Jordan Poole can unlock the Golden State Warriors’ potential this season.
The Golden State Warriors have started the season 2-0. Their two wins have been quite the impressive victories as they’ve taken down the two Los Angeles teams: The Lakers and Clippers.
In those games, Steph Curry was his usual Steph Curry self.
In the Warriors season opener against the Lakers, Curry notched his eighth career triple-double — 21 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists — his first since January of 2016. Two nights later, Curry went off for 45 points on 65 percent shooting from the floor, including 8-13 from downtown, en-route to a thrilling victory over the Clippers.
It’s way too early to have any real opinions on any team, but after just two games it does feel as though Golden State will be back near the top of the Western Conference this season. Especially, considering the fact that they don’t have Klay Thompson yet.
Thompson tore his ACL way back in June of 2019 during Game 6 of the NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors. Thompson missed the entire 2019-20 season recovering from that ACL tear only to tear his left Achilles during an offseason workout in November 2020, a month before the 2020-21 season began. Thompson hasn’t played in a game since.
There is currently no set date for Thompson’s return but Warriors general manager Bob Meyers noted that the organization is hopeful that the five-time All-Star will return to the team in December or January.
If Thompson can come back and be the player he was post-ACL tear, then the Warriors will become true title contenders. However, even though the NBA prioritizes stars more than any other professional sports league, basketball is still a team sport.
Good, solid role players are a must for any team trying to make a deep playoff run. Former rotations players like Robert Horry, Derrick Fisher, Bobby Jones, Bruce Bowen, and Jason Terry all have shown fans why a team wins titles, not one or two individual players.
More recent examples include Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston from those Championship-winning Warriors teams, Fred VanVleet and Serge Ibaka from the 2019 NBA Champion Toronto Raptors, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Rajon Rondo of the Lakers team that won the 2020 in the bubble.
This is all to say that in order for the Warriors to get back to serious title contention, it’s not enough for Steph and Klay to be their usual superstar selves, they need their teammates to step up. One of their peers ready to take a big leap this season is Jordan Poole.
The 22-year-old guard enters his third season in the league with a lot of hope surrounding him. A week ago, head coach Steve Kerr said that he’s never been more confident in Poole and that the former Michigan Wolverine is going to be a huge part of the franchise moving forward.
After scoring 30 points in 22 minutes on 10-17 shooting, including seven 3-pointers, in the Warriors preseason victory over the Portland Trail Blazers, Kerr said:
"“This is what he’s looked like in camp. Not hesitating, he’s getting to the rim, playing with unbelievable confidence… He’s earned that confidence.”"
Poole carried over his impressive preseason play to the Warriors’ season opener against the Lakers. The third-year pro started the contest and finished with 20 points. However, Poole followed that performance up with a forgettable one two nights later against the Clippers. Poole shot 4-14 from the field and finished the game with just nine points.
Poole’s going to experience his ups and downs, as every young player does. Even if Poole does struggle more than he balls-out, the experience he’s getting as a starter right now will prove to be invaluable come playoff time.
As a young player, reps are everything. In order to develop and improve one’s game, young players need to be on the court as much as possible. Pool starting for the Warriors and experiencing what it’s like to be the second or third-leading scorer for the good team for the first time in his career will prove to be so important come playoff time.
Again, it’s way too early to know anything about anyone this season, but if Poole can develop into a consistent scorer then the Warriors are back! The thing is too they don’t need much.
Once Klay comes back, Poole will probably shift to the bench and take a sixth-man role. Poole is perfectly suited to be the first player off the bench, play between 20-30 minutes, and just get buckets. He has already proven he is a natural scorer.
Last season post-All-Star Break, Poole became one of the lone bright spots for a struggling, injury-riddled Warriors team— averaging 14.4 points per game during the stretch. As a starter last season, Poole upped that 14.4. average to 21.4 a game.
If Poole can become more consistent with his play and emerge as a legit sixth-man of the year candidate once he’s sent to the bench when Klay comes back, then the Warriors could be right back in the driver’s seat in the West. And that’s not even factoring in rookies Moses Moody and Jonathan Kuminga, or second-year center James Wiseman. If any of those three can become valuable contributors this season, Golden State will be a tough out come postseason time.