Jordan Poole shouldn't 'sacrifice s–t' when Klay Thompson returns
Back on Nov. 3, with 3:10 left in the first half against the Charlotte Hornets, Jordan Poole curled off of a screen and momentarily bobbled a chest-high pass on the wing. He calmly regathered, locked the basketball into his shooting pocket, and buried what was his fourth 3-pointer in three minutes. The entire time, his eyes never left the rim. After hitting the shot, Poole let out a full-throated roar and gallivanted across the Chase Center court. He basked in his moment of glory like a gladiator in front of a cheering coliseum.
Poole has given the Golden State Warriors and its fans plenty of these moments throughout their 18-3 start. However, most wonder how many more he will have after Klay Thompson returns from his two-year hiatus sometime this month. Like his impending replacement, Poole is an (occasionally overly) confident shooter and a silky-smooth scorer. Poole has improved dramatically and demonstrated this season that no matter how his role changes moving forward, he will not need to sacrifice anything.
Since that night, Poole has averaged 20.3 points on 47.5 percent shooting in 31.5 minutes across 15 games. He gives the Warriors a second playmaker who can be a go-to scorer on any given night. He's now led Golden State in scoring six times after dropping an efficient 28 points in the Phoenix loss on Tuesday. But where will he fit when Klay returns? On Wednesday, team leader Draymond Green offered an answer via his podcast “The Draymond Green Show" from the iHeart radio network.
“Whether Jordan coming off the bench or starting, he’s going to play 30 minutes a night,” Green said.
Poole is averaging 30.4 minutes and 14.6 shot attempts per game this season. He has had success this season because of his aggression, do not expect that to change.
Thompson went through a similar line of questioning in 2016 after the addition of Kevin Durant and his response was legendary : “I’m not sacrificing s--t.”
He was true to his word. Thompson averaged more shot attempts in 2016-17 (17.6) as he did in 2015-16 (17.3) and was just as efficient. Perhaps that’s why Thompson has publicly encouraged Poole to maintain his identity. On November 22, Klay tweeted this in response to ESPN’s SportsCenter account about Poole’s statistical ascent:
Another guide to aid Poole along his perceived path of relegation is Andre Iguodala. Not only as a veteran with 17-plus years of wisdom to pass down, but as someone who has made the most out of taking a step back. Iguodala was just as (if not more) impactful being the sixth man for the Warriors title teams after starting every game his first season in Golden State. Now, Iguodala can be a unique resource for Poole if (or when) he feels lesser in his new role.
There will be some games, as there are now, when Poole’s light is a little too green. Forced or early shots are inevitable with his gunslinging disposition, which leads to empty possessions. He occasionally over-dribbles and gets caught trying to pass out of ill-advised drives. He yells at officials when a call doesn’t go his way. He plays with emotion, which can be both destructive and advantageous. But Poole is 22 years old. All of his current mistakes should help him in the future. He’s already grown so much in a short period. This season, Poole has already scored 20-plus points in eight games after doing it nine times in 51 contests last year.
Plus, Poole’s constant pressure on opposing defenses has added a beneficial dynamic. Last season, it was Stephen Curry versus the world. Now, Curry has another playmaker who can get his shot. Just because Thompson is returning, likely to the starting lineup, does not mean Poole won’t see the floor with Curry. A three-guard lineup of Curry, Thompson, and Poole gives Golden State maximum offensive potential. Then, as the leader of the second unit, Poole will have a freer reign as the leading scorer. The Warriors generally struggle when Curry rests, but Poole can help them sustain and perhaps extend leads. He takes over for stretches and can also finish games. Golden State has plenty of ways to use Poole, which helps far more than it hurts.
Some nights, Poole will get the 30 minutes Draymond estimated. Either way, it is hard to envision Poole changing his attitude (or shot selection) on the court. His tunnel vision makes him a lethal option on offense. Although he has not said it publicly, it’s difficult to see Poole changing his mindset. He is who he is. So far, that has helped the Warriors back into title contention. Poole has no reason to change, even when Thompson returns.