Big things were expected from Jordan Poole coming off last year’s breakout campaign that earned him a four-year, $123 million contract extension from the Golden State Warriors in the offseason.
However, the training camp incident involving him and Draymond Green seems to have left a lasting mark on the 23-year-old guard. The shift back to a bench role with Klay Thompson’s return from a two-year absence has contributed to his struggles as well.
Poole has regressed through the opening quarter of this season and his averages are down across the board. Through his first 22 games, he is averaging only 15.9 points a night on 41.5% field goal shooting after putting up 18.5 and 44.8%, respectively, last year.
He has fared better as a starter, putting up an average of 28 points in four games, but he will have to learn how to remain this effective as a sixth man if the Warriors are to be successful in their title defense. His recent outings have been much more encouraging, highlighted by Golden State’s 119-111 win over the Chicago Bulls.
In only 23 minutes of action, Poole scored 30 points on 11-of-18 shooting which included seven made three-pointers. It was the third highest scoring game from him this season and his best as a reserve. His outburst came at the perfect time as both Stephen Curry (six-of-16) and Klay Thompson (nine-of-21) had a sub-par shooting night.
This was exactly the type of microwave performance that the Warriors expected from him and the hope is that this breakout showing leads to even more memorable evenings.
Beyond the scoring though, Poole has quietly made strides in other aspects of his game. He has improved as a playmaker and is looking to create for his teammates more often. This has led to him averaging a career-best 4.6 assists per game and while there have been some growing pains, as evidenced by his three-turnover average, the initial signs are encouraging.
In the game prior to their Bulls win, Poole bucked a three-of-nine shooting night and found other ways to be effective, tying his season-high with nine assists in a three-point loss to the Dallas Mavericks.
The early evidence has shown that Golden State will not be able to rely on their defense this season. The departure of several key role players from last year’s title run and the continued aging of Green past his prime have left them vulnerable. It looks like they will have to bank on out-scoring opponents and much of that will hinge on what version of Poole shows up on a nightly basis.
They do not need a 30-point outburst every game from Poole. What this Warriors team needs is more consistency and something closer to last year’s 18 points a night, but now in a reserve role, plus less single-digit games will suffice.
Golden State has now won six of their last eight games and are picking up the pace following a slow start to the season. Poole’s resurgence has come at a perfect time and it looks like they are ready to climb back up the standings in their bid to defend their title.