The subplot to Golden State Warriors-Miami Heat matchup that few saw coming

Brandin Podziemski of the Golden State Warriors
Brandin Podziemski of the Golden State Warriors / Thearon W. Henderson/GettyImages

The Golden State Warriors and Miami Heat have been two of the NBA's most dominant teams in the past 15 years -- together they've combined for six championships and a further six Finals appearances since 2011.

Yet while veteran superstars have underpinned the respective successes, Thursday's matchup between the two teams will see a pair of rookies play a key role in the hopes of either side.

Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Brandin Podziemski will continue to play key roles as the Miami Heat meet the Golden State Warriors at Chase Center on Thursday

Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Brandin Podziemski were taken with back-to-back selections at pick 18 and 19 in June's 2023 NBA Draft. Now, less than halfway through their rookie seasons, the pair have performed like prospects that should have gone inside the top 10.

Both players have performed consistently in growing opportunity this season, before each stepping up in a major way on the marquee event of Christmas Day. Jaquez led the Heat with 31 points on 11-15 shooting, along with 10 rebounds and two steals in the 119-113 win over the Philadelphia 76ers.

Jaquez's drew increased responsibility in the absence of star teammate Jimmy Butler on Christmas, and that will again be the case as the six-time All-Star is a confirmed out for Thursday's meeting with the Warriors.

Miami will also be without Kyle Lowry and Caleb Martin, while Josh Richardson is also doubtful for the visitors. The undermanned Heat squad is set to lean more heavily on Jaquez, All-Star center Bam Adebayo and fifth-year guard Tyler Herro.

While Jaquez continues to shine in Miami, Podziemski has rewritten the code in Golden State that once limited the impact of rookie players. The 20-year-old continues to go from strength-to-strength, tallying 13 points, nine rebounds, six assists and a career-high five steals against the Denver Nuggets on Christmas Day.

Podziemski's multi-faceted game has won the trust of head coach Steve Kerr, with the Warriors having gone 5-2 since the young guard entered the starting lineup. The Santa Clara product has averaged 10.9 points, 6.9 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 2.1 steals in that seven-game period.

Thursday's game will hold a fascinating subplot in the growing comparison between Jaquez and Podziemski. They feel connected because of their stature as draft steals, particularly given they were taken with consecutive picks. There's also the fact Miami were supposedly choosing between the two with the 18th pick, at least according to Podziemski.

""I think Miami really liked me. It was between me and Jaime for who they were going to pick. They ultimately picked Jaime. After that I knew I was going to Golden State," Podziemski said after the draft."

Such is their importance and value, it's not an over exaggeration to suggest that whichever rookie plays better will send their team a long way to earning an important victory in a game between two of the league's biggest franchises.