Brandin Podziemski

Starter? Sixth man? Podz ready to contribute regardless of his role

NBC Universal, Inc.

LAS VEGAS – The first player to ever replace Klay Thompson in the Warriors’ starting lineup wasn’t an established NBA star. Coach Steve Kerr didn’t choose a veteran, but a rookie who was 10 days away from turning 21 years old. 

Thompson deciding to end his illustrious 13 years of wearing a Warriors jersey and turning them in for Dallas Mavericks colors this summer put an end to the greatest shooting backcourt in basketball history. The real date the Splash Brothers of Thompson and Steph Curry was put to rest was that Feb. 15 win against the Utah Jazz this past season, where Klay responded by scoring 35 points off the bench. 

Curry’s new partner became Brandin Podziemski, who started 15 of the Warriors’ final 28 regular-season games he appeared in, beginning that night in Salt Lake City. The question now is, will Podziemski be Curry’s running mate for the 2024-25 NBA season after an inspiring introduction to the pros that saw the No. 19 overall pick from last year’s draft earn All-Rookie First Team honors? 

“I definitely feel more comfortable on the ball and I know Steph feels comfortable off the ball,” Podziemski told NBC Sports Bay Area on Monday. “If we end up starting together, which is a possibility, that’d be cool. But for me, it’s just playing. 

“It doesn’t matter if I start, come off the bench – I just want to be out there when the game is on the line. It’s definitely a possibility, but I definitely got to earn it. That doesn’t come easy.” 

Warriors general manager Mike Dunleavy, in response to losing Thompson, already has added two guards this offseason who could be vying for spots in the starting lineup alongside Curry.

Buddy Hield brings the 3-point threat the Warriors clearly will miss from Thompson’s absence. De’Anthony Melton averaged a career-high 11.1 points per game last season and shot 39.0 percent from deep the year prior when he was fully healthy. He also adds the type of defensive prowess required to create a successful duo next to Curry, as Thompson once did before injuries changed his game. 

“We have a lot of veteran guys now that we picked up,” Podziemski said. “So for me, it’s just going in there every day and showing Steve and his staff that I deserve it and that I earned it and kind of go from there.” 

All the little things that create a winner were evident whenever Podziemski stepped on the floor as a rookie. The now-21-year-old led the entire NBA in charges taken and topped all Warriors in plus/minus. Even when he replaced Thompson that first game in the starting lineup, Podziemski’s plus-5 was the best among all Warriors as he did a little bit of everything behind a performance of 13 points, eight assists and six rebounds. 

His numbers in 28 starts were awfully similar to the 46 games Podziemski came off the bench during his debut season for the Warriors. Podziemski averaged 9.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists in the starting five, and 9.1 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists in reserve. However, Podziemski’s 3-point shot did drop from 42.3 percent as a bench player to 33.7 percent beginning games. 

Asking anyone to be Thompson beyond the arc is nothing short of unfair. It’s also no secret that taking his game to the next level starts with becoming a more assertive and reliable scorer. 

“Just exploring different areas where I can score a lot of shots that I passed up on last year that will be going up this year, but I think it’s something the team needs,” Podziemski says. “For me to get to where I want to go both from a team perspective and an individual perspective, I think scoring … you need to take that jump. 

“All great players can score the ball at all three levels. For me it’s just finding different ways to score. With our team for the Warriors, I think it’s about being a little more aggressive.” 

Kerr told NBC Sports Bay Area “Brandin is a point guard at heart,” and though the Warriors coach still sees him as a combo guard who can fluctuate between both the 1 and the 2, he expects Podziemski to play “plenty of point guard this year.” 

That’s the role that has been the most evident when watching Podziemski lead the USA Select Team in their two scrimmages against Team USA’s roster full of current NBA superstars and future Hall of Famers. Whenever he’s on the floor, the ball has been in Podziemski’s hands with the young lefty initiating the offense. 

Listed at 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, Podziemski already looks noticeably stronger entering Year 2. Podziemski also says his lateral quickness has improved as another way to envision himself starting next to Curry and thriving while doing so. 

As those inside the Warriors’ front office continue searching for ways to enhance a roster that is healing from losing a franchise icon, Podziemski has placed it upon himself not to fill Thompson’s shoes, but to be the best version of himself that can quiet outside noise once again. 

“I know Steph’s going to do his thing. I know Jonathan [Kuminga] is going to do his thing. So now, where does that third scorer come in? I think it’s a perfect fit and opportunity for me,” Podziemski believes.

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