Klay Thompson Is in Awe of Jordan Poole’s Spectacular Growth: ‘I Mean, Wow’

Klay Thompson’s early-season absence allowed Jordan Poole to strut his stuff in the Golden State Warriors starting lineup. Even when Thompson returned, Poole still carved out a role as one of the most valuable players in the Dubs’ rotation. He has continued to take his claim to the NBA‘s Most Improved Player Award.

Poole has made immense gains as a scorer and playmaker this season. He’s also shown a sense of adaptability, going from starter to bench man to a critical piece in Golden State’s closing lineups.

For his part, Thompson constantly feels a sense of wonderment watching Poole play.

The former Michigan Wolverine has exceeded expectations and constantly given the Warriors life in what has been a turbulent stretch after the All-Star break. Klay continues to be astonished at the youngster’s progression.

Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole anchored a recent Warriors comeback

With Stephen Curry nursing a foot injury and Draymond Green still trying to get his conditioning up to speed, the Warriors have desperately needed other guys to fill in the gaps. It’s been a difficult mission.

The Dubs lost seven of eight games between March 16 and March 30. They looked destined to drop a fifth straight game after falling behind by as many as 17 points in Saturday’s game against the Utah Jazz.

However, Thompson and Poole came to the rescue.

Thompson, who has struggled to find a steady foothold since returning in January, scored 36 points on 14-of-28 shooting, including 8-of-17 from beyond the arc. He scored 12 of those points in the final period.

Though Poole shot the ball poorly in the final two quarters, his 19 first-half points kept the Warriors in striking distance, and his go-ahead three-pointer with just over three minutes remaining gave Golden State the lead for good. The combo guard kept the Dubs in front with four late free throws, finishing with 31 points on the night. He also made plays left and right, dishing out five assists in the second half.

After the game, Thompson and Poole shared a telling embrace. It was evocative of a teacher and his pupil connecting on a different level. Klay’s postgame comments iterated a similar message.

Thompson praised Poole’s rapid growth

Golden State Warriors star Klay Thompson #11 embraces Jordan Poole #3 after a win over the Utah Jazz in April 2022
Klay Thompson #11 celebrates with Jordan Poole #3 and Gary Payton II #0 after the Warriors beat the Utah Jazz on April 02, 2022 | Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Klay Thompson understands the burden on Jordan Poole’s shoulders. That’s why he’s so praiseworthy of the 22-year-old’s maturity.

Thompson spoke about the postgame embrace with Poole after Golden State’s comeback against Utah. He said (h/t The Athletic) it came from a sense of appreciation.

“JP has to do so much for us during this time with Steph out. And I just gave him a hug because I was like, ‘I appreciate you, brother.’ Having to handle the ball, come off screens — it’s exhausting. For a young man to embrace that like he has, I’m just incredibly proud of him.”

–Klay Thompson on Jordan Poole

It’s not just that Curry and Green have been and out of the lineup. Thompson has also sat out back-to-backs as the Warriors try to manage his workload. The Dubs shut down second-year center James Wiseman, who did not play a single game this season.

The roster fluctuations have necessitated Poole and fellow youngsters Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody (among others) to learn on the fly. Klay is incredibly impressed with how Poole has met the challenge and developed into one of the better young guards in the NBA.

“To see how much he’s grown since his rookie year. I mean, wow, what a great player JP has become. And he’s only going to continue getting better. And as his vet … I mean, wow, just already exceeding expectations and will continue to do so. Because he is one of the best with the ball in his hands that I’ve seen in a long time.”

–Thompson on Poole, via The Athletic

Indeed, there’s a reason the Warriors have reportedly expressed interest in signing Poole to an $80 million extension. His evolution as an on-ball scorer and playmaker has been spectacular, and he’s been nothing shy of exceptional after the All-Star break.

As Thompson suggested, Poole is an integral piece in maintaining and extending Golden State’s championship window.

The new “Splash Brother”?

Jordan Poole’s season averages of 18.4 points, 3.8 assists, and 3.4 rebounds merely underscore the leap he’s made in his third season.

Poole has been a revelation since the All-Star break. In 20 games, he’s averaging 24.0 points on 64.5% true shooting (42.7% from beyond the arc) to go with 4.9 dimes and 4.1 boards per contest. That production hasn’t necessarily resulted in wins, but it’s hard to blame Poole for bringing most of the offense and Golden State’s team defense collapsing in recent weeks.

In reality, the Milwaukee native looks like Golden State’s next star and a legitimate cornerstone. Poole has become an elite dribble pull-up scorer who can create separation and knock down mid-range jumpers. He also generates rim pressure and moves well without the ball, firing away from deep off of dribble handoffs and maximizing space created on pindown screens.

Additionally, Poole’s passing improvements have been notable. His three-level scoring and shot-creation off the bounce force opponents to think about sending help. If they get sucked out of position, Poole has the vision to spot shooters on the perimeter. He’s never in a hurry, either.

On one such play in a March 30 loss to the Phoenix Suns, Poole got into the lane on a back-cut. Chris Paul rotated over to stop the ball, only for Poole to freeze the defense and swing the ball to an open Andrew Wiggins, who buried a triple. Similarly, Poole is a willing passer when he gets downhill. He fed Thompson for a three-pointer in the Suns loss after Devin Booker tried to cut off a straight-line drive following a pick-and-roll set.

The Warriors need to get fully healthy for the playoffs. They need Thompson to find a steadier groove and solve defensive issues on the interior.

Still, Poole’s development into a third star gives the Warriors an opportunity to make deep playoff runs, this season and in the years to come.

Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.

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