Despite a good preseason, Wizards have minor issues with Poole, Gallinari

Jordan Poole of the Washington Wizards (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Jordan Poole of the Washington Wizards (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

Jordan Poole had 41 points in 3 quarters of play in the preseason game against the New York Knicks, shooting 50% from 3-point range and over 50% from the field.  It was an absolutely unreal display by Poole, who simply could not be stopped by a solid defensive team in the Knicks. But nothing is perfect, and any good coach or analyst would have something to nitpick on even the best of nights.  This was definitely a very good night for Poole, but there is still room for improvement.

One thing of note was Poole’s play in the first quarter. The ball movement was less than ideal as the ball got stuck in his hands, and he chucked up 3-point shot attempts very early in the shot clock. The action in the 1st quarter wasn’t in the flow of the offense, and even though Poole scored the first 9 points for the Wizards, many of the attempts were quick shots without any other player touching the ball.

However, from the 2nd quarter onward his play was much different. His scoring was organic and within the flow of the offense and had the added benefit of being completely unstoppable.

Poole and his teammates need more time to gel

Another area that Poole can improve is his on-court chemistry with his teammates. There’s no reason to suspect that it won’t develop, but this will require more time and reps with teammates.

Going into the season I expected the Poole-Gafford connection to pay massive dividends. That didn’t happen in the preseason. There was better chemistry between Avdija and Gafford, for the obvious reason that they’ve played years together. That being said, I expected Poole and Gafford to lock in almost instantaneously as Gafford did with Russell Westbrook a few seasons ago.

Perhaps, the expectations there need to be tempered. I do expect good things from Gafford this year, but I don’t know if he will get the Westbrook boost to his efficiency with Poole this year. But time will tell.

Poole’s chemistry with Corey Kispert also needs improvement. There was a pass to Kispert in the 3rd quarter that ended up being a turnover as Kispert was ready to cut and Poole was expecting him to spot up for the three. These mistakes are common and can even happen between veterans who have played for years together, but they also happen more frequently with players who don’t know each other’s tendencies yet.

Poole had 4 turnovers and 2 assists in this game, but these turnovers may have been more a reflection of lack of team chemistry rather than natural mistakes.

Gallinari as the backup center is still a question mark

Danilo Gallinari had an okay performance off the bench against the Knicks, but the doubts about him playing center remain. He scored 7 points on 3/6 shooting, grabbed 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and a block while committing 2 turnovers.

His defense and physicality were concerning, however. Julius Randle absolutely demolished him in the 1st quarter with a slam dunk. His post-up work looked alright, but the two possessions he posted up led to a missed field goal and a turnover.

His mid-range and 3-point shot are his strengths. But he’s also older and coming off a nasty ACL injury. Looking at him trying to sprint up the court reminded me of 40 year-olds at the YMCA playing with players half their age.

Gallinari may be serviceable in limited spurts when you need offense from a big who can stretch the floor. He could contribute next to another big, but asking him to play at the 5 might be a bit much.

However, sample size is everything, and this was just one preseason game. Time may tell a different story, but for a 35-year-old recovering from an ACL, time’s story the day after tomorrow could be worse than the one it’s telling today.