We’re only a day out from newly-minted general manager Mike Dunleavy Jr. making his first move since taking over the top spot in the Golden State Warriors front office: making (or trading) the No. 19 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft.
There are tons of options for the Warriors. They could go with a high-ceiling player or a low-floor player. A guard, a wing, or a big. They could target a player who fits the system well, or a player with the most talent. They could trade up, down, or out.
One option has been gaining a lot of momentum lately: using the pick on Santa Clara sharpshooter Brandin Podziemski.
On Wednesday’s episode of the Brian Windhorst & The Hoop Collective podcast, ESPN draft expert Jeremy Woo talked about the unique 17-19 spots in Thursday’s draft, which are held by, in order, the Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, and Warriors, three title-contending teams.
Woo mentioned that those three teams drafting so high (relative to their on-court success) could really alter the outcome of the draft, and specifically linked them to Podziemski, a player that many believe could contribute to an NBA team immediately.
Here’s what Woo said:
Those are teams that are perennially trying to be competitive. A lot of teams are wondering, will there be older college players that go in that range? Could you see some of these freshmen — who are maybe higher in reputation and upside — could you see them falling into the 20s because of how this draft is lined up? And a couple players I like are in that range, who I think have had really good, positive pre-draft processes: Brandin Podziemski from Santa Clara, who played well at the combine ... I think he’s worked out really well. A lot of places, beginning with the Lakers, Golden State, those two teams have come up a lot for him, I think he’s someone who’s kind of earned this with the good pre-draft process. He’s been really focused on what he needs to do to improve his stock.
Podziemski could barely get off the bench as a freshman at Illinois before transferring to Santa Clara for the 2022-23 season. In his lone year with the Broncos, the 20-year old sharpshooter averaged 19.9 points per game while shooting 43.8% on threes. He also displayed tremendous basketball instincts by nabbing 8.8 rebounds per game despite being a 6’5 shooting guard, and by averaging 1.8 steals per game.
In addition to Woo’s comments on the podcast, he and fellow draft expert Jonathan Givony have the Warriors selecting Podziemski in their latest mock draft at ESPN (subscription required), with Givony writing that, “The Warriors are said to be looking at a different strategy on draft night this year, after previously picking young, developmental-type prospects who have been difficult to fully integrate into their style of play ... Podziemski, an analytics-model favorite, has helped himself in the pre-draft process with the intriguing combination of toughness, shooting and passing ability he has demonstrated in workouts, helping him climb solidly into the first round.”
The Dubs certainly have no shortage of young guard prospects, so if they did go this route, it would be interesting to see if there’s a corresponding move to trade away a player, or whether it will just be an open competition to earn minutes.
With Podziemski gaining some steam towards Golden State, let’s see what a few other draft analysts have to say. The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor ranks Podziemski No. 25 on his big board, and highlights that he’s a “knockdown shooter off the catch” with a “pillowy-soft touch when tossing up teardrop floaters and hook shots” who is an “outstanding rebounder” with a “magnetic feel for tracking the trajectory of boards” and an “active on-ball defender.” On the downside, O’Connor notes that Podziemski has “struggled creating advantages off the dribble against lengthier defenders due to his slow first step,” and that he’s “a subpar on-ball defender who got roasted by quicker players even when facing lower level of competition.”
Over at The Athletic, Sam Vecenie has Podziemski ranked a lot lower, at No. 42, and notes that Podziemski is “one of the best catch-and-shoot scorers in the country” and that it’s “hard to overemphasize how pure the shot looks,” while adding that his “game just flows well into itself.” Vecenie warns that Podziemski’s size and athleticism (or lack thereof) are each a “real question” that might hinder how much both his offense and defense can play at the next level. Vecenie is much lower on Podziemski’s ability to succeed as a defender in the NBA than O’Connor, Woo, and Givony are.
In their mock drafts, O’Connor has Podziemski going to the Memphis Grizzlies at No. 25, while Vecenie has the Brooklyn Nets taking him at No. 22. O’Connor has the Dubs selecting Kansas guard Gradey Dick (who is projected to go much higher in most mocks), while Vecenie has them ending up with UConn wing Jordan Hawkins.
There have been 14 players from Santa Clara to make it to the NBA, most notably Steve Nash and Kurt Rambis. There’s only one currently in the league, Jalen Williams of the Oklahoma City Thunder (cue Bob Fitzgerald saying “that’s Santa Clara Jalen Williams”).
Now let’s watch some highlights!