Jordan Poole has been one of the most disappointing players in the NBA through the first couple of weeks of the 2023-24 season. The Washington Wizards guard has not only failed to take the forward step fans were hoping for, but he seemingly also took a step back from his level of play from the last few years. Poole’s performance has been one of the primary reasons for the Wizards’ disastrous 2-7 start. The solution to the problem may be moving him to the bench.
Poole is currently averaging 16.4 points and 3.4 assists per game on 41.7% shooting from the field, and 30% shooting from three. He is having career-worst numbers since his rookie season in terms of scoring, True Shooting, and free-throw attempt rate. He is consistently taken advantage of defensively, as most recently demonstrated by the Brooklyn Nets, who hunted him in switches and attacked him over and over again in last night’s game.
The Washington Wizards are currently outscored by 20.7 points per 100 possessions with Poole on the floor. Their offensive rating of 106.6 and their defensive rating of 127.3 with Poole on would rank dead last by a mile in the NBA.
Changing the way Poole is used might benefit both sides.
Jordan Poole has come off the bench for the majority of his career. He is no stranger to leading bench units and providing instant scoring as a dynamic creator. The best stretch of his career -the 2022 Playoffs- came when he was the sixth man for the Golden State Warriors. There is an argument to be made for his playing style fitting a sixth-man role better.
Scoring against the opposing team’s bench units is easier. They usually have weaker defenders, less size, and rim protection. Poole’s inability to take care of the ball, struggles with efficiency, and lack of defensive intensity are less of an issue in bench units. The bench groups who currently struggle offensively will now have a go-to scorer in Poole, while the starting unit is led by Kyle Kuzma and Tyus Jones. This could make the Wizards a more balanced team overall.
Obviously, bringing your highest-paid player off the bench is not an easy decision. Poole came to Washington as an NBA champion ready to lead his own team. He is owed a guaranteed $123 million for the next four years. Moving him to the bench could alienate him and lower his trade value. He might not react well and his performance could further deteriorate.
Yet, the current situation is not sustainable, either. Coach Wes Unseld Jr. may need to shake things up to instill some hope in the Washington Wizards season. Even if it’s a temporary move, bringing Jordan Poole off the bench might not be a bad idea.