Welcome to our offseason series “Immediate Impacts.” Most rookies don’t provide positive value to their teams right out of the gate. But as we saw last season with guys like Jalen Williams, Walker Kessler and Keegan Murray, some rookies can help their teams from Day 1. Over the next few months, we’ll break down ways that members of this incoming class can have that very impact.
After an admirable 2022-23 campaign, Donte DiVincenzo managed to make himself some money this offseason, landing a four-year, 50 million-dollar deal with the New York Knicks.
And while the Knicks will surely enjoy DiVincenzo’s presence, his former employer, the Golden State Warriors, now faces the task of filling the void left in his absence.
However, given the nature of his deal with the team (one that included a player option for the second year of the contract), the Warriors surely foresaw the possibility of him departing. And considering that the draft occurs before the start of free agency, one must wonder if they made their selection with the thought of replacing his production in mind.
Enter Santa Clara standout Brandin Podziemski. Ask any draft diehard, and they will swear to you that Podziemski is the Jalen Williams (aka the sleeper) of the 2023 NBA Draft class. But does this rookie have what it takes to replace a key contributor in the Warriors’ rotation right out of the gate?
DiVincenzo is the best thing you can be when you’re a role player in the NBA – a jack of all trades. And during his lone season with the Warriors, he flashed every ounce of that versatility.
On defense, his greatest asset is his ability to create events. Last season, DiVincenzo was first on the Warriors in steal percentage (2.4%) among players that played at least 10 regular season games (sorry, Gary Payton II). Having someone who can excel in event creation (aka defensive playmaking) is huge for a team’s defense, as it gives them a way to escape possessions without surrendering a shot attempt. As a general rule, it is incredibly difficult to score points if you can’t get a shot off!
With DiVincenzo gone and Payton a major injury risk, the Warriors need someone capable of being the team’s head defensive playmaking honcho. Fortunately for them, Podziemski spent his sophomore season in college picking off passes like he was the basketball equivalent of Minkah Fitzpatrick. He ranked fourth in the West Coast Conference with 1.8 steals per game.
(Sidebar: Unlike DiVincenzo, Podziemski is also adept at another form of defensive playmaking: drawing charges.)
DiVincenzo often shared the floor with offensively-inclined guards Stephen Curry and Jordan Poole. Curry has improved greatly as a perimeter defender over the years. But regardless, they aren’t the kind of guys any good defense would entrust as their primary screen navigator. As a result, it was often up to DiVincenzo to don that mantle.
Now, with Chris Paul (a player who, at his age, is arguably even worse at getting around screens) subbed in for Poole, the onus falls on Podziemski to handle the perimeter assignments that require the most screen navigation.
Judging from his college tape, Podziemski is ready to take on that role in Year 1. To be a good screen navigator, you really only need two things: high effort and good technique (although having great physical tools helps too). The first requirement is no problem for Podziemski. He’s got a high-revving motor, as evidenced by his knack for accumulating steals and charges (but if that doesn’t convince you, check out this layup-saving defensive play).
As for his typical screen navigation technique, it’s one that is fundamental and easily replicable. He uses one hand to maintain contact with his target while he uses his off arm to guide himself around the screener. Here’s an example of a sequence where he does it for an on-ball and off-ball screen:
If the Warriors are going to run three-guard lineups next season featuring Curry, Paul and Podziemski (like they were able to with Curry, Poole and DiVincenzo), the rookie is going to have to get used to playing bigger than would otherwise be required of someone with his physical dimensions.
And again, that is no issue for Podziemski. Whether it be battling for contested defensive rebounds or switching onto and boxing out bigger opponents, Podziemski has no problem getting his hands dirty. And as an added bonus, he also offers the rare blend of rim protection from the guard position. Among players 6-foot-5 or shorter, Podziemski led the conference with 0.5 blocks per game (another indicator that he can play bigger on defense than his frame suggests).
Versatility was also an important part of DiVincenzo’s offensive role with the Warriors. With on-ball creators like Curry and Poole, he didn’t need to create offense from scratch all that often. But what he did need to be able to do was make quick decisions, play off the ball, and provide some secondary playmaking in spurts.
Considering the fact that he became an NBA Draft Twitter darling, you already know that Podziemski’s decision-making/processing speed is top notch.
As for playing off the ball, in the Warriors’ system, that’s going to consist of a lot of shooting (both off the catch and off of movement), cutting, connective tissue passing, and screening – all of which are reliable features in Podziemski’s toolbox.
(Sidebar No. 2: If you watched the video montage above, you may have noticed that there are no clips of Podziemski screening. Santa Clara didn’t use him as a screener too often. But based on his proclivity for physicality, it seems very likely that he’ll have no problem operating as a screener in the Warriors’ dynamic offense. Also, sidebar in the sidebar, Podziemski was a better 3-point shooter and free-throw shooter in college than DiVincenzo – strong indicators that he’ll be able to space the floor just as well as him, if not better.)
Secondary playmaking is actually an area where Podziemski may already be a more viable option than his predecessor. DiVincenzo had some nice moments with the ball in his hands throughout the season, but his overall marks were nothing to write home about (especially when you think about how low his on-ball load was). According to NBA.com, he was in the 39th percentile in isolation efficiency, the 15th percentile in pick-and-roll ball handler efficiency, and the 43rd percentile in field goal percentage on drives (minimum one drive per game).
Meanwhile, take a look at where Podziemski’s frequency and efficiency marks in all those areas were compared to the rest of the country last season, per AutoStats tracking data.
Albeit, these are college statistics being cited next to NBA numbers, so it isn’t a direct apples-to-apples comparison. But his numbers are still impressive nonetheless. And you also have to account for the fact that Podziemski is playing for a mid-major school and competing against Power-5 talents to earn his rankings in those respective categories.
DiVincenzo played like one of the best bench players in the league last season. And after putting Podziemski’s game side by side with his, there is real reason to believe that the Warriors’ first-round draft pick could serve as his legitimate replacement in 2023-24.
That isn’t to say that all Podziemski will ever amount to as an NBA player is a rotational piece. But if that’s where he is during his rookie campaign, that’s a pretty great way to begin a long and prosperous NBA career.
If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check out the first installment of “Immediate Impacts” on Jordan Hawkins.