It wasn’t long ago that Jordan Poole was a rising young star for the Golden State Warriors. As the team made its unlikely run to the 2022 NBA championship, Poole was a key scorer off the bench, as well as Golden State’s biggest success story from their “two timelines” approach. Whatever the Warriors’ future looked like around the aging core from their dynasty years, Poole figured to be a big part of it.
Fast forward less than two years later, and Poole’s play has fallen off dramatically. After a disappointing 2022-2023 season, the Warriors traded Poole this past summer to the Washington Wizards for Chris Paul. It’s rare a team trades a player in their early 20s for a player in their late 30s, but it speaks to how the trust between Poole and Golden State had eroded. Poole’s play has only gotten worse since he arrived in the nation’s capitol playing for the league’s worst teams. At this point, he’s widely viewed as one of the NBA’s biggest punchlines.
Two big things happened in between Poole’s rise and fall. He signed a four-year, $128 million max contract with the Warriors in Oct. 2022. Around the same time, Poole was also punched in the face by Green at practice. The incident gained even more attention when the video somehow leaked and immediately went viral.
Here’s a graph that shows Poole’s impact on the court according to the metric DPM, or Daily Plus Minus. The stat attempts to capture a player’s value above or below average per 100 possessions, and project the player’s value in the future. Read a full explanation of DPM here. The main thing you need to know is that this is one of the most trusted publicly available metrics to capture NBA player performance, and this graph is not kind to Poole.
This season in Washington has been particularly embarrassing for Poole. He’s had numerous viral lowlight plays: he’s looked inattentive in huddles, he’s tried to go 1-on-5, he showboated and still got his shot blocked, he forgot how the shotclock rules work, and he’s thrown alley-oop passes off the backboard while down 20 points. The Wizards are 9-40 on the year in the first season of a massive teardown and rebuild. Washington isn’t this bad solely because of Poole, but Poole also hasn’t done anything to make the Wizards’ situation any better.
On Sunday against the Suns, Poole went 1-of-7 from the field to score four points in 20 minutes. He shot 6-of-21 against the Heat on Friday, including 2-of-14 from three-point range, and had another lowlight clip:
There’s obviously a lot to dissect with Poole’s major drop-off in performance.
Getting knocked out by a teammate at practice must have affected Poole’s mental approach — and the video going viral certainly only made matters worse. While some may suggest Poole stopped giving full effort once he got paid, there’s also a point to be made about the surrounding team context in his final season in Golden State. Gary Payton II’s departure took a key defender away from the backcourt rotation who could cover Poole’s defensive warts.
Poole wasn’t the only Warriors player who has fallen off since the 2022 championship run: Andrew Wiggins is a shell of himself this season, and Kevon Looney isn’t much better. These are players who, like Poole, should be in the prime of their career, and instead saw their play crater. Wiggins and Looney are almost unplayable to this point in the season.
The Wizards knew they were tanking from the onset of the year. Even if Poole had his best season possible, it wasn’t going to change that. Still, there was a thought coming into this year that Poole could bounce-back, put up huge scoring numbers with a bigger offensive role, and potentially be valuable to another team as a trade asset. That hasn’t happened. Instead, Poole has sunk further and further into punchline territory. At this point, there can’t be a trade market for him on a max deal.
Poole is still only 24 years old. He has plenty of time to get his NBA career back on track. This has just been a terrible year for him, and unfortunately, that’s been the reality ever since Green socked him in the face.