Jordan Poole is on fire, but you already knew this. The young Golden State Warriors guard has stepped up massively in March, leading all NBA players in threes made in the month, and registering 11 straight games with at least 20 points — a span in which he’s averaged 25.6 points per game while shooting 54.6% from the field and 50.5% from three-point range.
But it’s not just a hot streak. Poole’s fiery month comes on top of an already good season, which boosts his overall numbers to something rather spectacular.
With nine games left in the season, Poole is averaging 29.2 points per 100 possessions, with a 60.4% true-shooting percentage.
To put that in perspective, of 239 qualified players, Poole’s 29.2 points per 100 possessions ranks 28th in the league, and the players ahead of him tell you the story:
His efficiency is perhaps even more impressive. Of 196 qualified players, he ranks 32nd in true-shooting percentage, with only eight guards (many of whom play much smaller roles than Poole) ahead of him.
The list of players ahead of Poole on both lists — that is to say, people scoring more regularly and more efficiently — is just six. Those six? LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokić, Joel Embiid, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Zach LaVine. That’s three MVPs, potentially a fourth this year in Embiid, and six no-doubt All-Stars.
But Poole’s impressiveness is less about the numbers he’s putting up, and more about when he’s putting them up. He’s still in the infant stages of his career. You’ll notice that the six aforementioned names are not.
There are three ways to judge a player’s experience level: with their age, and with the amount of time they’ve spent in the NBA. For Poole, this is his age-22 season, and his third year in the association.
Let’s see how those numbers — again, 29.2 points per 100 possessions on 60.4% true-shooting — match up to some other star perimeter players at their age-22 seasons, and their third years.
Age 22: 27.9 points, 59.5% TS
Year 3: 27.2 points, 60.5% TS
Age 22: 23.5 points, 53.3% TS
Year 3: 25.9 points, 55.5% TS
Age 22: 31.0 points, 58.3% TS
Year 3: 30.5 points, 53.3% TS
Age 22: 25.9 points, 54.6% TS
Year 3: 30.0 points, 56.0% TS
Age 22: 36.2 points, 58.4% TS
Year 3: 34.5 points, 56.1% TS
Age 22: 29.8 points, 49.9% TS
Year 3: 25.8 points, 57.6% TS
None of this is to suggest that Poole is going to wind up as one of the 10 greatest players in NBA history like Curry, or a franchise icon like Klay, or one of the best players in the league with a penchant for big shots in the most important moments, like Irving and Dame, or even a perennial All-Star like Booker and LaVine.
Most of those players were special for what they did after those initial few years — no one watched Curry’s third season and penned him in for two MVP awards, after all. And Poole has played the year in a fairly favorable situation, benefitting from Curry’s gravity and Draymond Green’s playmaking, and taking advantage of an offensive system designed to get combo guards good looks.
Context doesn’t predict what a player will do, but it does let us know just how impressive someone’s performance is.
And when you look at Poole’s numbers, and compare them to stars in the NBA today, and the stars in the NBA when they were Poole’s age and experience level, only one conclusion can be reached: JP is having an utterly ridiculous year.