As the Warriors prepare for the second half the the NBA season, much focus is on Golden State’s first-round draft pick this season, center James Wiseman, and rightfully so.
But what about Golden State’s first-round choice from a year ago, guard Jordan Poole?
As a late-first-round pick, Poole’s path has been markedly different than that of Wiseman, who was the No. 2 overall selection in the NBA Draft a few months ago. But Poole still represents a huge investment from general manager Bob Myers.
After an uneven rookie season that saw him get off to an awful start, mostly with his unsightly shooting percentage, which climbed to 35.1 by season’s end, Poole is in prime position to finally prove his worth in the NBA. He earned a few early-season minutes this year but then spent time in the G-League bubble, where he was one of the best players, and now he’s up with the big club once again.
Not missing a beat, Poole scored a career-high 26 points against the Suns just before the All-Star break in his first minutes back from the bubble, displaying an improved shooting touch from all areas of the court (his FG percentage this year is 46.8).
Conveniently, his skill set fills a need for coach Steve Kerr, who has said recently that his team needs more scoring and playmaking from players besides superstar guard Stephen Curry. Furthermore, Kerr says he’ll change his rotation in the second half of the campaign, starting Thursday night against the Clippers.
These moves from Poole during his career day against the Suns are surely on his mind.
Yeah, that’s exactly what Kerr is looking for, no doubt. But that doesn’t mean it’s a sure thing Poole will be a fixture with Golden State.
Before I get into that a bit more, I’ve got to say: I’ve been a believer in Poole’s game since draft night. I took one look at his highlight clip from his alma mater, Michigan, and I knew he had the skills to thrive in the NBA.
Here’s a tweet of mine from Poole’s first NBA Summer League game (or at least, I think it was Poole’s first. It must have been). To me, his skills are very obvious, even at this early stage (of course they’re obvious from the clip above, as well).
So how good can Poole be in Golden State? The answer to that question lies within Poole’s psyche. He has the required skill, but he must find the correct level of aggressiveness when he’s on the court. He has a tendency to be too willing to take a difficult shot, or a bad shot, early in the 24-second clock and out of the construct of Kerr’s offense.
He must be diligent with his shot selection, realizing that his primary goal when he’s out there, as a guard and ball-handler, is to run the offense smoothly with no turnovers, getting his teammates into position to themselves score. When it’s clear he should shoot, then pull the trigger. There’s no need for him to take a game over at this point, anyway. Poole’s poor shot selection during his rookie campaign simply cannot return; it torpedoed his shooting percentage and his confidence.
Essentially, take that above clip of Poole dominating the Suns. Poole must realize that moving forward, that’s not what a successful night is likely to look like for him. He’ll be called on to only do a fraction of that level of shot-making. He must play within himself and Kerr’s offense.
If he can do that, I think Poole can become one of the NBA’s top-flight reserve guards for Golden State, with Sixth Man of the Year potential. He has the ability to play the role of great Warriors reserves from past championships such as Leandro Barbosa and Shaun Livingston, with perhaps some Marreese Speights-like instant offense thrown in.
All he’s got to do is turn down his swag a bit. Play within the system. Don’t try and do too much. Then, the swag will rise naturally.
And how nice would that be? It’s almost essential, honestly. Golden State is in dire need of competent, low-price pieces it can utilize next season, when star guard Klay Thompson re-joins Curry in the backcourt. The franchise expects to go on a championship run with a top-heavy, high-priced roster in need of role players.
It’s all there for Poole. Myers has a lot of work to do in preparing the roster for next season, and Poole could make it easier on him by proving he was the correct first-round choice in 2019. All he’s got to do is play within himself — don’t press, take smart shots — and he’ll be a star reserve for the Golden State Warriors with an ever-increasing potential to be more.
(Photo credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports)