SAN FRANCISCO -- The upside to Klay Thompson officially being ruled out for the season -- and there is an upside -- is totally unrelated to Klay and completely linked to one of his Warriors teammates.
As strange as this might seem, it would not have been beneficial to anybody in the Warriors' sphere if Thompson were to beat the odds, return the final throes of this experimental season and get minutes that could have -- and should have -- gone to Jordan Poole.
The Warriors drafted Poole with the hope that he might someday provide benefits, at least on offense, similar to what they get from Thompson. Move, move and keep moving. Use picks smartly and frequently. Wear out defenses. Become such a dangerous scoring threat that your defender wouldn’t dare sag.
These are the assets, along with stellar on-ball defense, that have made Klay a five-time All-Star and worthy of a max contract -- $190 million in value – offered by the Warriors five weeks before he underwent surgery to repair a torn left ACL.
Please, don’t get it twisted. This is not to suggest Jordan can duplicate Klay. He’s two inches shorter and 25 pounds lighter, a wiry physique to Klay’s sturdy.
Klay turned 30 this month and already knows his role on this team and his place in this league, and they’ll be the same upon his return next season as it was in the seven seasons before he wrecked his knee in Game 6 of The Finals last June.
Poole turns 21 in June and still is seeking his role with the Warriors and his place in the NBA. He is studying the vets, but he also needs to play. His individual coach, director of player development Chris DeMarco, says Poole has been a willing student and has the tools to get better with experience.
Experience is what this season is about.
“Looking at Klay and looking at Steph, and seeing how they work out and how they play -- and they’ve been extremely successful with it -- it was something me and CD were like, let’s move without the ball, pass off it, go back and forth, because as a defender it’s pretty hard to guard,” Poole said Thursday after shootaround. “That’s why the team has been so successful.
“I’m just trying to learn, man. I’m just trying to look at the guys who came before me and who are ahead of me now and learn to see the positions that they put themselves in.”
After spending the first half of the season primarily at shooting guard, Poole has started the last two games at point guard. More experimenting.
“I feel like it was part of their plan, the entire time,” Poole said. “It’s amazing to be able to see what they have in their players, try to put them situations where they can be successful. I feel like I’m blessed and it’s a good opportunity.”
While Thompson continues his rehab, Steph Curry is expected to return sometime in the next couple of weeks. He’ll take over at point guard, putting Poole back into a combo role -- which is how the Warriors visualize his future.
The Warriors will spend the final 27 games doing as they did for much of the first 55. They’ll probe the young players, examine them and evaluate them. It’s the wisest use of their pre-draft time in a season with no tangible reward.
Let Klay sit and watch. It won’t hurt him. It might help him.
It surely will help the Warriors, who would like to see as much of Poole as he needs to see of them and the league.