Is it the Poole Party? The Death Star lineup? The FastFive? Whatever you decide to call the Warriors’ new lineup of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Jordan Poole, Andrew Wiggins, and Draymond Green doesn’t really matter at the end of the day. They’re going to have to start checking into hotels under the pseudonym “Lakers traveling party” to avoid getting mobbed.
The talk of the NBA was that lineup’s performance in Game 2 against the Nuggets. In just 11 breathtaking minutes, they scored 47 points (!!!), averaging 2.04 points per possession. If the Nuggets had played hack-a-Curry, the best free throw shooter in league history, they would have been about 10 percent better defensively.
They came back down to earth in Game 3, but the group still has a 142.6 offensive rating, 105.8 defensive rating, and is outscoring teams by 36.8 points per 100 possessions based on their 23 minutes together thus far.
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To be sure, there still isn’t close to enough data to make any sweeping conclusions from this new five-man group. After all, they didn’t play a single minute together in the regular season. But how about the three-guard combination of Poole, Curry, and Thompson? There’s a slightly bigger sample with those three, and they stacked up extremely well compared to other dominant big three’s in the league.
They’re even on top of Warriors championship-caliber three-man lineups of the past with Harrison Barnes and Kevin Durant in place of Poole alongside the Slash Brothers.
Poole is the most intriguing variable of the equation. We already know about Green, Curry, and Thompson. How has Poole re-ignited the Warriors’ death lineup? According to Thompson, he’s given the Warriors two Curry-type players that other teams can’t deal with.
“Jordan is like a baby Steph Curry with his ability to stop and pop with the ball in his hands,” Thompson said. on the Warriors postgame show.
Poole’s progression has been astounding to watch. He was considered a bit of a chucker in his lone year at Michigan, was thought of as a reach when the Warriors took him with the 28th pick in 2019, spent parts of his first few seasons in the G-League, then exploded for 18.5 points per game this season.
There might never be another Steph Curry, but Poole is the bootleg version. They play a similar role in the Warriors’ offense.
Poole has become a master of relocating for shots after giving up the ball, much like Curry does. He dances on the court like a TikTok star, and the ball is an extension of his body with how well he controls it.
Jordan Poole, what now?! pic.twitter.com/fadbRb6ou9
—Guillaume | Le Basket Lab (@GuillaumeBInfos) March 28, 2022
The combination of Poole, Curry, and Thompson has been deadly because Poole has joined those other two in becoming a player that you can’t help off. All three are capable of launching 3’s in a split-second, and all three will also break down a defend one-on-one. It places defenders in impossible positions.
Defensively, this new 5-man unit has also been surprisingly solid with caveat that it’s running up against an egregiously undermanned Nuggets offense.
They are undeniably giving up size, which is their biggest issue. At 6-foot-7, Andrew Wiggins is the tallest player of the group. Curry is the smallest member, but he competes hard and can play within a scheme. Poole is an above-average defender thanks to his good anticipation, awareness, and great communication (as pointed out by Ben Taylor on his YouTube channel). Wiggins has been a tenacious rebounder within that group. Thompson has already made an All-Defensive team.
What makes it all tick though is Green, who would have been the Defensive Player of the Year had he not gotten injured and missed so much time.
Green’s defense against Nikola Jokic has been nothing short of remarkable. Jokic is a bruiser inside and has a five-inch, 54-pound advantage on Green, and was probably the best offensive player in the league for the past two seasons. It hasn’t mattered. Green has smothered and covered him better than a Waffle House line cook.
The job that Draymond Green has done defensively on Nikola Jokic in this series has been outstanding. NBA tracking data has Jokic shooting 9-of-28 with Green as the primary defender. pic.twitter.com/L5VG5VsEtW
— StephNoh (@StephNoh) April 21, 2022
Jokic had more success against Green in Game 3, shooting 10-of-15 when Green was his primary defender. It’s impossible to lock down a player of Jokic’s caliber for long. But Green did had the game-sealing strip on Jokic with under a minute to go.
The Warriors have also tried to mix in a little bit of zone, but it hasn’t looked great against Jokic. They will have to play big and gang rebound, and coach Steve Kerr might need to find some creative solutions. But they’re going to be so dominantly offensive that they just need to get to an average level defensively to make it work.
It’s still too early to take too much from the Poole/Curry/Thompson triumvirate, especially given that they’re doing all of this against a mediocre Nuggets defense.
But make no mistake, the league is certainly taking notice. If they continue playing at their current level, then they should overtake the hobbled Suns as the championship favorite. Just as the Warriors once rode a frightening small ball ‘Death’ lineup to multiple titles, this new unit might be enough to once again take them all the way.