Wizards send Jordan Poole to bench, interim HC says ‘It’s really a positive’

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 21: Jordan Poole #13 of the Washington Wizards reacts against the Denver Nuggets at Capital One Arena on January 21, 2024 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

The Washington Wizards are trying something new with Jordan Poole for Thursday’s game against the Denver Nuggets: moving him to the bench.

Interim coach Brian Keefe announced the move ahead of the game, initially opting not to disclose the fifth-year-guard’s replacement in the starting lineup.

Rookie Bilal Coulibaly took Poole’s spot, joining Tyus Jones, Deni Avdija, Kyle Kuzma and Marvin Bagley III to open the game.

The Wizards (9-45) are on a seven-game losing streak that they surely don’t expect to break against the defending NBA champions, and Keefe emphasized that the move isn’t a knock against Poole.

“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,” Keefe told reporters before the contest. “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.”

Keefe added that Poole “was professional” when receiving the news that he’d be coming off the bench, but the development probably isn’t ideal for the 24-year-old. It’s been a bumpy road since Poole signed a four-year, $128 million extension with the Golden State Warriors just to be traded for Chris Paul and some future draft picks less than a year later.

While Poole was initially lauded for making the most of his new beginning with Washington, it didn’t take long for things to take a turn.

His shot selection has continued to come under fire, an issue that seemed to reach a peak when he averaged eight points per game over a six-game stretch last week. He went `19-of-72 from the field and 8-for-41 from the three-point line in those contests.

He’s averaging 15.6 games points per game this season, a career-low since his 2020-21 breakout year with the Warriors. His shooting stats of 40 percent from the field and 30.3 percent from the deep are the lowest since his rookie campaign.

But since Poole is someone that rebounded from being sent to the G league two seasons after being a first-round pick in 2019, it doesn’t seem outlandish to expect him to embrace this change in the interest of his team’s success.

“It’s all about helping our group improve as a whole,” Keefe said. “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.”

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