Even with the Warriors winning five in a row, generating momentum toward the play-in tournament and hoping to carry it into the first round of the playoffs, coach Steve Kerr is gaining insight to apply next season.
He’s visualizing possibilities for the Sixth Man role and is considering Jordan Poole, who on Friday night scored career-high 38 points, including a driving layup for the decisive basket, in a 125-122 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans at Chase Center.
“He’s really explosive, as you saw tonight and as you’ve seen over the last couple months,” Kerr said of the second-year guard from the University of Michigan. “As we look ahead, I think he’s going to be a Sixth Man. He’s really capable of getting 20 any night. It’s so great to have scoring off the bench.
“As we look to next year and beyond, getting Klay (Thompson) back, Jordan would be a really good candidate for Sixth Man, a guy who can come in and give you points when the starters are on the bench.”
Though it has been speculated that the Warriors would consider re-signing Kelly Oubre Jr. and steering him toward that role, the impending free agent has expressed little enthusiasm about coming off the bench.
Poole, who turns 22 next month, seems ready to embrace such an opportunity.
“Be ready to step up for wherever I’m needed,” he said. “The plan is to be at full health next year, bringing Klay back to an already talented team. If that is something that makes us more powerful, stronger, a better team, I’m all for it, whether it’s coming off the bench or whatever the situation is, I’ll make sure to be ready.”
Poole’s development gives the Warriors a much cheaper option than Oubre, who on the market could command north of $15 million annually. Poole has one more year, at $2.16 million, on his rookie contract and the team owns the option for 2022-23 at $3.9 million.
Though his defense doesn’t compare to that of Oubre, Poole can play either guard position and knows his way to the bucket. Despite spending all of February with the Santa Cruz Warriors in the G League Bubble, he has nine games with at least 20 points, including the last three.
“He can make plays against tight defense,” Kerr said. “He can get to the rim, like he did on that last play. He’s a shot-creator for us. He’s doing a great job. It’s fun to see how far Jordan has come in his two years in the league.”
Far enough that on Friday he started in place of Stephen Curry and not only was comfortable but immediately made an impact, scoring 14 points in 10 first-quarter minutes.
As much as Oubre offers defensively, both on the wing or at the point of attack, Poole is much more payroll-friendly. For a team paying the luxury tax, that is a factor.