Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, because I tend to mention it a lot. Golden State Warriors star-in-the-making Jordan Poole is a few months younger than Luka Dončić. He’s nine months younger than Trae Young. He’s less than two months older than Ja Morant.
He’s not on the same level as those players — not quite, at least — but that’s not the point. The point is that you expect those young stars to get a lot better than they currently are. Which means we should expect Poole to get a lot better, too.
Poole’s job for the upcoming season will either be a lot easier or a lot harder, depending on your perspective. The return of Klay Thompson means Poole will have an extra weapon to pass to, and extra gravity to benefit from when he’s in the game. It also means he’ll get pushed back to a full-time bench role, though he’ll likely slide into the opening lineup every time a starter other than Kevon Looney has to miss a game.
I think that will be far more beneficial than detrimental to Poole’s game, but if you trust me to know things then you clearly haven’t been reading this site for very long.
The question I have is: where will we see Poole’s improvement? Precedent tells us that this season — Poole’s fourth in the NBA — should be his best yet. And his three-year trend certainly supports that hypothesis.
Just look at how he’s improved:
Points per 100 possessions
Assists per 100 possessions
Two-point field goal percentage
Three-point field goal percentage
Free throw percentage
The pessimistic view is that Poole’s numbers didn’t improve that much between years two and three, and that there’s diminishing returns when you get to as high of a level as he’s reached.
The optimistic view is that, while the per-possession numbers only took a mild bump last year, the minutes increase was massive — Poole played more minutes in his third year than in his first two seasons combined, and that’s before accounting for the playoffs. The difference between 29.1 and 30.0 points per 100 possessions might seem trivial, but it’s sizable when the former is performed in limited minutes and favorable matchups, and the latter is performed in a key role with big minutes night in and night out.
Whatever your viewpoint, we return to the question: where does he go from here? It’s reasonable to expect an improvement, but where will we see it?
The obvious place to start is with his biggest weakness: defense. Poole has a lot of room to grow on that end of the court, and while it would be foolish to ever expect him to be a defensive force, it’s quite reasonable to expect him to become serviceable. By my eye he took a pretty big step on that end of the court last year, particularly late in the season. Another step forward could do wonders.
But I think the biggest area of growth that we can expect out of Poole is in his shot selection. That’s not to say it’s bad — no guard that has a 59.8% true-shooting percentage has poor shot selection — but there’s room for improvement. Poole’s poor games this year often came when he got fixated on a certain shot. When his three-point shot wasn’t falling, he usually wasn’t hunting much inside the arc. Seven of the nine times last year that he didn’t make a three came with four or more attempts, and almost all of them came with a small number of two-point attempts or free throws.
With experience, Poole will start manipulating defenses better ... getting more at the rim to open up his three-point shot, and vice versa. He still falls in love with certain moves and shots in certain games, and while he’s good enough to get away with it, it still represents an avenue where he could do even better.
And, as is always the case for a shooter in the Warriors system, he can learn even more from Steph Curry and Thompson when it comes to moving off the ball, and springing open for threes.
There are a lot of ways for Poole to grow, even if he’s already established himself as something of a star. So really, the answer to the question posed by the headline — Where does Jordan Poole go from here? — is simple: I can’t wait to find out.