With his Washington Wizards down 21 points in the third quarter against the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday, Jordan Poole decided for the splash play.
He threw an alley-oop off the backboard to teammate Kyle Kuzma. It created some excitement amongst road fans in Atlanta.
Later that evening, Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green bemoaned the lack of chemistry for his team a season ago, a season that resulted in Golden State’s first series loss in the Western Conference playoffs under head coach Steve Kerr.
“Last year, we had an awful team as far as chemistry goes … Last year was horse (expletive). Hard to come to work. Not fun. This year, you see the joy on guys’ face when they come in the building … this is a group that likes being together,” the always boisterous Green told reporters.
Green’s comments came after longtime teammate Klay Thompson nailed a game-winning shot in the last second to defeat the Sacramento Kings and send the Warriors to their fourth consecutive win. These two moments early in the season couldn’t have been more telling.
It was roughly 13 months ago that Poole and Green were interconnected during a fateful training camp practice in which the latter punched his then-teammate. Once this was caught on video and released to the masses, the jig was up.
Green and Poole could no longer coexist in San Francisco. It’s also pretty obvious that Green’s chemistry comments were a direct shot at Poole.
This isn’t to say Green was innocent in what happened to the Warriors a season ago. A grown man punching another grown man in front of colleagues, no matter the profession, is not going to sit well.
Green is a known hot head. He might have cost the Warriors another championship years back by being suspended for an NBA Finals game against the Cleveland Cavaliers for a cheap shot on LeBron James. Green’s reputation is by now well known.
Despite all of this, new Warriors general manager Mike Dunleavy Jr. essentially chose Green over Poole when making his first decision in that role.
Dunleavy Jr. sent Poole to the Wizards in what many assumed to be a long-term salary dump, acquiring an aging, regressed and injury-plagued Chris Paul in the process.
For the Warriors, this was all about moving off the mistake that was the four-year, $128 million contract extension they signed Poole to.
Just over a week into the 2023-24 NBA season, and it’s become rather clear that Golden State won this trade. We don’t need more of a sample size. Poole going off for 50 in a game moving forward this season won’t change the dynamics. Paul finding himself sidelined to injury won’t do that, either. The draft picks and young players Golden State gave up to Washington is now an afterthought.
Jordan Poole trade was addition by substraction for Golden State Warriors
Last season’s playoffs were a prime example of just how much of a net-negative Poole was for the Warriors. He finished the postseason averaging 10.3 points and 3.5 assists on 34% shooting from the field. The Warriors were also minus-3.9 per game with Poole on the court during the playoffs.
It came to the point that Kerr had to bench Poole late in games because he acted as a detriment to the team’s ability to succeed. He played just 10 minutes in a critical Game 4 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference semifinals.
“It just wasn’t his night. He didn’t have it going,” Kerr said of Jordan Poole after the game. “We had other guys who were playing well, Moses (Moody) came in and did a great job, Donte (DiVincenzo) came in and gave us good minutes, Gary (Payton) obviously gave us a big lift starting the game.”
Poole would go on to play a combined 47 minutes in the final two games of the season, and his last two outings as a member of the Warriors. That two-game span saw him score a combined 18 points on 8-of-24 shooting. This represented a far cry from Poole playing a huge role in Golden State’s run to the NBA title the previous season, averaging 17.0 points on 51% shooting while finishing plus-2.8 per game.
Fast forward to the 2023-24 season, and Poole has been a disaster class for the rebuilding Wizards. Instead of acting as a stabilizing force, he seems to be more of a bull in a coffee shop.
Outside of the pure lack of team play Poole has displayed through just four games of his Wizards career, he’s also acted the part of a net-negative on the court.
- Jordan Poole stats (2023-24): 10.3 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.2 TPG, 34% shooting, 25% 3-point, minus-8.2
One really has to wonder whether Poole changed his philosophy once the former Michigan star collected that bag a year ago last month. He simply has not been the same player.
Chris Paul’s calming demeanor and fit
When the Warriors acquired Paul from Washington this past summer, it seemed like fitting a square peg in a round hole. He had previous on-court rifts with each member of Golden State’s core three. He was a rival that had fallen to the Warriors multiple times in the playoffs.
As a fit, how would he work with franchise legend Stephen Curry in the backcourt? Would the future Hall of Famer take to a reserve role as the leader of the second unit?
“Definitely,” Warriors center Kevon Looney told Sportsnaut when asked if he thought CP3 would be a fit. “I think it’s been off to a good start. There is always going to be a learning curve a little bit. But I think it’s been good. He’s scoring at a high rate. The more we play, the more the turnovers will come down. We’ll start gelling even more. I think we can be a pretty dynamic offense.”
Through five games, Paul’s impact on the Warriors has been felt in more ways than one. While he’s not shooting well (38%), the entire dynamics have changed for Golden State’s second unit with CP3 having replaced Poole.
The 12-time All-Star is averaging 9.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, 8.2 assists and 1.6 steals in 30 minutes of action per game. In comparison to Poole’s sporadic ways, Paul’s calming presence has been obvious.
Let’s take a look at Paul’s first ever game coming off the bench when Green returned from an ankle injury against the Houston Rockets last week.
Golden State’s starters did not necessarily play well with Curry and Klay Thompson finishing a combined minus-4 when on the court. Led by CP3, the reserve unit won this game for the Warriors against an inferior opponent. He put up eight points, five rebounds and seven assists while finishing plus-22 in 27 minutes of action. Golden State was minus-11 in the 21 minutes Paul rode the pine.
The veteran has helped youngsters Jonathan Kuminga (11.3 PPG, 38% 3-point) and Moses Moody (8.0 PPG, 38% 3-point) take their games to the next level. For a Warriors team that is hard-capped and well over the luxury tax, getting more production from these unproven players will be a boon moving forward in an ultra-tough Western Conference.
It’s no coincidence that their improvements have come with Paul running the second unit. As a case study, that Rockets game would’ve been yet another road loss for the Warriors last season if Poole were tasked with Paul’s job.
As another case study, the Warriors are 3-0 on the road this season. They didn’t get their third win away from Chase Center in 2022-23 until Dec. 18. Another example? Golden State ranks fifth in points allowed and sixth in defensive rating after finishing last season 21st and 17th, respectively. Having a nine-time All-Defensive Team performer doesn’t hurt in that regard.
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It’s all about chemistry and team-building
Back to Green’s comments for a second. As noted, he was not innocent in the entire Poole drama. He shouldn’t get a pass. But it is rather obvious that the chemistry is better in San Francisco this season than in 2022-23.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise. Green, Curry and Thompson have been playing together for well over a decade. They have been through thick and thin. At this point, the can finish each other’s sentences without an issue. Their relationships have lasted longer than what most of us have enjoyed in our personal lives.
Acquirng a true professional in Paul was going to change the dynamics of the Warriors’ locker room in a big way. It’s all about that one goal — winning his first NBA title. The last accomplishment in a first ballot Hall of Fame career.
“Anybody who knows me knows I’m all about winning,” Paul said at the Warriors’ media day. “Whatever I can do to help our team win.”
Can we say the same thing about Jordan Poole? It’s a real question that must be asked given how the start of the 2023-24 NBA season have gone for these two entities.
This article was originally published on Sportsnaut.com and is republished here with permission.