After only 12 games, Washington Wizards guard Jordan Poole is already in hot water amid reports that the 24-year-old former NBA champion may already be on the trade block.
“Did the Washington Wizards trade Jordan Poole to try and rebuild his trade value to move him on in a future trade…or to make him a cornerstone player of their post-Bradley Beal future? My sense, from speaking to various league observers, is that more believe it is the former rather than the latter with Poole in Year 1 of a four-year, $123 million contract,” NBA insider Marc Stein wrote.
Just two seasons ago, as the Golden State Warriors made their championship run, many believed Poole was ascending into the next young superstar. Poole followed up that outstanding campaign with a solid run during the 2022-23 season, averaging career-highs in points (20.5) and assists (4.5). He even gained the praise of All-Star LA Clippers forward Paul George, who on his show, Podcast P, said he believed Poole had star potential outside of Golden State.
“Jordan Poole – if he goes anywhere else, he’s gonna be a star…,” George said. “He’s a star in his own right, he just doesn’t have the same opportunity that he would have somewhere else.”
During this past offseason, on his podcast KG Certified, former NBA champion Kevin Garnett doubled down on this sentiment. Not only did he draw a comparison between Poole to James Harden, but he also added some jaw-dropping bold predictions for the Wizards’ guard heading into the season.
“I think Jordan Poole feels like he’s been held back. That’s how I thought James Harden felt when came out of OKC,” Garnett said.
“I look for Jordan Poole to be top five in scoring this year. And if he don’t shoot more than 25 balls, I’ll be shocked. And if he don’t have one, but a couple 60 balls this year, I will be shocked.”
Now, here he is as the lead man in Washington, and thus far, he has been nothing more than lackluster. Through 12 games with the Wizards, Poole is averaging 15.5 points, 3.7 assists, and 2.5 rebounds per game. All three stats are his lowest outputs since his second season with the Warriors in 2020-21. He is also having one of his least efficient shooting seasons as he is shooting 39.2% from the field (lowest since rookie year) and 27.8% from three (worst of his career.
As for Garnett’s prediction, Poole is 64th in scoring and has one “25-ball” to his name, being 27-point out in the second game of the season in a win over the Memphis Grizzlies. So not off to the best start on that front.
But you would think that a flashy young guard known most for his scoring ability as the No. 1 option would at least be taking a majority of the shots, right? Wrong. Poole is only taking 14.7 shots per game, about five less than teammate Kyle Kuzma, with 19.8 attempts. But there’s more. After getting to the free throw line a career-high 5.1 times a game last season, Poole has plummeted to 2.7 attempts (worst since his second season) and is hitting a mere 81.3%, which would be a career-low.
To put all of that into perspective:
– Has regressed across the board statistically.
– He’s been inefficient from all three scoring levels.
– Not aggressive enough as a shot creator, driver, or foul drawer, especially as a top option.
And now he is slowly beginning to lose faith in the new Wizards’ president of basketball operations, Michael Winger, and the rest of the front office. So now two important questions need answering.
The first question is: What is the ideal role for Jordan Poole?
The second question is: What is the ideal situation for Jordan Poole to go to that can maximize his skillset?
Thankfully for teams interested in trading for him, Poole has a four-year sample size of the role that best suits him. He is a microwave scorer who operates best when he is the lead initiator against second units. He abuses bench units because there typically isn’t a defender talented enough to contain him. He also is a rhythm player who relies on short bursts to get himself going and then slowly settles into the flow of the game once he’s established confidence. Poole is your typical Sixth Man of the Year type through and through.
Now, finding his ideal landing spot is a trickier feat. There are three things to consider as a team interested in Poole:
- Do you have the organizational infrastructure to reel him in when he gets erratic?
Poole has a “move at one speed” kind of playstyle, and that speed tends to always be at about 100 miles an hour. He plays with the kind of freedom and flair that typically draws us to high-volume scorers. But that strength is also one of his biggest weaknesses as it can sometimes minimize his efficiency and/or take his teammates out of the game.
- Are you okay with getting a self-shot generator that needs the ball in his hands to be effective?
This may seem like an easy “yes,” but not every team needs another on-ball player to soak up usage. The Denver Nuggets need another shot creator on the perimeter aside from Jamal Murray, but do they really want to take the ball out of Nikola Jokic’s hands any more than they have to? Of course not. So, although self-shot creation is a high commodity, it comes with a price that only a few teams can afford to pay.
- Lastly, what is the price tag for a 24-year-old guard with three more years remaining on his contract?
Even with his rough play in the early going, Poole is still worth at least a single first-round pick and maybe a few expiring contracts to make the money work.
Using these three criteria, the three teams that could make the most for Poole if he were to be traded are the Miami Heat, the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Orlando Magic.
The Heat have the infrastructure. Whether we would like to admit it or not, Heat Culture is a real thing and structure is important to keep a young player like Poole grounded. He would have All-NBA defenders in Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo around him and could assume the role of a healthier Tyler Herro.
Similar to the Heat, Cleveland has the defense with the interior wall of Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen. But they desperately need someone else who can create their own shot aside from Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland. It’s like if either or both of them miss any time, the Cavaliers can’t seem to generate effective offense. As an energizer bunny off the bench, Poole could cover for that immediately.
The Magic have the most viable assets and the timeline to take on Poole and his long-term money. They still do not have a sure thing at the guard spots and Poole is just the kind of shot-creator they have been missing for quite some time. With an offensive unit of Poole, Franz Wagner, and Paolo Banchero, the Magic could be one of the most exciting young offenses in the league.
It’s important to mention once again that it has only been 12 games. Also, these early reports are coming more from sources around the league rather than directly from the organization themselves. So, there is still plenty of time for Poole to change the narrative.
But this is also the harsh reality of being “The Man.” It’s more than just being the No.1 option and getting all the shots. You play well, and you’re praised and labeled as the “savior.” Play poorly, and you’re the scapegoat, and everyone is left wondering whether you’re truly a superstar. Poole still has a lot of star potential, but he’s going to have to play much better, and soon if he has any aspirations of still being viewed as a “franchise cornerstone” of the Washington Wizards. Otherwise, we could be seeing him in a new uniform real soon.
Hi there! My name is Jalon Dixon, but most people just call me Jay. As an aspiring, young sports writer and podcaster, I enjoy discussing sports (mainly basketball and football) and sharing my knowledge with others. Growing up right in the middle of Towson University, Morgan State, Goucher College and others, I have gotten the chance to learn so much about a handful of the different athletic teams that thrive here in Baltimore. I want to be the voice of local fans and teams that may not get the same spotlight as others, but still play a big part in our everyday lives. My motto is “Always Embrace Conversation,” so if you ever want to give me feedback on a piece or even just have a friendly sports debate, feel free to email me! Hope you enjoy my work and maybe even learn something along the way.