so, it limits the number of title-contending team constructions that Podziemski could be a starter on.)

So far, Podziemski hasn’t been very efficient on drives (9th percentile in true shooting on drives), and he hasn’t conducted a great deal of pick-and-rolls (40th percentile in pick-and-roll ball handler possessions, per Those marks aren’t great for his potential as a primary creator.

The saving grace here is that Podziemski is in the 95th percentile in pull-up 3-point percentage (47%) on pretty solid volume (57th percentile). So, there is definitely a pathway toward him becoming more of an offensive focal point.

The Bottom Line

Podziemski’s current player profile – an on-court coach who plays hard and doesn’t back down from a fight on defense – gives him one of the highest floors of the 2023 Draft Class. Right now, Podziemski is a good regular season starter and a solid rotational player in the playoffs. 

If Podziemski’s shooting starts to look more like it did in college and he becomes more efficient as a driver, Podziemski looks more like the kind of player you would see starting on championship-level teams (when I scouted him this past offseason, a player I compared him to was Donte DiVincenzo). 

That situation seems like the most likely outcome. But there is a way for Podziemski to blossom into something more than that. As a high-IQ, crafty, tenacious yet undersized Southpaw with a smooth pull-up jumper, Podziemski reminds me a little bit of All-Star guard Jalen Brunson. And if Podziemski can ride the wave of his pull-up jumper into more on-ball usage (and, in turn, more effectiveness), we could see his career reach similar heights to the ones that Brunson is experiencing right now. 

And if that happened, if Podziemski somehow developed into an All-Star caliber guard, the Warriors would have a real chance at keeping their storied dynasty going after their legendary Big Three calls it quits.