As the offenses in Milwaukee and Houston are showing right now, outside shooting continues to push evolution in the NBA. Unless you’re an all-star level player, shooting at least league average (35.5 percent in 2018-19) on 3-pointers is pretty much a prerequisite skill.
With the 2019 NBA Draft approaching, there is one name that stands out as a perimeter shooter — Michigan’s sophomore wing, Jordan Poole. Poole was barely an RSCI Top 100 recruit — he ranked 99th — but in his freshman season he showed the ability to maximize himself in a catch-and-shoot role. He shot 37 percent on 3-pointers while attempting 2.8 per game. His game-winning 3 against the Houston Cougars to get the Wolverines into the Sweet 16 on their road to the NCAA Championship in 2018 put him on the map.
This year, because John Beilein is king of player development, Poole added more to his game and became the head of the snake in Ann Arbor. Not just capable of hurting defenses from behind the arc, Poole was more comfortable putting the ball on the ground and getting into the paint.
However, the biggest result of his added on-ball ability was more jumpers. Equipped with the confidence to create his own shot, Poole’s 3-point attempts per game nearly doubled (5.5 attempts per game as a sophomore) and his accuracy essentially stayed the same. He scored 96 points on 100 possessions that he finished with a jumpshot off the dribble per Synergy.
Delving deeper into the Synergy numbers, Poole’s stats reflect the value that he could bring to a team as a shooter. He scored 1.183 points per possession in spot-up situations and 0.968 points per possession coming off screens.
Poole saw a big increase in his production operating out of the pick-and-roll. He went from 45 possessions as a pick-and-roll ball-handler as a freshman, to 118 possessions in his sophomore year according to Synergy. In those 118 possessions, Poole rated as “Very Good” and was in the 80th percentile, scoring 106 points or 0.898 points per possession out of that action. The defense would be worried about giving Poole any space to shoot that he found a way to counter their aggressiveness: rejecting the ball screen.
When Poole rejected the screen set by his teammate, he scored 1.273 points per possession. Michigan liked to let Poole operate in the middle of the floor as he was capable of driving both left and right off the screen and could get into a pull-up attempt quickly with either hand. By giving him the option to go either way, he was able to make opponents pay if their defense overcommitted to one side or showed their hand early.
At the NBA level, Poole won’t get many opportunities to work with the ball in his hands unless he goes to really bad team. What Poole could expect in year one, is a role similar to what Landry Shamet has mapped out in both Philadelphia and Los Angeles — playing off the ball and weaving through screens and forcing defenders to keep stock of where he is at all times on the floor.
As a league, the average number of three-pointers attempted per game has steadily risen–in 2018-19 it hit a new high of 11.4–and is showing no signs of slowing down. For a player like Poole, the game is aligned perfectly with the skills he will be able to bring from day one.