Brandin Podziemski is far from a household name, and he carries that same quiet presence on the court as well. But his name is picking up steam in the buildup to this year’s draft after a solid showing at the NBA Combine.
After transferring from Illinois following a season with just 69 game minutes, Podziemski hit the ground running at Santa Clara. In a breakout sophomore season, he averaged 19.9 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game.
His efficiency from all areas of the floor in 2022-23 is what is currently wowing scouts and bloggers alike. Last year, Podziemski shot 48% from the floor, 44% from three, and 77% from the free throw line — all while registering a tidy 1.6:1 assist to turnover ratio. But can a small school prospect without an ideal NBA frame continue to excel at the next level?
At only 6-foot-4 with a similarly unassuming athletic profile, Podziemski isn’t an above-the-rim highflyer, nor does he regularly sprint past defenses in transition. But the combine was fruitful for him as he logged an impressive 39-inch running vertical jump that ranked him in the 89th percentile for all-time NBA Combine participants.
Podziemski primarily played shooting guard next to the 6-foot-1 Carlos Stewart last season, but at his size he projects to make a significant move toward point guard as his primary position at the next level. He has the ability to play on and off the ball, although he is more generally attuned to float near the three-point line and set screens rather than looking for cutting opportunities off the ball.
This lift and dribble into his lefty three-point stroke is subtle but an effective move at all levels of basketball.
He’s a very polished pick-and-roll operator who can deliver passes with either hand. His anticipation in passing to open space for his teammates is among the top performers in this class. Whether it’s hitting pocket passes after turning downhill off a screen or kicking out to the corner, he thrives on pick-and-roll sets starting at the top of the key, making him a good fit for the modern NBA.
This sequence is a great distillation of all he offers on offense: first a pick-and-roll where he splits the defense with an on-time overhead pass. Then, even when he picks up his dribble, he uses good footwork to get off a crafty finish.
He does offer a solid mid-range and pull up game from all over the floor, and he can operate as a catch-and-shoot player when needed. But at his stature he’s not a regular finisher in the paint. In a league with skyscraping shot swatters, he’ll need to work on his floater — a shot that really isn’t in his repertoire at this stage in his development.
Podziemski generally shies away from contact in the paint, like on the below clip where he tries to slow down and fade on a short-range attempt.
Despite this, Podziemski is generally a fearless player on offense, with the craft and ability to finish with either hand given proper spacing. He has no problem pulling up in players’ grills and has the confidence and hardworking reputation to continue to add layers to his game.
The closest link from his surprising combine vertical to impacting the game between the lines is his stunning rebounding ability. Despite often being the smallest player on the floor, Brandin Podziemski pulled down almost 10 rebounds per 40 minutes this past season, including just under two per 40 minutes on the offensive end.
However, no one will argue that he has ideal measurables with just a 6-foot-6 wingspan and weighing in at 195 pounds. Still, he regularly defends hard and gives full effort on the defensive end. He uses his smarts and quickness to counter opponents and more often than not be in the right place and at the right time.
This past season, he registered 1.8 steals per game and an impressive — for a guard — 2.5 stocks (steals plus blocks) per 40 minutes. The below sequence shows how aware he is, offering a tough dig from the nail, coming up with the ball, and diming up a teammate racing past the defense for a quick score.
Unfortunately, that’s largely where the Cinderella story on defense ends. Podziemski often gets beat when defending at the point of attack, as players look to draw him on switches and attack. There’s just not a lot he can do when bigger players get him on their back hip going downhill.
Also, he can get walled off fighting through screens, as he lacks the physicality and length to stay attached to his assignments. He’ll probably be relegated to being a ‘hidden defender’ on this end, but with his active hands and spacial awareness, he can still positively impact a team’s defense in help situations with fundamental plays.
Possible fit with the Hawks
To me, Brandin Podziemski checks a lot of boxes the Hawks should look for in a third guard to play alongside either Trae Young or Dejounte Murray (but never with both on the floor). He can handle the ball, space the floor and shoot, and he at least fights on defense to varying degrees of effectiveness. That’s been a winning formula this past season, even in the case of wildly differing complementary players — for example, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Aaron Holiday.
The defense is clearly capped by his measurables, but if the offense continues on an upward track, it could be worth the plunge outside of the lottery. With the Hawks in control of the 15th overall pick, I think taking Podziemski there would be a reach without a trade down, but I do believe he’ll be a nice player for someone picking in the 20’s this draft.