Nylon Calculus Rookie Review: What did the Warriors get from Ky Bowman and Jordan Poole?

Even if the NBA regular season is canceled, we’ve seen enough to start assessing the first seasons of notable rookies. What did the Golden State Warriors see from Jordan Poole and Ky Bowman?

Essentially nothing has gone according to plan for the Warriors over the past year. They were upset by the Raptors in the 2019 NBA Finals and then saw Kevin Durant opt to pursue something new with the Brooklyn Nets. Klay Thompson missed all of the season recovering from a torn ACL and both Stephen Curry and Draymond Green missed significant time as well. Adding to the chaos was a mid-season trade that shipped out D’Angelo Russell and brought back Andrew Wiggins.

The end result was that rookie Eric Paschall (No. 41 pick) led the team in both minutes and field goal attempts and fellow rookies Jordan Poole (No. 28 pick) and Ky Bowman (undrafted) played huge roles. The Warriors will hopefully be healthy next season and have a high draft pick to show for all their losing. But did Bowman and Poole show enough to earn themselves a place in the Warriors’ future?

What did we expect?

Neither player was projected highly in the draft and so there weren’t a ton of in-depth, high-profile scouting reports available. Poole landed at No. 45 on The Step Back’s final Big Board with Trevor Magnotti picking Poole’s pull-up shooting as about the only noteworthy attribute:

This group of seven players is the wings I would target in the second round, who offer projectible roles to fit into at the NBA level. Nowell is probably the best ball-handler and off-ball shooter of the bunch. Poole is the best pull-up shooter. Jeffries is the best athlete, while Okpala has the best frame. Bazley might be the most projectable of the group, though, because his potential fit as a floor-spacing big wing. However, the lack of film on him makes him a complicated evaluation that’s hard to project past this spot. Most of these guys will likely be one-dimensional at best at the NBA level outside of him, though.

Bowman didn’t even make the final 75-player Big Board and the most recent scouting notes on him from The Stepien were from early in his sophomore season (he didn’t leave for the draft until after his junior season at Boston College). The notes in that report were mixed in terms of tone but considering that he ultimately went undrafted the negatives seem the most relevant:

NBA Role: Primary Initiator or Ian Clark All-Star (Offensive 2G in 1G body)

Weaknesses: As a freshman, mentality was that of a shooting guard, but in a point guard body. Questionable decision making. Can see the pass but not outstanding passer. (3.8 Assists and 3.9 Turnovers per 40 min pace adjusted.) Size limits Bowman to defending point guards. Was not a good defender as a freshman, despite athletic gifts.

Given all the information it’s clear that expectations for both players were fairly unformed. If they were going to impress this year it could have been in any area that hinted at a sustainable and replicable NBA role going forward.

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What did we get?

Because of the injuries to Curry, Thompson, Green and others, Poole and Bowman played significant roles for most of the season. They ranked fifth and ninth in total minutes played and sixth and eighth in total field goal attempts, with 26 starts between them.

Their box score lines were fairly similar with per-game averages of about 8 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists per game. However, efficiency was and decision-making was a huge concern for both players. On drives, they collectively totaled nearly as many turnovers (34) as assists (47).

In terms of shooting efficiency, Bowman was just barely over 40 percent from the field and 30 percent on 3-pointers. Poole was well under both thresholds, by a considerable margin. If you take a look at their true shooting charts from Positive Residual (which include shooting fouls drawn by location) there aren’t many warm fuzzies to be found.

If you’re looking for optimism you can point to the fact that Bowman and Poole will theoretically have much less offensive responsibility in the future. There should be more open space when they’re on the floor with Thompson and Curry and it’s a lot easier to rack up assists when you’re kicking it out to two of the best shooters in NBA history.

However, on the occasions that they did have space, Poole and Bowman weren’t exactly positives. Poole made just 29.5 percent of his open and wide-open 3-pointers (no defender within four feet) this season. Bowman was at a slightly better but still dismal 31.5 percent. Neither was particularly effective as a finisher on self-created shots and both were well below average as scorers in isolation or as ball-handlers in the pick-and-roll.

Neither looked exceptional defensively, although Bowman did have a slightly positive Defensive Real Plus-Minus and did look decently pesky. Poole’s was just slightly negative.

So, despite playing nearly 2,500 combined minutes as rookies, Poole and Bowman look a lot like what they appeared to be before the draft — fringe NBA players without a defined skill set that would make them a permanent part of a rotation. Unless catastrophe strikes again neither is likely to be playing meaningful minutes for the Warriors next season and Bowman may not even be on the roster, considering his contract is only partially guaranteed. They were fun as stop-gaps but, for now, there’s not much evidence that either is any more than that.

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