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Can Poole thrive as a bench player?
Klay Thompson back for a Warriors team looking for revenge against Dallas
The last time these two teams faced off, it resulted in a Golden State Warrior's 19-point blown lead - the largest blown fourth-quarter lead in the NBA this season. It was one of those microcosm moments that retells the story of Golden State’s entire season in one game. A strong start, and then a whole lot of struggles.
The Warriors are where they are on the NBA leaderboards in large part due to their ridiculously strong 18-2 start on the season. Likewise, in the previous matchup against Dallas, the Warriors stormed out to a big lead and held it through almost the entire game.
Now it’s time to turn the tide, and get back to winning. Step one: get Klay Thompson back on the floor tonight.
On the injury front, it’s otherwise status quo for the banged up Warriors squad. Though both Draymond Green and James Wiseman are vaguely ramping up, the most interesting update from yesterday’s practice was that Moses Moody participated — impressive for a guy whose eye was reportedly swollen shut after catching an elbow on Tuesday; both he and Thompson are technically questionable for today.
The Dallas Mavericks are close to full strength, though ex-Warrior favorite Marquese Chriss is listed out with a knee injury. Frank Ntilikina and Tim Hardaway jr. are listed as questionable.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (43-19) at Dallas Mavericks (37-25)
WHEN: Thursday March 3rd, 2022 // 5:30pm PDT
Can Poole and the bench get along?
Monte Poole recently called it a dark cloud. However you want to label it, the vibe is off in Golden State. Hopefully the return of Klay Thompson tonight fixes some of that — and the additional talent certainly won’t hurt. But beyond that, is there something off right now?
NBA reporters know a lot more than they generally choose to share, for a lot of reasons; which is why this tweet from Kerith Burke caught my attention: she says the facial expressions say more than the words:
Click through and watch that video of Poole. When asked if his move to the bench upon Thompson’s return had any impact, he offered the quote that Anthony Slater shared. “You just gotta play through it.” Which tells us two things.
It is affecting him;
He’s aware that it’s an obstacle to navigate around.
How much of a problem it is will be a question extremely germane to the remainder of the season. Most Improved Player? Sixth Man of the Year? That chatter has evaporated along with Poole’s spot in the starting lineup. But his impact on the season is far from decided.
So far, Poole has played about twice as many minutes as a starter (1,087) as he has as a reserve (512), and there’s a definite pattern that has emerged — but looking at it now, it feels less dire than I thought. The biggest dip is usage, where Poole commands 25.8% as a starter, and 22.4% as a reserve.
But because the minutes are so unequal, I went ahead parsed the stats into a more useful “per 36 minutes” for ease of comparison.
The scoring is not as prolific, but he makes up for it with some additional lift in his playmaking and rebounding departments.
Again, to compare all this stuff, I had to put into a rate per 36 minutes, but there are a whole lot of categories here where for whatever reason, Poole simply has done a bit better as a starter.
Interestingly, his scoring efficiency is nearly identical. Whether off the bench or as a starter, Poole’s True Shooting percentage is around 57%. So it’s not that he’s losing a ton of efficiency. Overall, Poole has been solid in that regard; according to Cleaning the Glass, he’s scoring 115.8 points per 100 attempts in non-garbage time minutes — good enough to be in the 78th percentile
One thing’s for sure: Poole is getting moved to the bench for the same reason that Monta Ellis got traded. With Stephen Curry slotted in as the point guard, and Klay Thompson as the shooting guard, the Warriors have found mutual success. Poole is a nice, exciting young player, but he’s unproven. His defensive lapses are becoming a rising concern, and he needs to figure it all out in time for the playoffs.
In a Warriors system that prizes adaptability, Poole is suddenly finding himself in a slightly different ecosystem than the one he thrived in earlier this season.
One of the things about aiming for the top of the heap is that the little moments matter a bit less. The Warriors are riding their strong start and know that they’ve used up most of the wriggle room they earned off their earlier excellence.
Sure, that Dallas team stormed back to hand the Warriors the biggest blown 4th quarter lead in the whole NBA this season.. but I choose to believe in the Warriors team that got that big of a lead in the first place.
Help is coming, they just need to tread water a little while longer.