Warriors Analysis: Initial thoughts on Brandin Podziemski’s early summer league performance

If you don’t overreact to what happens during Summer League, are you really enjoying what Summer League is really about?

All kidding aside, it’s an opportunity to see your team’s drafted players for the first time and see if they show you things that stand out – albeit on a playing field that isn’t entirely representative of how they’ll fare in it highest level of competition.

Nevertheless, one looks for trends and habits that separate such prospects from the rest of the field, which consists mainly of undrafted players and fringe NBA talent looking for a shot in the big leagues. Those drafted – especially in the first round – should stand out because they have a much higher base talent than everyone else around them.

As such, when you look at Brandin Podziemski — the Golden State Warriors’ first-round pick this year NBA Draft – and how he fared during the first two games of Summer League, I was looking for a few things:

  1. His outside shooting – catch-and-shoot, movement and pull-up.
  2. His ability to handle the ball and keep his dribbling alive.
  3. Ability to read, especially under defensive pressure.
  4. His defense.

Again, the caveat behind seeing what Podziemski does (or doesn’t do) is that it’s Summer League. But that doesn’t discount what’s to come in terms of his skills and how those skills scale up if and when he gets actual rotation minutes during the regular season.

In two college seasons—first with the University of Illinois and then with Santa Clara University—Podziemski shot 42.4% on 4.1 three-point attempts per game. Those are gaudy numbers, and it certainly played a big role in the Warriors — whose shift toward an analytics-friendly shot profile has been evident over the past few seasons — drafting him 19th overall.

But more than just the numbers, the true measure of how effective Podziemski will be as a shooter is how versatile his shooting is. That doesn’t mean he won’t come to the league as a pure spot-up specialist – but having more versatility as a shooter will give him extra punch in the league.

From the initial Summer League footage of Podziemski, it looks like his footage won’t just be limited to spot-up looks.

On the “Get” action above (a sequence where a ballhandler passes to a big and immediately gets it back via a pass), Podziemski calmly manipulates his defender against the re-screen and pulls up for the three when he gets just enough space to the shot.

One thing that stands out from the possession above: Podziemski’s release is fast.

Being the highest draft pick by the Warriors means the Summer League defense will put a target on Podziemski’s back. Add to that the fact that he has a reputation as a knockdown shooter and he will command tough close-outs from defenders in an attempt to get him off the line.

Podziemski is aware of that fact and uses it to his advantage. He has an arsenal of up-fakes and escape dribbles to create space for himself in an instant:

Putting together tough close-outs and forcing defenders to sell out due to the threat he generates on the perimeter means Podziemski gets opportunities to put the ball on the floor and touch the paint. His rim-attacking moxie has been fun to watch over the last two games, and he’s flashed the occasional touch (and craft) around the rim:

Podziemski does a good job of moving after the initial “Miami” action set (a DHO flowing into a ball screen). He gets a close-out after catching the pass, attacks and freezes the rim protector with a pass fake before finishing.

Not every drive to the rim will be like that for Podziemski. He will see smarter defenders rotate and close off his driving lanes much quicker than he has seen at the Summer League level. The lack of outlier burst means he will be stopped in his tracks somewhere along the way to the rim.

But that hasn’t stopped Podziemski from picking himself up, keeping his dribble alive and finding teammates who are open as a result of the help he attracts in the paint:

Podziemski being able to keep his dribbling alive is key to his development as a secondary ball handler and playmaker. It’s safe to say that confidence in him as a half-court decision maker — at least initially — won’t be very high in the regular season.

But the building blocks are already there:

Keeping his composure — and his dribbling alive — amid defensive pressure allows Podziemski to take advantage of openings when they present themselves. He manages to use his handle to create the penetration above, forcing the short man on the weak side to step up and help and subsequently whips the pass to the corner.

The inner passage is also there:

Defensively, Podziemski has been projected as a work in progress. It doesn’t help that he’s physically disadvantaged – at a generous 6’5″ (measured as 6’3.75″ without shoes under the combine), he won’t intimidate anyone with his length. His 8’0″ standing reach and 6’5.5″ wingspan don’t help in that department either.

He has had moments where he flashed decent lateral movement, but the lack of length and physicality has given him trouble keeping his man in front. He has had to make up for those shortcomings with timing and quick hands, as well as an ability to crash the boards.

Podziemski tallied five steals against the Charlotte Hornets. This one was probably the most glaring, considering it mixed a few skills he can bring to the table:

It’s a clean swipe-down and transition three — but not before you knocked two defenders out of their shoes with two consecutive up-fakes.

Progress and the journey matter more than the stats in the Summer League. Podziemski had a relatively quiet scoring debut against Sacramento Kings but put up a more eye-popping 17 points against the Hornets. But it’s the mix of everything he’s shown so far – shooting, willingness to attack, poise in relation to defensive pressure, playmaking and tenacity in defense despite natural shortcomings – that has been more important to note.

This is not ironclad proof that Podziemski will see significant playing time in the regular season. He will be buried behind the depth chart and will most likely see heavy minutes in garbage time.

But if there was ever a path toward real minutes when it actually matters, it’s to take what he’s done so far and prove it will translate into much better competition.

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