Jordan Poole, in his third year in the NBA, has become an extremely important piece of the Warriors’ lineup during their current playoff run. But his journey to get to the biggest stage in basketball wasn’t easy.
Golden State drafted the Michigan product 28th overall in the first round of the 2019 NBA Draft, but his role wasn’t really clear as he tried to make an identity for himself during his rookie season.
“Basketball-wise, the thing coming in is they wanted me to be more like Klay [Thompson], work out like Klay,” Poole said on the “Point Forward” podcast. “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.”
But the young guard struggled to do so, averaging mediocre numbers across the board that didn’t stand out.
Still, he continued to put in the work and knew his time would come.
“It took a little bit,” Poole said. “I can tell you exactly when it happened. My rookie year, we were playing against the Sacramento [Kings] later in the season, probably like the last 20 games. Steve [Kerr] got thrown out. And Mike [Brown] was the head coach. And Mike B said, we're going to put Jordan at PG … We weren't really good, but I think Steve and coach Mike were like, 'Alright, we should put the ball in his hands a little bit for the last 15 games' and then it worked. We did that, COVID happened and then I had six months to really just work out.”
In his sophomore season, Poole slightly improved, but a guard-filled Warriors roster couldn’t find a way to utilize him to his full potential.
Golden State Warriors
He was assigned to the Warriors’ G League affiliate in Santa Cruz where he played and started in 11 games, averaging 22.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game.
But there was more in store for him.
Exactly one season later, Poole became a critical role player in his third year with the Warriors. While Klay Thompson continued his long road to recovery, Poole was given a very important task.
And he understood the assignment.
Poole earned the starting shooting guard spot for the 2021-22 season and then shifted over to point guard in a three-guard system with Steph Curry and Thompson when he returned in January.
And when injuries sidelined Curry late in the season, Poole scored 20 or more points in 18 of Golden State’s final 20 games.
“So I think earlier on was overcoming the fact of still trying to find a way to be on the court, play within a team system,” Poole said. “Right? Not be a menace in the locker room or none of that right, stay out of the way of being a distraction. Still be me. And you can do that through the clothes you wear, through the music you listen to, how you work out before, after, etc. And after, I was able to just do me earlier on, and it was after I came back from the G [League] my second year, everything else just kind of fell into place.”
Poole’s hard work and dedication got him to where he is today.
In his first postseason appearance, Game 1 of the first round of the playoffs, Poole started and scored a game-high 30 points in a 123-107 win over the Denver Nuggets.
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Two days later, he finished with 29 points and eight assists in a 126-106 win.
The 22-year-old might not have been named the NBA’s Most Improved Player, or even been a finalist, but it’s crystal clear that his significant progress throughout his journey in the league is the reason Dub Nation, and basketball fans around the world, are loving the Poole Party.