Kerr pushing Poole to be one of Warriors' 'best defenders' originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
DALLAS -- Steve Kerr knows Jordan Poole can score points in bunches. He knows the young guard can set up his Warriors teammates with a handful of dimes every game, and can make an opposing defense look silly with his sizzle and handles.
If there's one area of the 23-year-old's game that Kerr will continue pushing him to be better, it's defense. The reason isn't only for how much improvements on that side of the ball will help the Warriors as a whole. It's because Kerr genuinely believes Poole can turn a negative of his game into a big-time positive.
"When Jordan is engaged and alert, he can be one of our best defenders," Kerr said Monday during Warriors practice at American Airlines Center. "He's a phenomenal athlete. He's really strong, quick and when you see his engagement and he defends -- he can stay in front of people and he can defend without fouling, and then we can get out and run.
"It's a great combination."
Last Wednesday, Poole went 3-for-15 from the field and missed all eight of his 3-pointers in the Warriors' win over the Los Angeles Clippers at Chase Center. Kerr was asked about Poole's shooting struggles but quickly reversed course. Along with dishing five assists, Poole recorded a block in his sixth straight game and Kerr felt Poole's energy and activity showed a strong desire to provide value on defense.
Though he scored just eight points, Poole's plus/minus of plus-19 was his second-best this season.
During the Warriors' three-game win streak, Poole has been a plus-19, plus-4 and plus-9. It's the first time he has had three straight games of being in the positive with his plus/minus this season.
He has recorded four rebounds is each of the Warriors' past two games -- both being wins. But his defensive rating was a 120 in Golden State's win over the Utah Jazz, and a 115 while beating the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Even in real time, Kerr is going to challenge Poole defensively. At the start of the second quarter in Sunday's win in Minnesota, he did exactly that with a quick timeout.
"I think he's been better, but I think the consistency needs to be there," Kerr said. "I took a quick timeout at the start of the second quarter last night because frankly Jordan got a little careless and lost his man, first in the half-court and then in transition.
"We gave up six straight points."
To start off the second quarter in the Warriors' 23-point win, Poole got lost and turned around on a screen in the half-court. His man, Jaylen Nowell, drained a 3-pointer from the top of the arc. Then in transition, Draymond Green tried directing him to get to the 3-point line, but Poole was too late.
The result? A wide-open three from Naz Reid and an immediate timeout from Kerr.
Over the offseason, the Warriors pounced at adding Donte DiVincenzo in free agency. One of the main reasons was to help Poole off the bench as a veteran guard who could allow Poole to play on and off the ball. Then there's his defense.
DiVincenzo is known as a strong on-ball defender and someone who takes advantage of careless passes when he's off the ball. He and Poole formed an easy friendship and he can be seen joking with each other on the court. Some of those jokes, however, are DiVincenzo testing his teammate to make defense more of a point of emphasis.
Though there are lapses here and there, DiVincenzo loves when Poole takes it upon himself to make a difference as a defender.
"He definitely has it," DiVincenzo said when asked if Poole has the skills to be among the Warriors' best defensive players. "I love to play defense and with Jordan, I'll rag him, I'll joke with him a lot. But with that, when we're in the game sometimes we'll be in transition and whoever the main guy in that second unit is, he's like, 'I got him!'
"I love to see that, because I feel like I have something to do with it but also like when Steph [Curry] is on the court, Steph's a hell of a defender now, which he's gotten better at. So it's more -- I wouldn't say pressure -- but more drive for him to play defense."
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Curry can no longer be the butt of the joke defensively. He took that personally, and along with adding 15 pounds of muscle and a beard that erases his Baby-Faced Assassin persona, the two-time NBA MVP has changed what was once seen as a negative for his game and turned it into a positive.
That same competitiveness and desire to be great like Curry is exactly why Kerr won't take it easy on Poole, and why the coach believes Poole can continue to evolve his complete repertoire.
"What I love about Jordan is he's very coachable, and he's got a lot of things that he can get better with still," Kerr said. "He's already shown the kind of player he is right now. But to have a higher ceiling, that actually is really exciting."