Donte DiVincenzo’s Warriors return can unlock Jordan Poole’s scoring

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DiVincenzo’s Warriors return can unlock Poole’s scoring originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

SAN FRANCISCO — As fans wait and debate, Warriors players and coaches are more than confident that a Jordan Poole offensive explosion in on its way in no time. When Poole takes the floor Friday night at Chase Center for the Warriors’ battle with the Cleveland Cavaliers, he should do so with a sigh of relief.

Poole will be the first to say that his play so far this season, especially as of late, isn’t good enough. He knows he’s better than, and he’s doing the work to prove himself yet again to the basketball world. More than 45 minutes after the Warriors’ win Monday night vs. the Sacramento Kings, Poole still was in full uniform getting shots up on the practice court after a game in which he scored two points, went 1-for-4 from the field and missed his two 3-point attempts.

His slow start also is a bit of being a product of his new environment. Steve Kerr recognizes that, and is concocting ways to get him going.

“He’s getting the best defender each night,” Kerr said of Poole on Wednesday after Warriors practice. “Some of that is a year ago for the first 50 games, he started. He was maybe getting the third-best defender on the perimeter. Now he’s getting the very best, because teams know he’s the key to our second group. He’s facing more high-level defenders, and I think more game planning.

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“And frankly we’ve had a lot of different rotations out there with him. So we haven’t found our footing as a team, rotation wise, and that hasn’t helped Jordan. We need to find some consistency in terms of the guys he’s playing with.”

In the Warriors’ loss to the Detroit Pistons on the second night of their winless five-game road trip, Poole was back in the starting lineup for Klay Thompson, who was sitting the end of a back-to-back. Surrounded by Steph Curry, Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green, Poole had his best game of the season. He scored a season-high 30 points and made a season-high five 3-pointers.

Two nights later, Poole struggled as part of the Warriors youthful second unit, scoring nine points while going 3-for-10 from the field and 1-for-7 from the field. Now, here’s why Poole should feel relieved Friday night at Chase Center.

Yes, he’ll come off the bench as the Warriors’ Sixth Man. But he’ll also be joined by guard Donte DiVincenzo for the first time since the third game of the season.

The Warriors knew Poole would be the key to their bench this season, and in the future as well. They also had his skills and getting the best out of him when they targeted DiVincenzo in the past. DiVincenzo, returning from a strained hamstring, doesn’t have to put a cape on to open the gates to a Poole Party. His steady presence should be a good enough invitation in its own right.

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“First of all, letting it come to us, not forcing it,” DiVincenzo said Wednesday when asked how he can help Poole get going offensively. “I’m not gonna come in here and try and be a hero Friday night. Just coming in with that second unit and letting Jordan get back to letting his mind be free. Let him go out there and do his thing.

“For me, it’s to let the offense keep moving, facilitate everything and then when it comes back to JP, he doesn’t have so much pressure to initiate everything. And then try and be aggressive and score the ball. I’ll take a little bit of that load off of him, get people in the right positions and then when it comes back to him, he can just boogie and do his thing.”

While Poole will, and should, have the ball in his hands the most out of the second unit, DiVincenzo’s presence allows him to play on and off the ball. Right now, he’s stuck in between being a facilitator and scorer, causing silly turnovers. The decisiveness isn’t there right now.

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Whoever Poole’s sharing the floor with, the Warriors need him to attack and be more aggressive. They envisioned DiVincenzo playing much more of a point guard role than past teams have asked him to do so, and that too should be a relief for Poole. It’s not that he isn’t capable of navigating point guard responsibilities, it’s that he’s better suited as a combo guard.

During his breakout campaign last season, Poole played shooting guard 62 percent of the time and point guard 33 percent, according to Basketball-Reference’s position estimate. This season, he’s at 51 percent as a point guard, and 49 percent playing shooting guard. Those numbers should sway a bit the other way now.

DiVincenzo’s versatility as a ball handler and perimeter defender should ease some pressure off Poole on both sides. The Warriors need their young star in the making to play free, not second guessing. Getting DiVincenzo back should a big part of the solution to a winning equation.

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