It seems like every spring, we get a few surprising Big Ten decisions for the NBA Draft. A player surprisingly decides to go pro here and another returns elsewhere, despite quite a bit of hype and potential at the next level. It’s one of the big reasons why projecting next season before the NBA Draft deadline is nearly impossible.
Perhaps the most surprising in this year’s group was Jordan Poole. After two productive, but not otherworldly seasons with the Michigan Wolverines, Poole opted to enter and stay in the 2019 NBA Draft. This is despite mixed projections about his pro potential.
So, can Poole cash in on his risk? Let’s take a look.
As mentioned, Poole’s college numbers were never otherworldly, but he did show some tantalizing skills with the Wolverines. In particular, his ability to shoot from deep, confidence with the ball, and handle were all impressive. Poole shot 36.9 percent from three-point range last season, 83.3 percent from the charity stripe, and had a really good turnover rate.
And while Poole isn’t an extremely athletic or big guard, he stands at 6-foot-5 and has shown the ability to shoot over defenders. In a lot of ways, he looks like the prototypical guard of the modern NBA. If he can improve a little bit here and there, his upside is really high. He was also a decent defender on a really good defensive team.
But even if Poole has a lot of potential, he has some major concerns as well. To start, he struggled a lot with shot selection and never really stood out as a passer. Considering that he would likely be asked to take just a few shots a game and primarily facilitate at the next level early on, those aren’t encouraging issues to have as he prepares for the NBA.
Poole’s general lack of production is also a concern. His numbers weren’t terrible, but 36.9 percent from deep isn’t that unique in today’s NBA. He also went ice cold in many of Michigan’s games down the stretch last year when the team was desperate for offense. It’s hard to imagine the Wolverines losing some of those games in March if Poole had been a bit better.
A lot of people are going to say Poole needs to find a spot where the team relies a lot on its perimeter game. However, that’s probably not going to help his long-term development. He needs to land on a team where he can develop behind a proven guard. Places like the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets seem like good fits.
However, with that said, Poole projects to be a fringe second round pick. That likely means no guaranteed deals and the challenge of earning his spot on a roster. Regardless of fit, he’s going to want a team willing to invest to give him a few years to get comfortable.
By any measure, Poole has decided to take a calculated risk with his career. At best, Poole projects to be a late second round pick. Most underclassmen prospects in that position return to school for at least another year. For better or worse, Poole has decided to take his shot at the next level.
Barring something unusual, Poole should land on a roster next season, but will almost assuredly spend some serious time in the G League. His career will be decided by how much he develops there.