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The Golden Breakdown: The Jordan Poole explosion, Nemanja Bjelica’s offensive versatility, and Otto Porter Jr.’s sharpshooting

Poole displayed the fruits of his off-season labor, while Bjelica and Porter are proving to be crucial complementary pieces.

Golden State Warriors v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images

If there was one thing Jordan Poole needed to prove going into this season, it was his ability to balance multiple offensive roles. Wearing different hats on offense — as a supplementary scorer and secondary playmaker alongside Stephen Curry with the starters, and as the main fulcrum of the second-unit offense — was key in his development and paramount in achieving a monumental leap.

Preseason can often present the danger of making fools out of everyone who takes the gold, but even if what Poole showed against the Portland Trail Blazers is preseason folly, it may have still presented a glimpse of the kind of potential he can fulfill — that is, if he hasn’t already fulfilled it by now.

The first salvo from Poole above — a pull-up three in transition — is an example of what defenses could experience should they decide not to treat him as a deep-range threat. A simple hand-off from Kevon Looney to a moving Poole, coupled with Norman Powell going under the screen, is all the space Poole needs to drill the shot.

Poole touted proficiency with every kind of jumper — pull-ups, catch-and-shoots, and movement shots — that were reminiscent of his current backcourt partner and veteran. The range was uncanny, the confidence admirable, and the efficiency machine-like.

Poole finished with an astounding line: 30 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists, on shooting splits of 59/54/100 and 81.9% True Shooting (TS). A 7-of-13 clip from three-point range comprised the majority of his overall 10-of-18 clip, a surreal display of his long-range marksmanship.

He mixed up his offensive repertoire. Penetration in isolations — using his herky-jerky jitterbug movement off the dribble — and quick bursts of speed off the catch were brief glimpses of his burgeoning inside game.

Poole has noticeably increased his muscle mass, which signals an intention to mix it up in the paint against rotating help-defenders who will use their bulk and verticality to contest his rim attempts. Should he emphasize an uptick in rim pressure — he put up a measly 22% in terms rim frequency last season, slotting him in the 32nd percentile, per Cleaning the Glass — it should further increase his offensive potency, while also taking advantage of the Warriors’ spaced floor.

Perhaps noticing Poole’s proficiency from deep range, the Blazers changed their defensive coverage on him. Not unlike Curry, Poole started seeing more doubles and traps off of ball-screens — a wild sight to see considering the presence of Curry on the floor.

Poole generating gravity off the pick-and-roll will monumentally decrease the pressure on Curry to create, leaving him open on the weak side as a spot-up shooter.

Case in point:

What starts out as a staple set-play from the Warriors — a “ram” screen (screen-the-screener), followed by a 2-1 pick-and-pop — ends up generating a spot-up Curry three. Poole displays uncanny vision and awareness to find the open man, even when trapped or pressed against the sideline. It isn’t far-fetched to conclude that he will continue to find the open man — the short-roller or weak-side spacers — as he gets used to seeing more aggressive coverages.

But perhaps the most encouraging sign of his on-ball creation is the confidence he is steadily developing as a passer. Some of his passes are already reflections of his on-court demeanor — full of swagger, bravado, and flair.

Nemanja Bjelica as a dynamic, floor-spacing big man

On paper, Nemanja Bjelica is a seamless fit within the Warriors offense. His floor-spacing ability as a 6’10” forward — who can occasionally moonlight as a 5 — is invaluable to an offense that had a dearth of shooting surrounding Curry last season.

That on-paper fit was realized in practice against the Blazers. While Bjelica scored only 6 points in under 19 minutes of action, all of those points came via two long-range bombs.

Pick-and-pop partnerships with the likes of Curry and Poole — two dynamic on-ball creators — will garner Bjelica plenty of open looks. Such possessions are simple, yet they are low-hanging fruit against opposing bigs who may be too slow to recover and close out on “ghost” screens.

Bjelica’s value, however, doesn’t stop at his shooting. He tallied 6 assists against the Blazers, showcasing his value as a passer and play connector on the floor. His passing equity as a big man is a trait that slots in quite nicely within Steve Kerr’s offensive ethos.

The majority of Bjelica’s passes weren’t particularly eye-popping. But extra passes on swing-swing possessions and dump offs to cutters and roamers in the dunker spot displayed his floor awareness and willingness to spread the wealth. He seemed comfortable within the pass-happy system, picking his spots in terms of when to shoot while being perfectly fine with being a passing hub or cog in the machinery.

But Bjelica’s most valued form of passing may very well be his ability to pass on the move. Whether during dribble penetration or as a short-roller after setting a ball-screen, he has the vision to make advanced reads. He anticipates help, finds the holes created by a defense in rotation, and places the pass accurately within his target’s shooting pocket.

Otto Porter Jr. living up to his reputation

Health permitting, the acquisition of Otto Porter Jr. may turn out to be a low-key bargain. His prowess as a knockdown spot-up shooter boosts the Warriors’ floor-spacing profile, which may have played a part in them attempting 69 threes — a far cry from last season, where their season high in three-point attempts was 54.

The presence of Porter on the floor gives Kerr license to allow a team-wide green light of sorts. Obviously, one preseason game is too small of a sample size, but it’s not far-fetched to assume that the theme of this season will be deep-range volume shooting.

If Porter is a huge component of that theme, he will get plenty of looks like these:

Inserting Porter in supercharged shooting lineups that include the likes of Curry, Poole, Bjelica, and Klay Thompson can potentially bend defenses to their rotational limits. There will be a need for rampant rim pressure to fully accentuate Porter’s spot-up shooting, a category the Warriors haven’t ranked highly in over the recent years.

But Curry and Poole provide just enough rim pressure to force defenses in rotation. Short-roll playmaking can also trigger scrambling from defenses, enough to leave someone like Porter open in the corner.

Based on this current roster construction of playmakers and shooters — and coupling it with the Warriors’ pass-heavy motion ethos — Porter has lots of avenues where he can feast as a sharpshooter.

Provided he can stay healthy.

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