Poole began the season starting in place of injured shooting guard Klay Thompson and did so to great success. However, Poole has recently been relegated to more of a bench role and has struggled at times with the transition.
Poole came off the bench for the Dubs’ home contest Sunday night against the Dallas Mavericks, despite Thompson’s absence due to an illness. Poole played behind rookie Moses Moody and saw only 19 minutes of court time, failing to make a shot from the field. Poole has averaged 28.6 minutes per game to this point in the season.
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Warriors Insiders Break Down Beef Between Poole And Kerr
On the Monday edition of the Warriors Plus Minus podcast, The Athletic’s Anthony Slater, Tim Kawakami and Marcus Thompson tackled the growing divide between Poole and Kerr, as well as the frustration boiling under the surface on each side.
Slater spoke first, outlining both ends of the disagreement.
There’s two sides to the argument. The player side would be, particularly last night, “Dude, start me. I spent the first 28 games of the season as the stabilizing force at shooting guard. I was … a good enough piece of the top defense in the league. I was 18 points per game. … My reward should be when Klay Thompson doesn’t start, I start. That’s what it should be.”
[Poole is] at a point in his career where I think it bothers him in a situation like that, when he doesn’t [start] … and Steve Kerr only played him 19 minutes, and I know that it’s not something that necessarily made him very happy.
The coaching side of the argument would be, “It’s your job. Do your job. Basically, if I bring you off the bench and you come out and you play poorly, I’m only gonna limit you to 19 minutes.” [Kerr] wants, I assume, Poole to get comfortable in the bench role that will mostly be his role this season.
I think Poole has to handle all this better, as Steph [Curry] kind of alluded to in his post game comments, but I also think Kerr should probably just start Jordan Poole when Klay Thompson doesn’t play.
For his part, Kerr downplayed the issue when asked about it during the postgame press conference following the Dubs’ loss to the Mavericks Sunday night.
Warriors Send Messages to Poole Via Reduced Playing Time, Interest in Other Players
Kawakami agreed with Slater in principle, but noted that the brand of tough love coaching Kerr is employing with Poole is risky.
He specifically mentioned the team’s public pursuit of veteran guard Goran Dragic in the buyout market. While Dragic ended up with the Brooklyn Nets, Kawakami pointed out that Golden State’s interest in him in the first place was a message meant for Poole.
Guess whose minutes [Dragic] was gonna chip away at if they signed [him]? Jordan Poole’s, as the initiator for the second unit. There’s clearly messages being sent, no question about it, and [the Warriors coaching staff] must believe that this is the way to get something more out of Jordan Poole. They are going to need him. If they lose him this season, that’s a screw up. If they get more from him, that’s a huge thing. … This is a risky sort of set up right now we’re seeing.
But he’s the best guy they have to do it. It’s not like they’re gonna remove him from the rotation. He has talent, as [Curry[ says… he’s built for this. They just need to see a little more from him.
He’s still gonna have to play a lot. He’s still very important in the non-Steph minutes obviously, but I think there’s a little bit of veteran sign off on this — like let’s see a little more commitment, a little more determination out of this guy.
Kerr is coaching [Poole] hard, and we’ll see what the response is.
Kawakami added that most of what the Dubs’ coaching staff and Poole’s veteran teammates are looking for from the young shooting guard is more effort on the defensive end of the floor.
Poole averages 16.1 points, 3.5 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game, according to Basketball Reference. But when his shot isn’t falling, Kawakami said Poole has a tendency to fall off on defense.
Even more disconcerting, Poole falls off on both sides of the court when he doesn’t start. He averages 18.3 points per outing and shoots 35% from the 3-point line when he is part of the starting lineup, but those numbers dip to 12.3 points per game and 29% shooting from deep when he comes off the bench.
Whether Poole’s talent should render him a full-time starter in the NBA is irrelevant. That will not be his role with this iteration of the Warriors when Thompson is healthy, which he is expected to be through the playoffs barring further injury.
With the health of Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala also big question marks down the final stretch of the regular season and into the playoffs, Poole is going to be as important to the Warriors’ success as ever. As it stands now, the two sides have 21 games left to figure it out.