For most of the 2020-21 season, the Golden State Warriors hovered around a .500 record. It wasn’t until the last 20 games or so that the team finally started showing some consistency as they pursued one of the Western Conference’s final playoff spots.
From Apr 9 until the end of the season on May 16, the Warriors went 15-6 and finished 39-33, good enough to earn themselves a spot in the play-in game against the Los Angeles Lakers. They would lose that game, 103-100, as well as the subsequent play-in game against the Memphis Grizzlies, and miss the postseason for the second consecutive year.
But despite that, some positive signs could carry over into this upcoming season, most notably the improvement from Jordan Poole.
Poole started last season after what could be described as a forgettable rookie season. He spent a lot of time in the G League and when he did get minutes with the Warriors, he often looked lost and out of place. But by the end of the year, there was no doubt as to his ability to be a serviceable NBA player.
Over the course of the last two months of the season, Poole came off the bench and put up the best numbers of his career to date. He finished the year averaging 12.0 points per game on 43.2 percent shooting from the field. One of the most improved aspects of his game was his three-point shooting. He shot only 27.9 percent from downtown as a rookie, but he upped that to 35.1 percent.
Now that he’s shown the coaching staff that he’s capable of being a quality player in their system, he knows that he’s going to have to carry that over into this next season.
“I just have to do the work to try and improve on the momentum that I had this last season,” Poole told Basketball Insiders. “I’ve got to take that into this season.”
A big part of Poole’s continued development was the time he spent with the Santa Cruz Warriors, Golden State’s G League affiliate. It was during his assignment as a rookie that he really started to show signs of being the type of player the Warriors envisioned when they drafted him.
He played in three games with Santa Cruz during the 2019-20 season and he put up 26.0 points per game, 6.0 rebounds and 5.3 assists while shooting 46.3 percent from the field and 42.3 percent from three-point range.
This past season, it was a little bit surprising when the Warriors announced that they were sending Poole to the G League bubble in Orlando, FL. But the move ended up paying off as Poole flourished in the bubble and he carried that back with him when he rejoined the Warriors.
Golden State had initially intended to keep Poole with Santa Cruz for the duration of the bubble, but they recalled him after 11 games. In those games, he put up 22.4 points per game, 5.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists while shooting 45.1 percent from the field.
Being able to be the focal point of the offense in the G League is something Poole credits with his improved play.
“The G League is a good experience being able to get reps, being able to be the main guy, and get a lot of action, experiences, and live game situations under my belt,” Poole said. “It’s live reps. Being able to get that look and then go and play up top with the team definitely helped me.”
And this summer, Poole has certainly kept himself busy. In the offseason, many players participate in pro-am leagues across the country. The Drew League in Los Angeles has always been considered one of the top runs in the country among basketball circles with NBA players as far back as Byron Scott and Michael Cooper suiting up during their playing days.
In recent years, The Crawsover in Seattle hosted by former NBA player Jamal Crawford has also become one of the premier offseason leagues and also features some of the top professional, college and high school talent in the nation.
Poole suited up in both leagues this summer, dropping 36 points at The Crawsover and then getting 26 at the Drew League. In his Drew debut, he showed off his improved shooting from three-point range as well as his ability to attack off the dribble and get to the rim.
Now having played in both leagues for the first time, Poole was impressed by the level of competition and was grateful that he was able to get in some live game reps in the offseason.
“These pro-ams, they’re set up really well. There’s a lot of high-level guys out here,” Poole said. “Being able to just get some organized run in the summer is definitely beneficial. To be in the offseason and get some good runs in with all these guys, that’s definitely really cool.”
And as the start of the 2021-22 NBA season draws closer, the Warriors know for certain that they will be without All-Star shooting guard Klay Thompson at least until around Christmas. With his absence, there will be an opening for a starter in the backcourt alongside Stephen Curry until Thompson returns.
Looking at the roster, it appears that Poole may get his shot to be the temporary starting shooting guard. Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said as much in a recent interview with Tim Kawakami of The Athletic.
Poole is looking forward to whatever new challenges await him, and he understands that with a healthy Warriors team, the expectations are definitely going to be high.
“I think it’s going to be a really exciting year, we’re going to be back to pretty good health,” Poole said. “We got Klay coming back, we got James [Wiseman] coming back, we added a lot of vets in the offseason. We’ll find a way to put the pieces together and try to have that championship-contending season that we want. It’s going to be pretty exciting.”
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