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'23 Season Review: How Jordan Poole's Warriors tenure ended
The highs and the lows - was Poole a victim of circumstance in Golden State or a cautionary tale of basketball hubris?
Jordan Poole’s 2022-2023 stats: 20.4 PPG, 4.5 AST, 2.7 REB, 43% shooting, 33% 3PT shooting, 87% free throw percentage.
I want to begin with a long quote from Dieter Kurtenbach, penned after the Grizzlies handed the Dubs a loss during the regular season that kinda encapsulates the unease Dub Nation had around Poole this past season:
When the Warriors signed Jordan Poole to a nine-figure contract extension before this season, it was with the belief that he would be the future of the franchise.
He might end up being that when his new contract starts after this season.
But the Warriors can’t afford to wait any longer for Poole to find his best game.
The Warriors need Poole to play like a $100-million player right now if they hope to make something of this season. Otherwise the offseason will be here in a matter of weeks, not months, and the Dubs’ front office (and whoever is running it) might take the extra time to re-assess the team’s long-term plans.
Now, the expectation for this season was never that Poole would need to make a leap. But the guard plateauing wasn’t expected, either.
Saturday night’s loss to the Memphis Grizzlies was the perfect encapsulation of Poole’s season: up and down, and all too often, down in the wrong moments. Poole provided positives in Memphis — brilliant makes, sharp decisions, even a couple of nice defensive possessions; his 17-point third quarter was outstanding, as he made nine free throws in the frame.
But there were also more turnovers than assists, no-pass possessions and countless blow-bys on the defensive end.
And while Poole helped keep the Warriors close to start the fourth, his two fourth-quarter turnovers and defensive struggles were critical in the Dubs going from down 3 in the final frame to losing by 14.
Well said Dieter. And as I reflect on JP’s untimely demise as a Splash Nephew, I really am not quite sure how to feel about his fourth and final season as a Warrior.
It was just two seasons ago in a season review for Poole that Dr. Tom and I talked about him arriving as quality NBA player. And it was last season that Poole was an integral part of Golden state’s title run and the face of the famed two-timeline plan, bridging the gap between the aging core and a precocious youth movement.
I think the dream was that Poole would evolve into some sort of Steph clone. Creative handles, wildly outrageous shotmaking, and dead-eye free throw shooting.
For example: we've been so absolutely spoiled by Curry’s electric end-of-quarter buzzer beaters that we pretty much expect the heaves to splash in from like 75 feet. So when Poole started taking those with Curry on the floor last season (most notably IN THE NBA FINALS to win a championship!), it looked like the student had learned from the master.
So that’s why when he got into a training camp skirmish with team captain and enforcer Draymond Green that went from jaw jacking, to a Poole push, to a Green flying haymaker…I wasn’t quite clear of what to make it of it at the time.
Got punched (VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED)
I mean, basketball teammates have fought before, punctuated by Warriors coach Steve Kerr getting into a tussle with Michael Jeffrey Jordan during their time winning championships with the Chicago Bulls.
But the way Green slumped Poole in video footage that was shockingly leaked to the public left a lasting impression that couldn’t keep me from wondering just how much it would affect the season.
AND WHY DID DRAY LIGHT HIM UP LIKE THAT IN THE FIRST PLACE HMMMM?? Speculation abounds…
Anyways, the Warriors didn’t suspend Green for the opening game of the season (which happened to be freakin’ ring night) but they did cash Poole out with a hefty extension to the tune of 4 years/$140 million.
Poole Party in full effect
That led to a fascinating season for Poole toggling between sixth man and starter, playing in all 82 games and starting 43 of them. This was partly because designated starters Curry, Klay Thompson, and Andrew Wiggins missed a combined 84 games…and also partly because the defending champs were scuffling and looking for different lineups that could steal wins.
Stat Muse made this truth claim about Poole’s play without Curry last season:
When Poole gets busy, he looks like the personification of basketball brilliance. Slippery handles, daring forays to the rim, a crafty mid-range, and ridiculously hot shooting from beyond the arc mark the Poole Party Experience.
This past season Poole had some explosive scoring nights, like the career high 43-point game he uncorked on the Raptors in Curry’s absence in December.
And there was the way he went toe-to-toe with the Memphis Grizzlies top-ranked defense on Christmas Day to get the Warriors a win (without Curry again) in a heated contest in which Poole actually got ejected.
And then there was the 33-point explosion off of the bench he hit the 76ers with to keep Golden State’s playoff dreams alive as they scratched and clawed in March to stay out of the play-in game.
Check out this quote from after the game:
Jordan Poole emerged as one of Golden State’s most dependable performers during the championship run last season.
He resembled that go-to guy once again Friday night when the Warriors needed everything he had...
“Opportunity,” Poole said of his stellar fourth quarter playing all 12 minutes.
“Tonight something about it felt like last year in that playoff run when Jordan was just attacking and knocking down shots but also getting to the line just giving us an entirely different dimension offensively,” coach Steve Kerr said. “That’s when he’s at his best. I thought he really competed down the stretch defensively as well. He was magnificent tonight.”
OPPORTUNITYYYYYYY!!! Did Steph and Klay talk that way when they had to wait behind Monta for shots? I don’t remember, seems like so long ago. Anyways I wonder if Dub Nation believes Poole got enough opportunities last year, considering he did lead the team in field goal attempts.
Out of curiosity, I activated the Stat Head information portal and searched for guards who took at least 1200 shot attempts this season and filtered for FG%. 14 guards showed up, with De’Aaron Fox leading the way with 51% shooting from the field. Poole ranked 12th on this list for shooting accuracy. Click on this next Stat Head chart and enhance for your viewing pleasure:
But if you sort for True Shooting percentage which considers free throws (a strength for Poole) then he actually comes out looking better than Ja Morant! Not bad eh?? And Poole led the Dubs in free throw attempts by a wide margin, getting to the line 415 times (next closest was Curry at 281, and Looney behind him at 155). That’s a pretty big deal considering Poole shot 87% from the charity stripe and manufactured offense when things got mucked up.
So here’s where how you look at Poole’s season can reveal a bit of how much of an optimist or pessimist your basketball outlook is. A 23-year old capable of major scoring outbursts and getting to the free throw line is pretty amazing right? Especially when you have him locked up for four year extension, eh?
The mistakes of youth
Oh I know what you’re about to say: his shot IQ and turnovers were absolutely infuriating. Yes I do recall that he took a crunch time shot so horrendous that it got the face of the franchise ejected out of pure disgust in the fourth quarter of a must-win game.
And about those turnovers? Fun fact: since Steve Kerr took over the Warriors in the 2014-2015 season, only three players have averaged more than three turnovers per game for the Dubs: Curry, Green, and Kevin Durant. Poole added his name to the list this season, which I’m not TOO mad at considering he’s a young guard who was figuring out his game against teams that had the champs circled on the schedule.
That’s a lot of pressure for a young guy finding his way in the NBA’s food chain. But perhaps the reasons the narrative of Poole as a turnover machine was in partly because of some alarming turnovers in late game situations that took the air out of the Warriors on repeated occasions. For these next clips once again VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED:
One more thing I think we can all agree was woefully unsatisfying as Warriors fans was his lackadaisical defense. There’s plenty of clips spread across the internet on Reddit and on Twitter of Poole being actively targeted and exploited for his lack of defensive presence.
And I know that defensive stats can be hard to assess in terms of floor impact since there’s a lot of variables to consider, but Poole being ranked 58th out of shooting guards in ESPN’s Defensive Real Plus Minus has to mean something right?
I defer to elite blog boy and friend of DNHQ Joe Viray, who did a deep dive on Poole’s weak defense during the regular season:
Poole simply hasn’t shown that ability to stay attached to someone. He easily loses connection because of a blatant ball-watching habit. If it’s not that, it’s his inability to get over screens.
Sometimes it’s a lack of strength; other times, the effort is just plain absent. The knowhow in terms of proper routes is also glaringly lacking.
Quite simply, he has to do much better on defense, even if he is inherently disadvantaged physically and in terms of strength.
If he is truly to become a worthy understudy of Curry’s, he should also take note of how his stylistic mentor — disadvantaged by lack of size — compensates through effort, tenacity, and knowledge of schemes and fundamentals.
If Poole can’t do the work required of him to survive on defense — all while being inconsistent as an offensive centerpiece — real questions need to be asked in terms of his future in the Bay Area.
Poole falters in Postseason
Sigh. Here’s the final nail in the coffin for Poole’s tenure as a Splash Kid with the Golden Empire. He was a glaring weak spot for the Warriors, shooting a team worst 34% from the field, and a ghastly 25% from beyond the arc. Here’s his playoff shot chart; as a heads up the “red” sections signify below average percentages.
That shot chart had so much red I’m assuming it’s affiliated with the Bloods gang in L.A. Speaking of L.A. gangs, here’s your Crippin’ cuzzin Snoop Dogg weighing in on Poole’s struggles when the Lakers were beating up on the Warriors during the playoffs.
Poole’s offensive struggles were a major departure from how well he played in the previous year’s championship run. And his defense was especially under the spotlight as he repeatedly got cooked on the way to elimination.
Siiigh. Even still, after the failed title defense, I just presumed Golden State would keep JP in the mix. He’s only 23 folks! And a champion! But apparently chemistry issues underlined the end of his tenure with the team. According to a report from Logan Murdock, Thompson thought Poole shot too much, and JP didn’t really have allies on the team besides Andrew Wiggins and Kevon Looney??
Poole Moves to D.C.
Wellp, JP is now officially a Washington Wizard, shipped out for Chris Paul. I really enjoyed watching Poole grow up as a Warrior, and I truly appreciate him for helping this team win it’s first title of the post-Kevin Durant era.
He was a late first round draft pick who found his way on a team desperate to return back to championship glory after the demise of the Hampton’s 5 iteration. He worked his way through turbulent times of the Covid year and G-League trips, with a confidence and a grit to his game that brought Dub Nation to our feet.
I wish him well in Washington, and maybe after toiling in obscurity in the Eastern Conference for several years he can come back once Curry retires and try to fill those shoes as the Splash Descendant.
Also, you KNOW he’s going to try and put 40 up on the Dubs when he comes back to the Bay!