He is not Kevin Durant or Shaun Livingston or Leandro Barbosa, former Warriors that excelled at three different positions, but Jordan Poole shares with each an artistry that made them a threat on every Warriors possession.
Poole is able to create his own shot, and that’s of immense value in the NBA.
It’s so rare and treasured that nobody on the Golden State payroll wants to visualize the limitations of the second-unit offense without the second-year guard.
Durant found his money, any way he pleased, whether breaking down defenders and getting to the rim or dribbling into a jumper from as far away as 30 feet. Livingston found his in punishing defenders in the post with a turnaround jumper that defied blocking. Barbosa used a dazzling variety of tricks and savvy playground maneuvers that wowed folks at every level.
After a rookie year that failed to impress a single soul, Poole midway through his second season has found his role and is killing it. He scored a team-high 23 points, in 24 minutes, Wednesday night as the Warriors coasted to a 108-94 win over a diluted version of the Rockets in Houston.
“Confidence. It’s all confidence,” said Draymond Green, who posted a triple-double of his own. "He’s shooting the ball with a lot of confidence. He’s making quick decisions. And he’s . . . just overall better.”
In five games since being recalled from the G League two weeks ago, Poole has scored 95 points in 113 minutes, averaging 18.0 points per game, shooting 55.3 percent from the field, including 42.3 from beyond the arc.
Two weeks after returning from the G League, only two-time MVP Stephen Curry is better among the Warriors at finding his way to put the ball through the net. Poole’s aggression level on offense is off the charts.
“I like his aggression,” coach Steve Kerr said. “The thing that impresses me most is how quick his decision-making has been. There’s no wasted motion. Last year, his rookie year, and even in the early part of this season, he’d catch the ball and hold. Not much holding it now.”
Poole is exploiting the trust he had to earn from Kerr. It took a lot of work. He had to convince skeptics within the organization that he had the goods to produce. His performance in Florida with the G League Santa Cruz Warriors was so impressive the Warriors recalled him sooner than they anticipated.
And, moreover, Kerr granted him license to chase buckets.
“As long as he makes his decision quickly, and either dribbles or shoots or passes right away, and doesn’t mess around with the ball, then he’s got a license to go,” Kerr said.
Poole is shooting the 3-ball from all around the arc. That’s the skill that persuaded the Warriors to draft him in 2019, after his sophomore season at Michigan.
What’s more impressive is Poole’s ability to slash through bodies and get to the rim. He’s flashing a little bit of what Barbosa gave the Warriors during their 2014-15 championship season. Barbosa was a 32-year-old vet. Poole is getting crafty at 21.
“He’s really capable of getting into the paint,” Kerr said. “He’s shifty. He can do some things that change the look of our team a little bit. It’s great to have a playmaker out there, somebody who can make shots and also break the defense down.”
Paired with rookie point guard Nico Mannion, Poole is putting the fizz in the second-unit offense. He has shown the ability to score in bunches; he had 15 points in the second quarter Wednesday night. In his most impressive game, against an elite Utah Jazz team, Poole scored 18 points in 22 minutes. He was better than Utah’s Jordan Clarkson, a leading candidate for Sixth Man of the Year.
Poole is moving beyond the phase in which only his work ethic draws the only universal compliments from teammates and coaches.
“I’m happy for him, extremely,” Kelly Oubre Jr. said. “I don’t really think he should have been in the G League, to be honest. But he did go down there, he kept his head high and he came back out on top.”
The G League was good for Poole. It was a tonic. It’s where he found his rhythm and spice and the affirmation that he still could abuse defenders. His body language is better. His confidence, which felt so empty last season, now feels legit.
Though Poole won’t always score with such absurd efficiency, the Warriors have seen enough to exhale, knowing that 21 months ago they made a quality pick in the first round.