The Golden State Warriors just punched their ticket to their sixth NBA Finals in eight seasons. A record only the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls (1991-93 and 1996-98) can boast about over the past 30 seasons.
The Warriors are led by their “Big Three” of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, who were all drafted by the franchise between 2009 and 2012. Those three All-Stars have won three titles and played in five NBA Finals, but with age, attrition and teams getting better, GS needed a jolt of youth, athleticism and talent.
Third-year guard Jordan Poole has given them just that.
Poole was the team’s first-round draft pick in 2019, and after some stints in the G-League, and many DNPs, there were questions about whether the talented, free-wheeling novice could adjust to the Warriors’ team-first culture.
Not that Poole was ever a problem, but his style of play was totally different from how the Warriors execute their unselfish offense. They share the ball better than any team in the league.
If I Could Be Like Klay
Part of Poole’s early struggles also stemmed from him trying to mimic the style of Klay Thompson while filling in for the injured Splash Brother Poole replaced as Klay rehabbed his injury. That didn’t work and Poole discussed finding his comfort zone in an interview released this week on the “Point Forward” podcast:
Ladies and gentlemen, Jordan Poole. pic.twitter.com/vKOYMUU5QG
— A's Fan by Design (@AsFanByDesign) May 26, 2022
“Basketball-wise, the thing coming in is they wanted me to be more like Klay Thompson, work out like Klay. A lot of off-the-ball stuff, a lot of shooting stuff. And I’ve always been a team player, team first. No matter what, the goal is to win, right? But still trying to find the best way, the most subtle way to play my game.”
Poole had flashes but still struggled more often than not. His play picked up late last season with time in the G-League and with the Warriors. That stint led to him being named the starting shooting guard this season with Klay Thompson still on the mend.
Poole Fills In Admirably For The Splash Brothers
The 2021-22 season began with the Warriors boasting a league best 29-7 record before Thompson returned in January. The team struggled to reincorporate Thompson back into the lineup after nearly two full years, but that never really hurt Poole, who averaged 18.5 points per game on 45/37/92 splits. His 92 percent free throw shooting was tops in the league, edging teammate Steph Curry. Poole also filled in for Curry after the two-time MVP was injured for the last month of the season. In fact, Poole played so well that head coach Steve Kerr decided to bring Curry off the bench upon return as a way of helping Poole keep his rhythm.
Poole didn’t disappoint, going for 30 points in his first playoff game. He’s had many other sizzlers in this postseason as well.
He even had Draymond call him the team’s “first option” at one point.
— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) May 27, 2022
Warriors New Death Lineup Features Three-Guard Lineup: Poole At PG
Steve Kerr first unveiled the “Death Lineup,” during the Kevin Durant years in the Bay Area. It features small-ball with the ability to switch everything on the defensive end and has five guys who can handle and create a good shot for themselves or their teammates.
The new version features Curry, Poole, Klay, Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green. It’s nearly unstoppable offensively, and it’s also a good defensive unit. Poole is the de facto point guard of this unit; he and Draymond do a lot of the setting up the “Splash Brothers” and “Air Wiggy.” The lineup also allows Poole to dance a bit with the ball and do what he does best — get buckets. He’s earned that trust from Kerr and his teammates.
Poole has overcome a lot to be a vital piece going forward. Without his contributions there’s no guarantee they’re in this position again. His play will also go a long way in determining if Steph Curry’s “Dub Nation” can secure a fourth Larry O’Brien Trophy over the next two weeks.