Is Jordan Poole ready to be a number one option?

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Steph Curry’s injury is giving us a chance to see Jordan Poole as the centerpiece of Golden State’s offense. Is he ready for that responsibility?

The keystone to the Golden State Warriors dynasty (a fellow known by some as Stephen Curry) has missed their last seven games due to injury, and yet somehow, the unit has managed a 4-3 record during that stretch.

Basketball is a team game, but one can not help but attribute this occurrence to the prolific play of Jordan Poole, who, filling in as the team’s primary offensive option in Curry’s absence, has averaged 27.6 points per game on a 56.9 true shooting percentage in that span.

Even more fascinating, this isn’t the first time Poole has filled Curry’s void when he’s been unavailable. Over the last two seasons, in the 27 regular season games he’s played without Curry, Poole has averaged 26.3 points per game on a 58.5 true shooting percentage (above-average efficiency over the last two years).

These numbers raise the question — is Poole capable of being a full-time number-one option on his own team?

For the context of this discussion, when we float the designation of ‘number one option,’ we are talking about the offensive end of the floor.  Generally speaking, to be a competent full-time offensive number one, you need to be fluent in two languages: scoring and playmaking.

Can Jordan Poole get enough buckets?

Despite being only 23 years old, Poole is already one of the most complete scorers in the league.

On the ball, he can generate efficient offense at all three levels. While his first step isn’t as deadly as, say, Anthony Edwards, he’s speedy enough to get to the rim and finish whenever he pleases.

If opponents are shutting down his drives to the rim, he has no issue stopping short and pulling up for a mid-range jumper. He’s in the 74th percentile in efficiency for his position on all mid-range attempts (short and long), per Cleaning the Glass.

And while his 3-point percentage is down this year, his 86.6 percent conversation rate from the charity stripe (a strong signal of a player’s ability as a shooter) implies that he should return to his previous marks.

Off the ball, it’s no secret that the Warriors style his actions in the same fashion they do Curry’s, deploying him in a state of perpetual screening, curling, and cutting until a high-value opportunity presents itself.

Poole’s blend of on and off-ball scoring makes him a versatile weapon, as he can buoy weaker lineups by taking matters into his own hands and co-exist next to more ball-dominant second and third options by moving around without the rock in his possession.

So Jordan Poole scores like a first option, but can he pass like one too?

A minor caveat: scoring and playmaking are not entirely separate skills. Quite the contrary, more times than not these two disciplines go hand in hand.

Great scoring can give you a leg up on your playmaking because you are constantly commanding the attention of additional defenders, which opens up chances to dish it out to loosely guarded teammates. Meanwhile, poor scoring can hinder one’s playmaking prowess because teams will sag off players, play the passing lane, and dare them to beat them with their scoring.

Poole’s scoring puts him closer to that first description than the second. Along with running the same plays as Curry, Poole also garners similar levels of attention from the defense, usually getting two defenders charging at him in any screening action, which leads to easy dimes like this:

Outside of these more simple feeds, Poole is adept at identifying and executing more high-value finds. His dazzling handle, whimsical creativity, and ability to enter the paint whenever his heart desires make him a splendid interior passer who can hook up his teammates with high-percentage looks around the rim.

Types of passes are not a problem for him. Jordan Poole can perform almost any pass in the book (although, I would argue that he senses open layups better than he does open 3s). His real playmaking shortcoming lies in the volume of his creation.

One stat we intentionally left out until now is that in the 27 games Poole has played without Curry over the last two seasons, he has only averaged 5.0 assists per game. That is not a great indicator that he is creating a large number of chances for his teammates.

A more nuanced stat for this sort of analysis is Ben Taylor’s Box Creation, which estimates the number of shots a player creates for teammates per 100 possessions not just with their passes but also with their gravity and ability to warp a defense. As it stands, Poole’s Box Creation sits at 8.7. This is solid creation volume — putting him in the same vein as the likes of Tyrese Maxey, Kyrie Irving, and D’Angelo Russell — but is a significant step below the true blue number-one options.

For instance, Curry creates an estimated 14.5 shots for his teammates per 100 possessions. And while Curry is on a whole other level, other lead guards like Ja Morant, Darius Garland, Shai Gigleous Alexander, and Jalen Brunson post notably higher marks too.

To firmly vault himself into the status of full-time number one option, Poole will need to level up his creation volume. However, thanks to his youthful vigor and all the skills we’ve highlighted above, such development is not out of the realm of possibility.

In fact, given how rapidly Poole has progressed as an NBA player — going from one of the worst players in the association, to Curry’s tantalizing understudy, to the person now capable of temporarily donning his predecessor’s mantle as the dynasty’s big kahuna — one would be wise to wager that he eventually becomes a surefire number one option on an elite offensive machine of his own.

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