Archie Goodwin is someone who Suns fans have been keeping a very close eye on. Flourishing with potential out of Kentucky, Goodwin went 29th to the Suns in the 2013 NBA Draft. The Suns were so scared of losing out on him that they traded one spot up just to make sure they landed him. There is obvious reason for intrigue.
Goodwin came out of college as one of the most raw players in the process. The best way to describe Goodwin is a term I really love, a zero guard. The way I see the term is someone who is stuck between shooting guard and point guard, which isn't necessarily a bad thing for them. Russell Westbrook (who John Calipari compared Goodwin to) is one of the better examples of this with Victor Oladipo closing in as well. These guys are freak athletes who can get to the rim just about any time, but they lack the true playmaking ability to be officially deserving of the title as a point guard. The other side is that these zero guards can't shoot a good number from the perimeter, making them off the ball at shooting guard even more difficult than letting them run the offense.
The progression of Goodwin over the next few years is what's going to determine if he becomes a true 1 or 2, or he lands in this zero guard paradigm, which quite honestly isn't such a horrible thing. Westbrook has improved on his passing in the past couple of seasons, but it's not like he's still a true point guard who doesn't go tunnel vision at times to get his own buckets. That's Westbrook syndrome though and I don't see Goodwin as a "selfish player" or whatever you want to call that. Westbrook added a killer mid-range jumper to his game that is basically unstoppable, but he's still an inconsistent shooter from deep.
So why are we talking about this when it comes to Goodwin's play for next year? It's because it is crucial for young players to recognize their flaws and work on them as much as possible.
Looking at what we learned from seeing Goodwin for an entire season so far, it's not that much new information to process. There was the early run in November where Goodwin had five games in the month playing more than 15 minutes. His highlight was a 7-10 performance against Sacramento, but in that home-and-home series the following game he shot 0-8. We saw him really succeed when head coach Jeff Hornacek let him loose and run wild. Archie played more than 25 minutes only twice last season, but in those two games he shot 17-23 combined.
The part of Archie's game that is difficult to judge from last year's tape is how much of it will translate with teams knowing what he's all about. Goodwin's ease of getting by the initial defender, making sharp cuts, and contorting his body after getting to the basket with such speed was so deadly when teams didn't adjust to it. This main feature of his game also applied to transition and picking up a few easy buckets off of steals. Those two big time performances were the perfect example of teams not being able to get a handle on Goodwin. Of course, those two teams were both very bad last year in Utah and Sacramento.
There were still the adjustments occasionally and that's where Goodwin started to really struggle. In that 0-8 game, The Kings were putting more defenders in the paint when Goodwin started to penetrate. Even with his athleticism in getting around that defense, he still had some tough finishes that he couldn't make. Sacramento was daring him to shoot all the time and there were some ugly misses in that process. It's unclear which side of Archie we would get if he was a regular feature on the Suns.
The next step in Archie's game is improving these weaknesses. Before the summer league started in Vegas last year, there was an expectation here at BsoTS on Goodwin being one of if not the best player on the roster. He was one of the high scorers on the Vegas squad last year and that plus his playing time last season should translate to him looking good this summer. Before the summer league started, assistant coach Mike Longabardi said, "we want him to do what he does and play with a lot of energy, be a great defender, cutter/slasher, playmaker."
Goodwin certainly played with a lot of energy and was that great cutter/slasher that we know of, but the other facets of his game weren't there. I wrote a ton during my time in Vegas and covered Archie each game, but here was my main impression.
Watching Goodwin in Vegas last month gave me zero indication that he had significantly improved his jumper or his playmaking ability. Goodwin is really freaking good at getting to the rim already so it's two skills that could drastically improve the effectiveness of his elite skill. Want to sag off of him so he can't get by you? He's hitting the open jumper. Want to crash the lane so he can't finish? He will dump the ball off to the big or find the open player on the perimeter.
Those two clear areas of need will have us bring forth ESPN's Chad Ford's scouting report on Goodwin entering the draft last year. Ford had his weaknesses as "needs to improve the consistency on his jumper, can play out of control, takes wild shots, and needs to add strength." Ford never really addressed his passing, as he instead has a strength as Goodwin being a "competitive, unselfish player". Goodwin certainly took those wild shots when the offense either broke down or he was so committed to the finish at the rim that he couldn't pass out of it. It's a very small sample size to judge from though like I said. Still, it's clear that Goodwin needs to improve there yet and there's no indication that he did in his first year in the NBA.
Is Goodwin ready for the rotation? Mike Longabardi thinks so. "He's good enough to be a rotational player in this league," Longabardi said before the summer league. "He's got to get stronger, which he is working on, he's got to get experience which he'll get in summer league. And then form there, it's going to be up to him to see how far he can go. He's very blessed with god given ability with his quickness and athleticism, that's the reason why we like him."
In my opinion I don't think Goodwin is ready for the rotation. It's clear that he is an absolute terror whenever he is attacking the basket, whether it's in the half-court or in transition. The good news for the Suns is that they have the depth on the bench now to not force Goodwin onto the floor. Assuming Bledsoe is signed, the guard positions off the bench will be filled with Isaiah Thomas and Gerald Green. Also, rookie T.J. Warren is going to get a lot of shots off that bench. Tyler Ennis could find a way onto the roster as that fifth guard if Hornacek prefers the pure point who is a much smarter player and better game manager. Either way, the fifth guard position is nothing to freak out about when it comes to playing time.
Here is the good news about Goodwin. I doubt I need to remind you about this, but Goodwin just turned 20 this month. Ford said "if the Suns are patient, this could really pay off." With the new NBDL team the Suns have that we here at BSotS will be covering, Goodwin could be playing consistent competitive basketball throughout the year. Hornacek doesn't have any real reason for Goodwin to enter the rotation now unless his jumper is now magically fixed.
As a fan of the Suns you could talk yourself into being disappointed by Archie Goodwin thus far. There is a clear package of talent and we always saw those "flashes" of it whenever he got time to play last year. The problem is addressing those two areas of need and making Goodwin a slightly less one-dimensional player. In my opinion, Goodwin has another two years to figure out where he wants to go with his game before we start flipping tables and calling him a bust. That's a whole lot of time and I expect him to be a good scorer in this league whenever the opportunity for permanent playing time comes forward. That's what we know, but what we don't know is if he adds those two parts to his game. If he does, the NBA will be on high alert and start trying to figure out how the Suns added even more to their biggest strength.