Klay is back, now it's Poole's turn
Curry returns to the practice court, Green's MRI was clear - but can the roster get right in time?
The Golden State Warriors are in the midst of a tough stretch of schedule, but they’ve begun to show signs of life as Klay Thompson turns back into his old self. With Stephen Curry making an appearance back on the practice court, the lingering questions around this roster are going to come to a (regular season) conclusion one way or another over these last 21 games.
The hope is that there’s some sort of proverbial switch to flip ahead of the playoffs, but the most reliable aspect of this Warriors team’s season is how wildly unsteady they are. They stormed back in the 4th to overcome a big deficit in their last game, but will need a better effort (or at least a more consistent one) if they hope to defeat Dame Lillard and his Portland Trail Blazers tonight. Because of the wacky West, the Blazers are outside the playoff hunt, but looking in - especially given last night’s news about LeBron James injury and expected long term absence. No such thing as a must-win game at this point in the season, but both teams are going to want this one a little extra.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (31-30) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (29-31)
WHEN: Tuesday, February 28th, 2023 // 7pm PDT
Curry nearing return; Green’s MRI was clear - just a few details left to iron out
I loved the show, Columbo as a kid. Still do. One of the most endearing things about the main character is how he corrals the suspects into incriminating themselves. “Just a few questions - for the boys downtown. They hate loose ends.”
Like a good murder mystery, you hope the good guys win. Golden State can see the big puzzle pieces starting to come together, but they’ve got a few loose ends. Whether those loose ends unravel or tie off together neatly is unclear as of yet. But there’s some good signs.
First of all, Curry is back on the practice court. Though he didn’t participate in the team’s scrimmage or anything, just seeing him running around and gearing up for a resumption of duty is a huge emotional lift. He looks pretty good in these clips, so I predict a verdict of “ramping up” when the Warriors update his status tomorrow.
Secondly, the news on Draymond Green is encouraging. After being quickly scratched prior to the previous game, he was scheduled for an MRI - always a bit scary. But thankfully, the news is good, and he’s currently listed as probable for tonight’s game. He tends to have Portland’s number, and the team needs him as soon as possible - presuming he’s healthy, of course.
As Columbo would say, there’s just one more thing… just a little detail to work out. A loose end to tie up.
Poole is struggling this year. After a strong showing during the previous regular season, Poole turned in an especially impressive run in the playoffs. This season, Poole is averaging 20.7 points, 4.6 assists and 2.8 rebounds per game; but on a 43/33/86 shooting split. His scoring and assists have risen a bit, but more importantly, his overall efficiency is down from last season.
If these loose ends are going to come together in time for a flipped switch in the playoffs, Poole is going to have to play a big part of the change. I took some stats and put them into a pretty table. Look at the rise in his useage contrasted with his shooting accuracy. His usage goes up over each of the past two seasons, but his shooting hasn't kept pace with the rising demand this year so far.
Far less pretty, but the bigger table of his on/off impacts tells a similar tale. This season, he’s been a net negative on the scoreboard. This one is from Cleaning the Glass, so excludes garbage time - and like all on/off, it should be taken with a grain of salt. Even so, the team being -7.2 points worse per 100 possessions when Poole is on the court (landing him in the lowly 17th percentile) is not a great sign.
Pardon the large clip of text, but this exchange with Kerr talking about a meeting between the two that took place during practice yesterday point towards a lot of the same issues that the tables above do: Poole is doing too much.
“Just trying a little less hard to make the great play,” Kerr said of his goal with the fourth-year guard. “Getting off the ball and trusting that it will come back. If we execute the way we can, his scoring opportunities won’t be with the defense set up, waiting for him every time.
“If he can get off the ball and we can execute, he can now attack a closeout with the defense scattered. Or he can use his speed to get to the rim rather than pounding the ball on a high screen-and-roll, with everybody waiting for him. It’s not just on him. It’s on our whole group to execute better.”
In three games since the All-Star break, Poole is averaging 15.3 points while shooting 28.3 percent (13 of 46) from the field, including 21.7 percent (5 of 23) from 3-point range, with 16 assists and seven turnovers. His true shooting percentage is 43.0 percent, well below his 56.7 percent total for the season.
Now, there’s no easy answer here. Poole is being asked to do a lot more this season. He’s facing increased defensive scrutiny - and whatever the weird thing was with the referee’s fixation on his dribble - which has messed with him. But this is why he got paid. The Warriors believe that he can be more. All Poole has to do is let the game come to him. Stop pressing and play his natural shifty game of opportunistic scoring and quick cuts. He’s got the time to put it all back together, but the clock is running down for a team that is running out of slack.
Just a few loose ends.
Columbo is going to mark down a win in his little notebook, as the Warriors get one more little thing right tonight.