Jordan Poole’s rise gives Warriors’ second unit vast potential

Poole’s rise gives Warriors’ second unit vast potential originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

SAN FRANCISCO –Three quarters deep into a tip-to-buzzer 119-104 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Sunday, the Warriors had a 15-point lead, Stephen Curry had nine points and it didn’t matter because something even more significant was taking place.

The Warriors were unveiling a preview of a development that will bring no comfort to the rest of the NBA: Their second unit has the potential to be beastly.

“I haven’t thought about it yet,” coach Steve Kerr told NBC Sports Bay Area. “I can’t think ahead and think about where Klay (Thompson) is going to play. Obviously, he’ll start. What does that mean? I don’t know yet. I’ll think about it when we get there, because who knows who’s going to be there.”

Spoken like a coach assuming nothing of his team’s future health because he’s fully engaged with, and enjoying, a surprising 15-2 start.

Yet there is excitement about the return of James Wiseman and Thompson. Once they’re back on the court, assuming general roster health, the rotational experiments will continue until settled. Already, there is enough to believe the second unit will have the goods to crush the spirit out of any bunch of reserves it confronts.

Curry’s rough game Sunday night was of no consequence because his mere presence is highly beneficial.

While Toronto coach Nick Nurse was sticking to the “anybody but Steph” game plan, Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole were tearing through his maze of intricate defenses, combining for 65 points.

The non-Curry minutes, often problematic, have not looked this promising since Kerr was staggering Draymond Green and Curry with Kevin Durant and Klay.

When Thompson and Wiseman return, Poole will move to the second unit on most nights — the exception being when Klay is sidelined for maintenance. JP will be the lead dog, so to speak, as he can score from all three levels and is adept at playmaking.

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For much of his time on the floor, he’ll be joined by Wiggins. He’s the likeliest bridge guy, with some of his minutes donated to the second unit. As will some of Wiseman’s minutes, as the coaching staff is leaning toward bringing him off the bench initially.

A Poole-Wiggins-Wiseman trio is about as good as it gets in the NBA. And they’ll have plenty of backup from the likes of Gary Payton II, Otto Porter Jr., Nemenja Bjelica, Damion Lee, Juan Toscano-Anderson and rookies Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody.

Shooting? Check. Spacing? Plenty. Rebounding? Check. Athleticism? Please.

“Everybody on our roster is capable of helping us win a game,” Kerr said.

“We know what we have there; it’s no surprise,” Green said of the second unit. “That lineup is doing an incredible job. You look at the plus-minus category and I’m minus-six, Steph is minus-seven … and Beli, Otto, GP, Juan, D-Lee, those guys are plus-18. That’s a testament to the depth we have.

“We’re going to continue to rely on that, and they’ll continue to produce the way they have.”

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And, no, we didn’t forget Andre Iguodala, whose cranky right knee is for now a source of only mild concern. Aside from three or four “rest dates” per month, he’ll be there to do what he does best, orchestrate the offense to maximum efficiency while also keeping the defense from fraying.

Golden State’s bench is 14th in 3-point shooting percentage — with only GP2, Porter and Bjelica at 40 percent or higher — but it ranks first in rebounding and steals, second in assists and total minutes, fifth in field-goal percentage, ninth in scoring, and most importantly, first in aggregate plus-minus.

And the rotations still are in the experimental stage.

There is undeniable promise, though, mostly because of the rise of Poole. Everything on offense will revolve around him, and everything in this instance is quite the load.

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