What Wiseman can learn from Poole's second-year improvement

James Wiseman and Jordan Poole

James Wiseman isn't the first NBA rookie to struggle, let alone the only one on his own team.

Warriors guard Jordan Poole can relate to the 20-year-old's up-and-down first season in the NBA. He can also provide hope to Wiseman that the center's rookie struggles aren't necessarily permanent.

"I'll just remind everyone what Jordan Poole looked like a year ago, and what he looked like this year," Golden State coach Steve Kerr said Friday on KNBR's "Tolbert, Krueger & Brooks."

"All young players just have to go through this. James is going through it, but he's got so much ability, [is] such a great kid and works so hard. I think it's all going to come together for him."

Poole was the Warriors' last first-round draft pick prior to Wiseman, and his rookie year was a similar slog. Pressed into a larger role sooner than Golden State expected following Steph Curry's broken hand, Poole didn't fully acclimate to the NBA by the end of his rookie season.

As a rookie, Poole made only 33.3 percent of his field goals and 27.9 percent of his 3-pointers. Although his shooting had noticeably improved following an extended offseason, Poole played fewer than 10 minutes per game in his first 15 appearances for the Warriors in 2020-21.

Things changed after a midseason G League assignment, as Poole found his confidence and flourished in the minor league's bubble just outside of Orlando, Fla.

From his return to the Warriors' lineup on March 4 until the end of the regular season, Poole averaged 14.7 points per game on 43.3 percent shooting from the field, 35.4 percent from beyond the arc and 87 percent from the free-throw line. The Warriors went 20-16 during that time, as Poole cemented his place in Golden State's rotation moving forward.


Of course, Poole enjoyed certain advantages in his second NBA season that Wiseman will not.

Poole played two collegiate seasons at Michigan, whereas Wiseman played just three games for Memphis. Poole had nine months between his first and second NBA seasons as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic, while Wiseman will rehabilitate a torn meniscus between his. Poole, a No. 28 pick, also faced far less scrutiny for a G League assignment than Wiseman, the No. 2 pick last year, would if he were sent down.

Yet Wiseman still is well-positioned to improve next season, according to Kerr, simply by having a year under his belt.

"I think just the experience of this year, of everything that he learned, is gonna be huge," Kerr said in the same interview. "As he gets more and more reps, more and more time on the floor next year, he's just gonna get better and better."

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For all of the pitfalls of his rookie season, Wiseman still averaged 11.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. Since the turn of the century, only 11 other qualifying centers have averaged more in both categories, according to Stats Perform. All-NBA center Rudy Gobert didn't, nor did MVP front-runner Nikola Jokic. Neither player was picked as high as Wiseman, but both big men had years of professional experience in Europe before they came to the NBA. 

Wiseman remains a work in progress, but Poole's path should give him hope that he won't have to be for much longer.

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