Warriors

Poole impresses Kerr vs. Suns, earns himself another look

Warriors
Jordan Poole, Warriors

On a night without Steph Curry and Kelly Oubre Jr., the Warriors were in search of someone else to pick up the scoring slack against the Phoenix Suns. 

Draymond Green also missed the game, so it couldn't be him. Andrew Wiggins had a solid outing but didn't steal the show. 

Instead, it was Jordan Poole -- the player who had missed 14 games while he was in the G League, before being called up to the Warriors on Monday afternoon. 

In his first game with Golden State in just over a month, the second-year pro led all scorers with a career-high 26 points on 10-of-16 shooting to go with three rebounds, one steal and one block in 26 minutes in the Warriors' 120-98 loss to the Suns.

What Poole's role will be in the second half of the season is still up in the air. But, his game against the Suns was a good campaign.

"When you play like he did tonight, you definitely deserve another look," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "You always have to earn everything in this league, and the way he played tonight, he definitely earned more minutes."

The biggest impact Poole made was on the scoring side, which the Warriors' second unit has struggled with.

Poole's night in Phoenix started quietly. But once his teammates started to find him off the ball, he began to heat up, and ended up scoring 13 points in the second quarter -- a career-best for points scored in a single period. 

 

Later in the game, he started to initiate the offense a little more. But that might have been because he had the hot hand. Kerr still relied more on Brad Wanamaker to bring the ball up and facilitate. 

Poole naturally leans more toward playing on the ball but, "can play off-ball just as well."

His offense alone makes him an attractive candidate to stick in the backup point guard spot instead of Wanamaker, whose offense has been lackluster, to say the least. 

But it's Wanamaker's defense that makes Kerr come back to him. And that will be the tricky balance the Warriors have to navigate after the All-Star break. 

"I think in the first half of the season, we found combinations that made us really good defensively," Kerr said. "But, we were a little bit of a one-way team. We couldn't find that rhythm offensively. 

"So, we're going to give Jordan a chance to shine, and James more minutes and I think that'll give us a chance to be better offensively. But what does it do to our defense? Ultimately, you've got to find two-way players, combinations that can play both ends of the floor."

Poole still has some work that needs to be done on the defensive end, but his offense has come leaps and bounds since his rookie year. And it all comes from his increased confidence. 

He looks more sure when it comes to his decision-making and settled when moving around the court. 

"His confidence, ball-handling, strength, shooting off the catch, finishing at the rim," Kerr said, as he listed the ways he's seen Poole improve. "But this is the way it's supposed to be. Most players come to the league and they're not ready to play. So, the first couple of years are rough. I'm really pleased for Jordan that all the work he's put in looks like it's starting to pay off."

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One of the biggest things that has helped Poole develop in the G League is the freedom Santa Cruz coach Kris Weems has given him to play the game his way. 

They've allowed Poole to experiment with different roles, let him learn through his mistakes, and build his own identity within the game.

"They allow me to play my game," Poole said. "The coaching staff down there trust me to lead those guys to try to put us in the best position to win. It felt good to get big minutes, be part of a big game. I wanted it to translate, and it has so far."

It's only been one game, but in that one game, Poole has shown that there's a real possibility his game can translate over to the NBA -- something that held him back from the league last season. 

There are more hurdles he'll need to get over, but Poole did his job and made sure his name would need to be in the conversation moving forward. 

 

He's forcing Kerr and the Warriors to make difficult decisions, and right now, that's all he can ask for.

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