Jordan Poole didn’t exactly have the best scoring night of his career against the San Antonio Spurs.
Poole shot a ghastly 3-of-19 from the field, including a 1-of-11 clip from beyond the arc — and there was a plausible explanation for that. He scored 18 points, 11 of which came from the free throw line where he didn’t miss a single shot. As a result, he ended the night with a 92.3% clip on free throws for the season — tying his stylistic mentor, Stephen Curry, for the league lead.
But as everyone knows, there are a myriad of ways one can contribute aside from shooting and scoring. Poole may have taken one or two questionable shots too many. Considering his struggles from beyond the arc, better shot selection may have served him better. But there is one thing you can’t knock him for.
Poole can pass the rock like few else can.
Without Curry there to receive a majority of the ball-handling reps, Poole has served as a capable substitute. Much like the person whom he is patterning his game after, Poole drives a lot of sustainable and efficient offense when he gets the opportunity to handle the ball, whether it be on isolation possessions or whenever he receives a ball screen.
Poole dished 8 dimes against the Spurs. Combine that with his assist total against the Los Angeles Lakers the other night (11), and he has an assist rate (AST%) of 38.7% over the last two games, which would be the equivalent of being the 8th highest assist rate in the league (and significantly higher than Draymond Green’s assist rate — 32.4%, which leads the Warriors).
Poole’s passing out of the pick-and-roll has been a joy to watch. Because of the danger of his pull-up shooting around a ball screen, opponents have had to throw out more aggressive coverages against him — meeting him at the level of the screen, hedges, traps, etc.
He’s punishing those coverages with a combination of calm, vision, and precise pass placement:
On occasion Poole throws a couple of changeups toward the defense in the form of screen rejections. When defenders preempt Poole by preparing themselves to fight over a screen, he surprises them by going the other way.
This knack for zagging when defenders opt to zig has been a useful weapon in Poole’s arsenal, and has created several advantages that have resulted in him getting two feet into the paint and finding dump-off targets in the dunker spot.
His pairing with Green has been of note, who as everyone knows is arguably the greatest short-roll passer in NBA history. We’ve seen Green do his thing in the short roll whenever Curry draws aggressive coverages around ball screens — so a Poole-Green pairing was bound to produce the same results.
You know the drill — Green sets the ball screen, two defenders commit to Poole around the screen, Poole finds Green in the short roll, and Green expertly dissects a disadvantaged backline in 4-on-3 situations:
Another thing that’s caught my eye is the efficiency of the Warriors offense when Poole and Green combine together for empty side pick-and-rolls.
When a pick-and-roll is deemed to have an empty side, it simply refers to the fact that there is no one from both the offense and defense stationed on the strong-side corner. This is advantageous for the offense because there is a lack of a helper who can rotate or “tag” the roll man, which often leaves the roll-man defender in quite a bind.
With Poole and Green on the court, the Warriors have outscored opponents by 5 points per 100 possessions. But there’s a huge caveat to that: without Curry on the floor, opponents have outscored such a pairing by 3.5 points per 100 possessions.
Curry is still very much important to the survival of this offense, which emphasizes his transcendent offensive impact. That is something that Poole has yet to replicate. But he’s serving as a reliable substitute and doppelganger while Curry continues to recover from a left-foot injury.
When Curry comes back, Poole’s reps as a lead ball-handler — especially as a passer — will go a long way toward relieving some of the creation burden off of Curry during the playoffs.