'21 Season Review: Jordan Poole has arrived to the party
Poole made the leap from G-Leaguer to important reserve. What is he doing well and what can he improve upon to take the next leap?
The following is a conversation on Jordan Poole’s season between Daniel Hardee and Thomas “Dr. Tom” Bevilacqua, the author of “Golden Age: The Brilliance of the 2018 Champion Golden State Warriors”. This article is rated “N” for Nerding: there’s a ton of advanced stats here. Viewer discretion is advised.
Daniel: Three things I remember most from covering Summer League 2019 with you in blazing hot Las Vegas: Hearing KD was leaving, Hennessy shots, and watching a feisty young guard named Jordan Poole. You were quite high on Poole then; what'd you see at that time and how has that potential manifested this season? I mean he got a vote for most improved player; not bad!
Dr. Tom: You don’t remember the Kawhi Leonard and Paul George news breaking and that prompting us to get drunk? I think what I saw during that Summer League and that’s really played out in the second half of this season is his ability to be a real gunner or offensive weapon off the bench (kind of in the Leandro Barbosa model). I went back to take a look at the Summer League stats (which… yeah take an ENORMOUS grain of salt) and he was in the top 25 of PPG for all the players in the Summer League. So it was clear he could get buckets and he’s three-point shot hadn’t really developed (he only shot 26.7% from three in Vegas).
And that’s what you saw this season, especially after coming back from the G League bubble. All those 20+ point games for him came after that experience. The game that really showed what he could do and that role he could play was in the win over the Rockets (where Curry hurt his tailbone). He gave 23 points coming off the bench, he was actually the team’s leading scorer in that game
Daniel: You mentioned Poole went to the G-League bubble: what was the positive change in his game that turned him into the #1 answer Dub Nation uses when someone challenges Golden State’s ability to draft and develop?
Dr. Tom: Here he talks about how that bubble experience gave him a rhythm.
Maybe it came down to just getting minutes that he wasn’t getting with the main lineup. I was thinking about how we didn’t see that as much in that Summer League time because they were trying to really let Jacob Evans get run as an aggressive ball handler
Daniel: Wow, Jacob Evans. That may be the #1 name that is used as evidence that Golden State doesn’t know how to draft and develop.
Dr. Tom: Pre G-League Bubble he averaged 5.5 PPG on 42.6% shooting from the field (33.3% from 3PT) in 9.6 min. He was averaging 4.1 FGA per game, with 2.6 attempts from deep.
Post Bubble he averaged 14.7 PPG on 43.3% shooting from the field (35.4% from 3), with 2.4 assists in 23.5 min. He also averaged 11.5 FGA per game, with 6.6 attempts coming from downtown. That slight increase in the percentage with the BIG increase in minutes…he was doing more/taking more shots but at a slightly better percentage.
Daniel: That’s always a good sign from a young player: higher workload with better efficiency. He knows how to score two-pointers fairly well at this stage and that’s a great sign for a sparkplug scorer off the bench.
Here’s some stats from Cleaning the Glass charting Poole’s efficiency in different scoring areas on the court. The colored numbers represent his percentile relative to his position, while the non-colored numbers show his stats. We can see here he succeeded on 67% of his shots around the rim (good for 84th percentile), and a respectable 43% in the short mid-range (good for 60th percentile).
His overall efficiency from deep has room to improve if he’s going to become a star. He has a quick trigger from beyond the arc and he’s not afraid to jack the ball up in catch-and-shoot situations. I know he was saddled with occasionally carrying a stagnant offense when Stephen Curry sat and that sometimes resulted in him trying to force something out of nothing. Unless you’re a scoring savant, that’s gonna be an efficiency killer.
But he also shot 38% (52-of-135) on 3PT shots classified as “wide open”. For comparison Kent Bazemore hit 46% (65-of-141) on those open bombs with no defender within six feet. An improvement here would be huge for Poole’s career and really force defenses to play the Warriors more honest. And for what it’s worth I got to the point this season where I began confidently expecting his deep shots to connect.
There were plenty of times he made the best out of bad situations using his fearlessness and crafty dribble to find advantageous opportunities close to the rim.
OH BABY, HOT SIZZLE! His downhill aggression also him made him proficient at drawing fouls. This next graphic shows he’s in the 78th percentile in Shooting Fouled Percentage (drawing fouls while shooting) and Floor Fouled Percentage (drawing non-shooting fouls on the floor), proving he’s got a knack for encouraging ref whistles.
He’s an 88% free throw shooter as well, so he makes his trips to the line count. I’m interested to see how his shooting aggression toggles next season on a hopefully healthy squad with Klay Thompson. You know who else is? Coach Steve Kerr, who had this quote about Poole:
He gets places most players can't get to. He's so much more than just a shooter. He's very dynamic. If we have Klay healthy, it's really fun to think about Jordan and Klay in those minutes when Steph and Draymond [Green] are off the floor. That's exciting.
Dr. Tom: That’s interesting as a change of pace at the SG position.
Daniel: Totally. Bro did you know he had a slightly higher rate of drawing shooting fouls than Steph?! Once Poole gets into his bag, he’s a slippery cover for any defender.
Dr. Tom: If there’s something Poole can do to further fulfill the promise of his draft day, it’d be becoming more consistent as a playmaker/distributor. He had a couple of games with 5+ assists down the stretch (6 in that win over the Bucks) and I’d like to see him do that a bit more regularly.
Obviously his main role is going to be as instant offense/to get buckets, but he has a little point guard in his game too and it’d be interesting to have him doing some of that especially when Klay’s out there with the second unit. He only averaged one turnover per game this season so he’s good at that. I’d accept a few more if it also meant he was generating more offense beyond just his scoring.
Daniel: Your eye test is right on point. Per CtG, Poole was in the 86th percentile in not turning the ball over, but only in the 19th percentile for his assist to usage ratio (how often a player gets an assist given how much he has the ball). Although he probably had the biggest assist of the season in that ill-fated final game against Memphis:
Dr. Tom: Here’s a comparison between him last season and Leandro Barbosa in ‘15-’16.
And if you’re into that advanced stats bullsh**:
Daniel: Lmao yeah advanced stats don’t help in barbershop arguments.
Dr. Tom: But like if he could be that Barbosa-esque player and then Juan Toscano-Andrson as a Kirkland Supreme Iguodala?
Looking at that (admittedly pretty rudimentary) statistical comparison between Poole and peak-Warriors Barbosa and I'm really intrigued by the comparison between the two. They're even roughly the same height and weight.
But both Barbosa and Poole are players where you can reach a point where they're asked to do too much and thus you get diminishing returns. It's why they're both so well suited for that "gunner off the bench" spot. I think for a player selected in the late first round, the Barbosa model/aspiring to fill that role would be a pretty good thing.
Daniel: Looking back over the draft I don’t see anybody picked after Poole that I wish we’d swap him for. He gets extra points from me for holding his own for an injury riddled but still top-5 defense.
Alright, let’s turn it over to our community and hear their thoughts on the sophomore’s season!