The Washington Wizards had a disastrous start to the 2023-24 season. Sitting at 1-4 with all four losses being blowouts, the Wizards had an especially miserable performance on the defensive end. When a team is playing this poorly, the fans justifiably start looking at the stars on the team to help things turn around. In the Wizards’ case, Jordan Poole has to play better, take charge, and lead this team to respectability.
When the Wizards acquired Jordan Poole in the offseason, they made it clear that he and Kyle Kuzma were the leaders of the team. Not only are they the two best players on the team, but they also have valuable championship experience from their previous teams. There was an expectation that Poole was going to take a major step forward as the primary option in Washington.
That, unfortunately, hasn’t happened yet.
Poole is currently averaging 17.6 points, 2 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 2 steals through five games. He is shooting 41.8% from the field and 30.3% from three, all career lows since his rookie season. The sample size is small enough that this is perhaps not too worrisome. What is concerning, however, is the overall lack of effort and defensive intensity.
Jordan Poole has never been a good defensive player. No one expects him to be a stopper on that end. Yet, he needs to understand that he is no longer a 6th-man who is tasked with instant scoring. He is now a starter and a team leader. That comes with a responsibility.
In Poole’s minutes this season, the Washington Wizards have allowed 127.2 points per 100 possessions, a number much worse than the Wizards’ already league-worst defensive rating. To put things in perspective, that number would easily be the worst in the league in modern NBA history.
And it’s not like the Wizards played some world-beater teams. Starting the season with games against Indiana, Miami, Atlanta, Memphis, and Boston is an average, if not an easy schedule. If you can’t hold your own against these teams (excluding the Celtics), this is going to be one long season.
If Poole wants to improve his reputation and possibly his trade value, he needs to lead this team out of the mud. Alley-oop passes off the backboard, prematurely turning around to celebrate a three-pointer like Steph Curry are cool, but it makes both him and the organization a laughing stock if you can’t back it up with respectable, competitive performances.
Poole’s shots will start falling at a better rate. However, if the defensive intensity doesn’t improve, it will not matter. The team and the fans need to see their “best player” leave it all on the court.