Warriors might turn to Jordan Poole while Klay Thompson is out

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Poole aims to fill Warriors' early-season starting vacancy originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

SAN FRANCISCO -- On a comfortably cool afternoon last November, Warriors coach Steve Kerr was standing on the sidewalk outside Chase Center greeting voters casting early ballots when he was interrupted by his youngest son.

“I gotta go inside,” Nick Kerr said to his dad. “Jordan wants to put up some shots.”

Steve Kerr nodded and smiled in acknowledgment, as if he’d heard these words before.

Jordan Poole always wants to put up shots. He could live at Chase Center, as he probably spends more time on the practice court than anywhere else, including his personal address.

Such dedication to the craft of basketball is why, in the absence of Klay Thompson on opening night, Poole is the best bet to start in the backcourt alongside team touchstone Stephen Curry, when the ball tips off Oct. 19 in Los Angeles.

“I feel more confident in Jordan than ever,” Steve Kerr said Tuesday.

Thompson’s absence will hurt the Warriors, but it certainly should benefit Poole. Somebody has to fill those minutes. Poole is the most dynamic candidate, capable of scoring off the dribble or by spotting up. Mostly ineffective as a rookie, he showed more first-to-second-year progress than any Warrior in recent history.

“We were in a position with Jordan a year ago where we weren’t sure if he was going to be able to contribute,” Kerr said. “But through hard work and patience, he’s put himself in a position where he’s going to be a huge part of the team.”

With Poole’s knack for generating offense -- scoring in double figures in 27 of 36 games, mostly off the bench, after coming up from G League Santa Cruz last March -- he became the leading candidate for the team’s Sixth Man role. His game is similar to that of Utah’s Jordan Clarkson, the NBA's reigning Sixth Man of the Year.

For now, it’s apparent that Poole is eager to fill the early-season vacancy until Thompson concludes rehab, is cleared to play and returns to the starting role that has belonged to him for nine seasons. Klay is not expected back before December, by which time the Warriors will have played a full quarter of their schedule.

That’s 21 regular-season games without the starting shooting guard.

That’s 20 days of practices and scrimmages, as well as five preseason games, for Poole to make his case.

“Of course,” he said when asked about the possibility of starting. “You want to go out there and play as many minutes as you can, but this all boils back to what's best for the team. Coach is going to put who he feels comfortable out there in the starting lineup. But like I said, we are excited. It's going to be a big season and I'm here to contribute as best I can. 

“Whatever the situation, just for me to be ready, but the one-two-punch with me and Steph in the beginning is definitely exciting.”

Insofar as Klay isn’t much of a creator, a Curry-Poole backcourt would look much different -- at both ends. Offensively, Poole can play point guard minutes and allow Curry to roam in search of holes in the opposing team’s defense. Defensively, well, JP is no Klay. That, along with Kerr’s concerns about Curry’s off-the-floor minutes could impact who starts at shooting guard.

“He’s been our most consistent worker for two years now,” Kerr said. “You can see the confidence level. He’s shooting shots with ease now that maybe he struggled with a couple years ago because his body is stronger, and he’s more fluid.

“What I challenged him with this year is to be better defensively. Just like he made the leap offensively last year, we want that to continue. But we want him to be able to play with Steph, which means he’s going to have to guard some bigger guys.”

RELATED: Klay was 'shooting the lights out' on first day of camp

Kerr visualizes Poole as a probable early-season starter. It’s not a lock -- Avery Bradley or Damion Lee might have something to say about that -- but JP is the logical front-runner in camp. 

One way or another, always seeking out a staffer, such as Nick Kerr, to accompany him in the gym, regardless of the hour or inconvenience, is paying off for Poole.

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