Kevin Garnett says Jordan Poole is the new James Harden, thinks he can be a top-5 NBA scorer

Mike Battaglino
4 Min Read
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Jordan Poole is starting over with the Washington Wizards this season after some tumultuous times with the Golden State Warriors, and Kevin Garnett said the breakout potential reminds him of when another budding superstar once left the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“Jordan Poole is the new James Harden,” Garnett said.

The Hall of Famer went on to say the dynamic of Poole and Wizards teammate Kyle Kuzma is the new duo to watch in the league.

“I think Jordan Poole feels like he’s been held back,” Garnett said. “And that’s how I thought James Harden felt when he came out of OKC.”

Poole was traded to Washington this offseason in a deal that brought Chris Paul to Golden State. The 24-year-old played all of last season with the Warriors after he was punched by teammate Draymond Green during a preseason practice. Head coach Steve Kerr said the altercation affected the team throughout the entire season.

Despite the lingering effects, Poole still managed to average a career-high 20.4 points per game while appearing in all 82 games for the first time. He now gets a chance to emerge from the shadows of Stephen Curry and Klay Thomson and become a team’s leading option.

Garnett said that opportunity will put Poole among the top scorers in the league, with some exceptional single-game performances possible.

“I look for Jordan Poole to be top five in scoring this year,” Garnett said. “And if he don’t shoot more than 25 balls, I’ll be shocked. And if he don’t have not one but a couple 60 balls this year, I will be shocked.”

It’s similar to the circumstances when Harden left the Thunder and superstar teammates Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook after the 2011-12 season, landing with the Houston Rockets in a trade.

After three seasons in Oklahoma City, Harden went on to win NBA MVP honors with Houston in the 2017-18 season. He also won three straight scoring titles and was named to 10 straight NBA All-Star Games, including one each with the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers.

Like Poole’s last season, Harden’s career is not without some controversy. The 34-year-old is begrudgingly back with the 76ers this preseason despite a contentious offseason when he called president of basketball operations Daryl Morey a liar and said he would never play for an organization that was associated with the longtime executive.

Harden opted into his contract for this season expecting it would lead to a trade, but such a deal has not occurred to date. His reported preferred destination is the Los Angeles Clippers.

It’s a path Harden has taken that Poole likely will want to avoid in his future. But as far as duplicating his on-court performance, Poole would have to be ecstatic if there are scoring titles or an MVP award somewhere in his future.

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Mike is a veteran journalist who has focused on New York sports. He has covered the NBA and NFL for almost three decades and is still waiting for the next championship for the Knicks and Jets.