After struggling for the first season and a half with the Warriors, Jordan Poole has blossomed into an indispensable part of Golden State's rotation.
Following a G League stint midway through the 2020-21 NBA season, Poole has been a different player, and when the current 2021-22 season began, he found himself starting alongside Steph Curry, Draymond Green, Andrew Wiggins and Kevon Looney.
Poole started the first 28 games of the season and found success in the role, averaging 17.9 points, 3.4 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game. He shot 44 percent from the field and 34 percent from 3-point range.
But with Klay Thompson set to return, possibly as soon as Sunday, Warriors coach Steve Kerr has shifted Poole to the Sixth Man role, making him the primary scoring option on the second unit.
While that might seem like a demotion for Poole, he has a chance to get more opportunities while not playing all his minutes with Curry. So far, in three games coming off the bench, Poole's points, rebounds and assists per game are down slightly, but he has been more efficient, shooting 58 percent from the field and 40 percent from 3-point range.
No matter how the rest of the season plays out, Poole has proven himself worthy of a hefty raise when it's time to negotiate his next contract.
Poole is in the third year of the four-year rookie scale contract he signed with the Warriors after they drafted him with the No. 28 overall pick of the 2019 NBA Draft. The third-year pro currently is making just over $2.16 million this season, and he is eligible for a massive rookie extension this summer that could top out at $181 million over five years, per Spotrac. Whether or not the Warriors have the flexibility to give is still to be determined.
On a Warriors team that has Curry, Thompson, Wiggins and Green all signed for next season and beyond, Poole could find himself once again coming off the bench. But that doesn't mean he won't get paid. And veteran teammate Andre Iguodala believes the 22-year-old can make a decent living even in a Sixth Man role.
“The new sixth man is getting $20 million a year,” Iguodala told The Athletic's Anthony Slater and Marcus Thompson II recently. “That’s the bottom offer for a guy like that, the Tyler Herros and Jordan Pooles. You got those few guys who are starters but for teams they are on, they’re sixth men. You don’t have a problem with going above and beyond taking care of them because you know they’ll be a staple player for your franchise.”
Iguodala assumed the Sixth Man role for the Warriors when Steve Kerr took over as coach in 2014, and while the veteran forward never has made $20 million a season, he has made over $182 million in career earnings. In 2018-19, the last season of his first tenure with the Warriors, Iguodala made $16 million. Now, he's back for possibly his final NBA season after signing a minimum contract and he's making just over $2.64 million, slightly more than what Poole is making this season.
Iguodala has taken Poole under his wing and is providing him with business advice as well as on-court advice.
“What I tell him,” Iguodala told Slater and Thompson II, "we’re not working right now for the next contract, we’re working for the contract after that. He’s a guy I’m working on. I think he gets it. He’s not playing basketball because of how much money he’s getting — $2 million or $20 million per year, same effort. He’s a good person. I think that’s a big difference when it comes to: Do I want to pay this guy? Do I trust this guy with all this money? If anything, when you give him so much money, he’ll put so much pressure on himself to outdo the salary. Those are the type of guys you want.”
Poole has developed into the player the Warriors hoped he would when they drafted him, and it's a matter of time before he starts to reap the financial benefits of his development.