Wizards Move Jordan Poole To Bench

After starting each of his first 52 contests with the Wizards, guard Jordan Poole was moved to the second unit in the team’s first game after the All-Star break on Thursday, writes Ava Wallace of The Washington Post. Rookie forward Bilal Coulibaly took Poole’s place in the starting lineup.

Interim head coach Brian Keefe stressed that the move wasn’t made because the Wizards have lost faith in Poole but because they want to make the most of his skill set and get the ball in his hands more often, according to Wallace, who notes that the team is down a point guard following Delon Wright‘s recent buyout.

“It’s all about helping our group improve as a whole,” Keefe said prior to Thursday’s game vs. Denver. “One of the things we’ve liked about Jordan since I’ve taken over is that I’ve definitely given him the ball more and have allowed him to be an elite decision-maker. With some of the roster opening up, now there’s an opportunity for him to do that more and make our team more complete and be able to play a better, full 48 minutes.

“… It’s really a positive. It’s actually a credit to Jordan. Jordan’s been one of our highest net ratings since I’ve taken over, and I just want to see more of that. This gives him an opportunity now, being in that unit, to be the lead handler, lead decision-maker and kind of be our offensive engine.”

After signing a four-year, $123MM extension with the Warriors in 2022, Poole was traded from Golden State to Washington during the 2023 offseason, just as that lucrative long-term contract was beginning. His transition to his new NBA home has been a bumpy one — his scoring average has dipped to 15.7 points per game and his shooting percentages (.396 FG%, .304 3PT%) are his lowest since he was a rookie in 2019/20.

The 24-year-old also hasn’t been particularly effective on defense, and while Keefe is right that Poole’s net rating relative to Washington’s overall mark has been solid in recent weeks, that wasn’t the case during the first half of the season. Under previous coach Wes Unseld Jr., the Wizards had a -14.1 net rating during Poole’s minutes, compared to a -2.3 rating when he wasn’t on the court.

Poole was just 4-of-17 from the field in Thursday’s loss to the Nuggets, but he did end up scoring 18 points and logging 30 minutes, both above his season averages. While he suggested he wasn’t thrilled about the move to the bench, Poole said he’ll look to make the most of it.

“If there’s any common sense, with the situation, you should know how I feel. But I’m just going to come out, do what I can do to help the team, keep it moving,” he said. “I’ve been a point guard the last three years of my career. I haven’t really played in my position all year, just kind of trying to figure that out. I mean, if this is a way to try to get me on ball, I guess that’s just what we have to do.

“But I feel like I’ve mentioned it, I’ve been a (point guard), I’ve been primary on-ball, I’ve been a facilitator, play-maker, as well as scoring. I feel like that’s kind of where I proved my game and how I play, played to my strengths, and it hasn’t been like that this year unfortunately. I’m just trying to get better in the other areas of the game.”

It remains to be seen whether Poole will come off the bench for the rest of the season. As Wallace relays, Keefe told reporters on Thursday that the new lineup is one “we’re going to look at for a little while.”

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