November 30, 2022

Jordan Poole was a surprise starter in the bottom half of the Golden State Warriors on Monday night.

Replacing Kevon Looney to unleash the defending champion’s vaunted small ball lineup did indeed give them the jolt that Steve Kerr knew his team so desperately needed. Golden State trailed the Sacramento Kings 67-55 at halftime, but scored nine points in the opening minutes of the third quarter, providing two-way feedback of stifling defense and efficient early offense.

Only Poole’s presence certainly played a part in the Warriors establishing that game-changing momentum before Stephen Curry refused to let his team lose in crunch time. However, he was still more of a useless passenger than the driving force behind it, although Poole’s early season struggle continued throughout Monday’s game, even as Golden State finally broke its five-game losing streak.

Poole scored just two points on 1-of-4 shooting in 22 minutes against Sacramento, adding three assists and the same number of turnovers. It was easily the fewest points he managed to rack up in a single game in the first three weeks of the regular season, but even that reality doesn’t show how passive and out of sync Poole seemed, regardless of the teammates around him.

When was the last time Poole looked this indecisive? It’s not like Kevin Huerter is some kind of edge protector, but Poole barely looks at the basket here. Not only does he predetermine a pass before catching a backdoor cut, but miss Andrew Wiggins’ easy kick-out in the near corner as he is determined to find Curry or Klay Thompson above the break.

Poole did not speak to reporters after the game.

He has missed at least a third of his field goals in Golden State’s last five games, and his 53.5 true shooting percentage is several points below the league average. There’s always noise behind on-off numbers, especially under a small sample size for a team with a completely ineffective bench like the Warriors, but Poole’s -30.7 net rating — the second-worst in the league of all rotational players, according to Cleaning the Glass -speaks volumes regardless.

Still, the Golden State leaders remain unwavering in their confidence that Poole will eventually make his way.

“JP is a little confused at the moment, but we know what he can do,” Kerr said. “He’s so important to our banking unit and I’m confident he’ll get it going.”

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Curry echoed that sentiment, pointing to Poole’s standout offensive during the Warriors’ championship last summer.

“We know who he is, we know what he’s capable of. He’s had some big flashes of it at the start of this season,” he said of Poole. “…He helped us last year to win a championship, so you have to keep your confidence through the difficult moments, and not let it attack the way you behave there. That’s his biggest challenge and I think he’s ready.”

Poole won’t start any further as Kerr continues to search for answers in the Warriors rotation. The main reason he opened the second half on Monday was that Golden State could place Green or Kevon Looney in the middle for the remainder of the game without risking fatigue or additional fouling problems.

But when the Warriors finally come together some Any semblance of cohesion from the bench as the season progresses, expect Poole to be the player who will benefit most from that development.

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