"Once Klay gets back" has been the rallying cry for the Warriors as they enter the 2021-22 season.
They'll be contenders, once Klay gets back. They'll have that extra burst of scoring, once Klay gets back. Once Klay gets back...
But before he gets back, the Warriors must survive the first few months of the season. For the past two years, the Warriors have struggled to find success at the starting shooting guard spot. The 2019-20 season was, well, disastrous for several reasons. Last season, Kelly Oubre Jr. never quite clicked.
But this season -- as early as it is -- seems different. Jordan Poole's integration into the starting lineup has been seamless, and his emergence throughout the preseason thus far seems to suggest the Warriors should be OK until Thompson returns.
"It doesn't matter who's out there, he's gonna let it fly, which I love" Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "His confidence is overflowing, so it's good stuff. He's had a great camp, just like we expected."
Poole's preseason performances continue to reiterate the same thing: he is the real deal.
His 30-point performance against the Trail Blazers could always be chalked up to him just having a lethally hot shooting night. But then his 17 points against the Nuggets were almost all scored by driving to the hoop. His 28 points in the Warriors' 121-114 win over the Lakers was a nice blend of hot shooting and crafty work to the rim.
Poole's growth and understanding of the game continue to be on full display.
"He was a very skilled player coming out of the draft, so it was a matter of really figuring out the speed of the game, figuring out what he needed to do, where his shots could come from," Kerr said. "We've all talked about how hard he's worked and I thought the bubble last year in Orlando was really important for him.
"He was able to make mistakes and understand them ... and then when he came back at the end of the year he had a lot of confidence. He's just carried that over into this year."
But perhaps one of the most encouraging signs from Poole so far has been how he can coexist with Curry. Multiple players have said playing with Curry isn't an easy adjustment.
Because he is constantly moving, it's hard to predict where he's looking to go, and therefore it's hard to make sure you're not in his way. Then there's the added difficulty of getting shots for yourself, while also making sure Steph's being fully taken advantage of.
Last year was a clear example as to how being in a lineup with Curry -- particularly as his fellow backcourt player -- takes time to adjust to.
Maybe it's the fact the Poole has been with the Warriors for three years now, but he looks as comfortable as can be sharing the court with the two-time MVP.
"I haven't figured it out yet," Poole said as to what the secret tricks are to play well next to Curry. "I mean, he is unique, but he just tells me to go out there and play my game and he'll play his. It's really as simple as that.
"It's not like we're trying to overcomplicate things and only find Steph. He's good enough where he's going to get his shots and he's going to get open. But they still want me to be aggressive. There's really good cohesiveness out there right now with the group we have."
While Poole put up his second 20-point game so far -- this time on 10-of-19 shooting, including 6-of-13 from three -- Curry finished with 30 points on 12-of-24 shooting. Hitting just three threes, Curry exhibited his driving ability.
"We've got two playmakers on the floor at the same time," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "Two guys who can attack and get into the paint and move the ball, so there's a lot of offense generated with Steph and Jordan on the floor at the same time. They play off of each other pretty well. They give each other plenty of space and you can see Jordan's not shy out there."
Poole is as good of a fill-in for Thompson as the Warriors have had since he was first injured in 2019. But they are not the same player -- which will be a good thing for Golden State.
Thompson is a better shooter, as he is compared to most players, and is much more of a defender. Poole is a better driver than Thompson and attacks the rim far more often.
This makes Poole just as valuable when Thompson comes back.
The differences in each player's skillsets will allow for different Warriors' schemes and force opponents to switch up their coverages. And since Poole will be coming off the bench as a sixth man and leader of the second unit, there shouldn't be as drastic of a fall-off in scoring as there has been in the past.
But in the meantime, the combination of Poole and Curry in the starting backcourt is proving to have the potential to be a lethal one. They can pull up from what feels like anywhere on the court and combine for an ungodly amount of points.
Until the Splash Brothers reunite -- and even after -- Poole has established himself as part of the splash family.