Golden State Warriors: The case for Chris Paul over Jordan Poole

Oct 25, 2022; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Jordan Poole (right) controls the ball against Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul in the second half at Footprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 25, 2022; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Jordan Poole (right) controls the ball against Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul in the second half at Footprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

After playing a key role in the Golden State Warriors’ 2022 title run, Jordan Poole had an ultimately underwhelming 2022-23 season. Apparently, the front office had seen a big enough sample size to determine that Poole was not the face of the franchise’s future.

Last week the Dubs traded their budding 24-year-old guard to the Washington Wizards for Chris Paul. The 38-year-old is a 12-time All-star in the twilight years of his career, but he will immediately make the Warriors a better team by taking care of the ball, adding leadership to the second unit, and providing more effort on the defensive end.

Swapping a blossoming star for a 38-year-old may seem bad on paper, but the Golden State Warriors’ trade of Jordan Poole for Chris Paul immediately improves their title chances next season.

As much as I want to believe in Poole’s future, the reality is that the Warriors have Stephen Curry, a once-in-a-generation player. They need to maximize what remains of his title window and Paul is an undoubted upgrade.

Jordan Poole was obscenely careless with the ball in his hands last season. Per 36 minutes played he turned the ball over 3.7 times while dishing out 5.4 assists — a 1.5 assist-to-turnover ratio. To make matters worse, Poole was chucking 15.6 shots per game, but only hitting a below-average 43% of his field-goals and 33.6% from three. To put things in perspective, the league average three-point percentage in 2022-23 was 36.1%.

Poole’s biggest weakness just happens to be Paul’s biggest strength. Per 36 minutes Paul had an assist-to-turnover ratio of 4.5 — 10 assists for every 2.2 turnovers. Paul is markedly better at handling the ball and helping teammates score.

When you look at clutch stats the difference is even more alarming. In clutch time, which is defined as the final five minutes of games within five points, per 36 minutes Paul’s assist-to-turnover ratio was an incredible 7.1. Poole, on the other hand, turned the ball over 4.4 times per every 2.9 assists, a negative ratio.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Poole also shot 42% from the field and 28% from three in the clutch. If you continue to mull over the stats, they match the eye test: CP, even just a shadow of his prime, still has a positive impact on winning and the version of Poole we saw last year simply does not.

The Warriors were outscored by 0.1 points during Poole’s regular season minutes in 2022-23. The Suns outscored their opponents by 1.4 points during Paul’s minutes. Looking at advanced stats, Value Over Replacement Player, Paul had a positive 2.5 mark, while Poole had a 0.1. Essentially, this says that Poole’s impact is replaceable by an average player.

Poole’s other glaring weakness was his defense, which isn’t as easy to isolate numerically, but does show up in his aforementioned plus/minus stats. Poole was a constant mismatch on defense, getting beaten off the dribble and providing little resistance and effort. Paul, who has been selected to nine all-defensive teams in his career, maybe isn’t even an above-average defender anymore at 38, but is still is a big upgrade in comparison to Poole. Steals don’t solely tell the story of a defender, but Paul averaged 1.7 steals per 36 minutes last season, while Poole averaged 0.9.

NBA pundits are questioning where the Warriors will get their scoring firepower off the bench with Poole’s departure. But those questions are purely hypothetical. Poole did, in fact, average 20.4 points per game last season. Admittedly, it’s not easy to find that type of scorer in the NBA, but Poole’s carelessness with the ball, inefficiency, and poor defense negated any positive impact his scoring had.

It was a smart decision to depart with a net-negative player, while also getting off his monstrous contract. It will create more flexibility to maximize talent in the final years of Curry’s prime.

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It’s apparent that the Warriors’ problems last year ran deeper than just Jordan Poole. Paul is not going to be a panacea, but this Poole for Paul swap is a step in the right direction. Newly-appointed General Manager Mike Dunleavy still has his work cut out for him to acquire some defense, size, rim pressure, and rebounding in the free agent market.