The Washington Wizards fell to 2-10 after last night’s desultory home loss to the New York Knicks. That is certainly disappointing, but the Wizards were not expected to be competitive this season, anyway. Fans had prepared themselves for these types of losses. What is more unexpected and disappointing, however, is Jordan Poole’s performance so far.
The Wizards fans need to give Poole more time and the benefit of the doubt. For all intents and purposes, Poole seems well-liked by his teammates, who consistently come out in support of him. He is considered a basketball-obsessed, hard-working player who is first in and last out of the gym. He is on a new team in a new city with totally different expectations. This may be a hard adjustment for anyone.
However, Poole was brought into this organization to be one of the faces of this franchise. As a team leader, he needs to be trying to pull them out of the mud, rather than pushing them deeper into it.
Every player goes through shooting slumps. Poole is currently shooting 39% from the field and 27.8% from three. He is going to shoot better. The main problem is he looks confused, frustrated, and deflated out there. He is not playing with effort, intensity, or discipline. That is not what you want to see from one of your team leaders.
When an offensive player’s shot isn’t falling, they try to contribute to their team in different ways. They try to get to the free-throw line, set their teammates up, or focus on their defensive effort. Poole isn’t doing any of that. He has a career-worst free-throw attempt rate, and turnover rate, and is as lost and mistake-prone defensively as he has ever been. Instead of focusing on other areas of his game, he is trying to shoot himself out of the slump.
As X user Wizards Film Room pointed out, this is a terrible and deflating shot selection. No team can succeed if one of their two best players consistently makes such poor decisions and plays with such low intensity.
Why this is such a major problem for the Washington Wizards is that Poole is in the first year of a four-year, $128 million contract. If he keeps putting up these miserable performances, he will be untradeable on that deal. That means the Wizards will have to continue playing him and hope things improve. The defensive problems he creates for your team aside, playing Poole also means that you are taking the ball away from your players who need to ball to develop.
This is a tightrope to walk for the front office and coach Wes Unseld Jr. It’s a major challenge that they have to deal with all season. Unseld Jr. hasn’t proven to be up to the task so far, but if he can get Poole to buy in and lead this team by example, things can start looking up for him, Jordan Poole, and the Washington Wizards as an organization.