Jordan Poole rising performance leads Warriors to NBA playoffs

Earlier in the season, Jordan Poole thrived as the starter in place of the injured Klay Thompson, proving himself to be a skilled scorer both at the rim and behind the arc. Poole has since taken over for Stephen Curry, who has been out with a foot injury for three weeks.

Since the February break, Poole has been one of the NBA’s top non-All-Star players. He’s averaging 23,7 points per game in 34 games, shooting 48.3 percent from the field and 42.5 percent from deep. He also averages 5,1 assists and 4,0 rebounds.

Poole has gotten more looks from opponents recently, often attracting double teams. That pressure has helped him improve as a facilitator. Poole’s court vision has been improved throughout the season, and he is learning when to make the extra pass to set up his teammates. That was evident in the team’s regular-season home finale victory over Thursday’s starless Los Angeles Lakers.

Views on Poole’s performance

“[Poole has] gotten so much better even in the last month or so,” remarked coach Steve Kerr. “He’s become much more efficient with his dribble. He’s not over-dribbling. The possessions are running smoother, so he’s really coming into his own.”

Over the last several games, the Warriors’ ball movement has improved after the team struggled to find its rhythm without Curry. Golden State has totalled 68 assists in the previous two games, while its opponents have counted 33.

According to Andre Iguodala, Poole is a “workhorse” and “a gym rat”, and his hard work has helped him emerge as a Most Improved Player of the Year. Poole passed to a cutting Iguodala in the fourth quarter, who finished at the rim with two players on him at the 3-point line. Iguodala compares the Warriors’ breakout star to Miami Heat third-year player Tyler Herro.

“I don’t think people knew quite how good of a passer Tyler was,” Iguodala stated.

“We call both of them ‘wonder boys’ because they are both from Milwaukee and they both have that flair and flash to their game. They both can score at a high clip and that can sometimes take away from the other parts of their game that they are pretty good at. They both have really good left hands; they make those cross-court passes with one hand.”

Poole gains more popularity

Golden State will try to sign Poole to a four-year, $90 million contract extension in the coming months. That contract should provide him with validation that no other award could as individual honors are still important to athletes. The NBA’s Most Improved Player Award would be a tangible reminder that, after an uninspiring first 12 seasons, Poole didn’t simply establish he belongs – he evolved into a standout player.

His rise in popularity from franchise building block is practically unprecedented. Nonetheless, Poole had the sixth-best odds to win the Most Improved Player Award on Friday afternoon. The Grizzlies’ Ja Morant is the clear favourite, followed by Cavaliers guard Darius Garland, Spurs guard Dejounte Murray, Hornets forward Miles Bridges, and Memphis guard Desmond Bane.

All five players ahead of Poole have impressive resumes, so it’s difficult to see why he’s not higher on the list. The most significant disadvantage is that the award only applies to this season.