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Jordan Poole and the disconnect between three-point volume and efficiency

There’s a disconnect between the number of shots he takes and the rate at which he knocks them down.

Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

A couple of games ago, I wrote something about Jordan Poole and his ability to put pressure on the rim — and how that has been the key to unlocking the rest of his offensive repertoire:

He’s had some head-scratching possessions this season born out of questionable shot selection. But there’s no doubt he’s at his best whenever he manages to establish his inside game. An inside-out approach — rather than the other way around — has always been much better for him to ease his way into sharpshooting competency.

Poole has always been somewhat of a double-edged sword for the Golden State Warriors. The potential of his shooting manifests from time to time; in true Steph Curry and Klay Thompson fashion, he has shown that he can get into one of those potent shooting rhythms and wax burning hot with made shot after made shot.

Other times, Poole gets tunnel vision; as aforementioned, terrible shot selection has plagued him, coupled with general decision making on offense that leaves a lot to be desired.

But to particularly focus on the shooting, the brutal truth is that Poole has been a volume outside shooter without the efficiency to match — which has differentiated him from the likes of Curry and Thompson and has placed a proverbial ceiling on his development as an offensive centerpiece.

Take note of the big difference in these numbers:

  • Curry: 42.6% on threes on 11.3 attempts per 75 possessions
  • Thompson: 40.9% on threes on 11.3 attempts per 75 possessions
  • Poole: 32.8% on threes on 9.0 attempts per 75 possessions

When adjusted for pace, Poole averages only two fewer three-point attempts per game than the Splash Brothers — not much of a difference. But he’s worse by nearly 10 percentage points than Curry and eight percentage points than Thompson in success rate, which is a MONUMENTAL difference.

Despite the shooting potential — free-throw shooting is a reliable indicator of one’s ability to drill long-range shots, and Poole’s been above average in that department — he carries himself like someone with the greenest of green lights but without the reputation and resume to get away with it, which can be detrimental whenever situations call for more nuance and patience.

There’s also the types of shots he takes. Poole has been better at catch-and-shoot threes than pull-ups this season, although relatively subpar compared to the rest of the field. He’s been knocking them down at a rate of 35.1% on 4.2 attempts per game, which is down by nearly three percentage points from last season’s 37.9% on 4.6 attempts per game.

A bigger difference lies within Poole’s pull-up-three rate. He’s taking more of them this season (3.8 per game) compared to last year (2.9 per game) — the kicker being that such an increase has resulted in a much worse success rate (30.4% this season, down from 34.2% last season).

Whenever Poole is in rhythm — i.e., sticks to the script and overall flow of the offense — he can get off shots like this:

This is a timely shot considering the situation — i.e., the coverage the Los Angeles Lakers were playing. They were intent on dropping back and cheating off of the Warriors’ non-shooters; in Anthony Davis’ case, dropping back and far off of Draymond Green allows him to be a roamer in the paint, which shuts off the rim and discourages the Warriors from going inside.

Poole uses the Lakers’ scheme against them by running “Thumb Out”, a set that starts with a ball screen followed by “Get” action — a pass to the opposite slot, after which Poole follows his pass and gets the ball back on a handoff. Austin Reaves, normally an excellent screen navigator, has trouble keeping up with Poole around the screens. With Davis in drop, Poole gets the ball in rhythm, is balanced going up, and drills the open shot.

You can also slot this shot in the “good” column:

It’s a simple inbounds play where the Lakers fail to guard Poole after the pass, leaving him open for a corner three. Also take note of the specific location: a left corner three, where Poole has seen more success this season (37.1%) compared to the right corner (23.1%).

When Poole establishes the threat of his shooting — coupled with the threat of putting pressure on the rim — he’s able to use it as leverage in ball-screen possessions. On-ball defenders are forced to stick to him more tightly, while the roll-man’s defender is forced to make a tough choice between stepping up higher to discourage him or to take a slight step back to account for the roller.

Whenever Poole gets to these in-between sweet spots — coupled with the requisite patience and cadence to thread passes through openings — he’s a much better offensive player:

But when Poole lets the need for a killshot take over — eschewing patience and without having earned the right to pull-up for early-clock shots — he can inflict death upon his own team’s offensive possession:

In a vacuum, this is just another case of poor shot selection from Poole. But consider the context: Curry had been directly involved in 16 points (12 of which he personally scored) to get the Warriors within a single possession of the Lakers before being benched for rest. Taking early-clock 28 footers like the one above isn’t ideal — and made worse considering what happened during the following possession:

Lakers run double ball-screen action that forces Poole to defend. His struggle with screen navigation ignites a chain reaction: Kevon Looney has to step up and help on any potential drive, which then forces Klay Thompson to have to “tag” Davis — which then leaves Dennis Schröder open in the corner. Reaves promptly kicks out to Schröder, who drills the three.

With Poole coming off the bench due to Curry’s return, he shot just 3-of-11 from the field. All three of those makes were from beyond the arc, albeit on 10 attempts — with only one field goal attempt coming from inside the arc.

Not only did Poole not put enough pressure on the rim and fail to establish an inside rhythm; he wasn’t able to carry the non-Curry minutes the way he was able to during the last five games.

It was far from the only reason they lost against the Lakers, but it certainly didn’t help them late in the game when they were threatening to catch up.

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