SAN FRANCISCO – Gui Santos usually is joined by a smile, and he has good reasons why right now.
Santos was selected by the Warriors No. 55 overall in the 2022 NBA Draft, the fourth-to-last pick, and is the lone player left from Golden State’s three-player draft class. First-round pick Patrick Baldwin Jr. was traded to the Washington Wizards on draft night this year, and second-round pick Ryan Rollins, who the Warriors spent money on and traded up for, also was sent to the Wizards before Baldwin as part of the deal that is bringing Chris Paul in and Jordan Poole out.
The recently turned 21-year-old Santos has completed a 180-degree turn in his confidence and comfortability on the court over the last year. Every part of Santos’ game has improved, some parts more than others. His biggest improvement he says, though, is the work he has done to improve his body.
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“But one thing I think that was the most improved thing that I had last year was my body,” Santos said Thursday at Chase Center in his pre-summer league press conference. “It was not in the game. But in the game, you asked me in the game, I think consistent shooting was one of the things that I got better at most last year. But if you ask me the point that I grew most last year, it was my body, working hard to put some weight on, to be ready, because the guys here, the game is so physical.
“I have to work hard to be ready to hold this game.”
Standing 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot wingspan, the small forward was about 205 pounds going into his first NBA summer league a year ago. Erase that number. He now is weighing in around 220 pounds. The difference is noticeable, too.
Even sitting at the podium, Santos’ added muscle was hard to miss. His body is maturing and he’s starting to look less like the lean prospect he was when drafted by the Warriors. All aspects of the game were new to the Brazilian, including how to take care of yourself.
Golden State Warriors
Santos spent the entire season developing in the Warriors’ Santa Cruz G League affiliate and credits head performance coach Andre Mattson for changes he has been happy to see.
Working out after games was foreign to Santos, now it’s second nature.
“Last year I was really, really working hard with that, with the coach, strength coach in Santa Cruz,” Santos said. “After the game he was calling me like, ‘Gui, you've got to lift after the game,’ so I got a hard lift after every game to make these results.”
Both of Santos’ parents have a basketball background, and his father, Deivisson, played five seasons professionally in the Novo Basquete Brasil, Brazil’s top league. Gui began his pro career in the NBB for Minas during the 2018-19 season and showed his scoring ability right away in his Warriors summer league debut, producing a team-high 23 points in his first California Classic game.
The Warriors, however, play a style Santos didn’t have any experience in. The speed and competition level of the game was new, as was the importance of all the things that amount to winning and losing but aren’t seen on the scoreboard or box score.
“I had to learn -- actually I had to learn how to play basketball from zero because here the game is way different,” Santo said. “But now, I'm adapting myself to play this game, so I feel more confident and ready to play, because last year I had a lot of learning from the coach, from the guys that have been playing this league for a long time.”
He played 43 games in Santa Cruz and averaged 10.9 points on 48.4 percent shooting, playing 25.1 minutes per game. Santos also grabbed 6.0 rebounds per game, though he did almost average as many turnovers (2.3 per game) as assists (2.4 per game).
As the season progressed, the game also slowed down for the young prospect who found himself in a new country willing to learn from the ground up to one day play in the NBA. In nine regular-season games after the All-Star Game, Santos improved his scoring averages, field goal percentage, 3-point percentage and assist averages while decreasing his turnovers.
“I learned what I actually need to do, to bring to the court,” Santos said. “To be on the court, you don't have to be the highest scorer or score points every possession. You've got to be the guy that can help your team to look good. Sometimes you can just cut and give a wide-open shot for your teammate.
“Last year was the year that I learned a lot about what I have to do on the court, and that gives me a lot more confidence to go into the game and do whatever I need to do to help the team.”
Of course, Santos wants to impress the Warriors and have big numbers, starting Monday night in the California Classic at Golden 1 Center, to prove his work in the weight room and confidence as a player is paying off. He’s ahead of schedule as a project draft pick, and his goals this summer are the same as he approaches every day. That, more than anything else, is what will keep him on track of one day wearing a Warriors jersey in an NBA game.
“I just want to show the best of me,” Santos said. “I want to show the best player that I can bring to the court. I want to show how I can be the best teammate and how I can help the team to win games. That's the most important thing for me, to show them that I'm ready.
“If you guys need me, I'm going to be here to help you guys to win games. That's what really matters.”