With a Golden State Warriors roster inclusive of talented first-round picks, Steve Kerr has rightly or wrongly built a reputation as a head coach that struggles to trust in his younger players over recent seasons.
Recent lottery picks James Wiseman, Moses Moody and Jonathan Kuminga have each had their careers plagued by inconsistent opportunity, with only the latter having recently found a way through to find a starting role that garners 30+ minutes each night.
Even rookie center Trayce Jackson-Davis is getting a taste of fluctuating minutes in the rotation, that despite impressing in the majority of his stints this season. Yet in the case of fellow 2023 draft pick Brandin Podziemski, Kerr has a trust factor that's belied his management of other young players in recent years.
Brandin Podziemski's undeniable impact on winning has propelled him to a significant part of the Golden State Warriors' rotation
In a marquee and important matchup against the Phoenix Suns on Saturday night, Podziemski saw more playing time than any other Warrior player, including future Hall of Famers Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson.
That's not a one-off either, with Podziemski's 34.5 minutes per game the most of any Golden State player over the team's last seven outings. So, how has someone with 44 games of NBA experience reached this stature in a team still holding championship aspirations?
The answer is simple -- Podziemski's undeniable impact on winning has forced Kerr's hand. Not only can he contribute in a multitude of aspects on both ends of the floor, but he also doesn't make the mistakes that often hurt the playing time of other young players. That's emphasized in the fact that over his last six games, the 20-year-old has dished out 41 assists -- the most of any Warrior -- and only four turnovers.
Golden State are a +149 in Podziemski's 1152 minutes on the floor this season. That's easily the highest plus-minus on the team and it's not particularly close -- Kuminga ranks second at +96, while veterans Thompson, Kevon Looney and Andrew Wiggins are languishing in the bottom three.
Of the Warriors' eight best five-man lineups to play a minimum of 10 minutes this season, there's one common denominator -- Podziemski. The 19th overall pick is also part of 12 of the teams' 14-best lineups by net rating (minimum 10 minutes). The impact on winning is extraordinary for any player, let alone a rookie.
Having recently taken greater responsibility as Golden State's point-guard in the non-Curry minutes, the next question is how Podziemski's role and playing time will be impacted by the return of Chris Paul.
There will be an adjustment made no doubt, but it should be minimal based purely on the correlation between Podziemski's growing playing time and the Warriors 6-1 record in that period. Curry, Green and Kuminga will get the plaudits for the team's recent resurgence, yet Podziemski is playing a similarly important role as the franchise tries to forge a path back into the playoff picture.