Archie Goodwin remains an enigmatic player for the Suns and their fanbase. Able to elicit both rabid support and rampant criticism, Goodwin is a perfect mirror of this year's team.
In one camp stand Goodwin's supporters, who point to his ludicrous athleticism, his already established ability to get to the rim and draw fouls, and his youth, and see a player who has earned a right to more minutes.
In the other camp stand Goodwin's skeptics. These individuals acknowledge Goodwin's prodigious athletic ability, but question whether he has earned minutes on this team given his still extremely questionable jumper and his poor, at some times inexplicable defense.
These camps stand at odds, as many of you who participate in the comments sections of Brightside's articles can attest.
Archie's recent assignment to the Bakersfield Jam for the D-League Showcase provided us with a unique opportunity to get an outsider's perspective on Goodwin's game, given the increased media exposure the Showcase generates.
The Brightside staff (okay, Dave) approached D-League reporter and Road to the Association's editor, Chris Reichert, to give us a scouting report on Goodwin's game, with the hope that he would provide us an opinion that isn't overly influenced by his personal connection to the team and player.
Here is what he had to say about Archie.
Archie is at his best with the ball in his hands, either on the break or in the half court sets. He's explosive enough to get by most defenders and at 6'5 has the athleticism to finish around the rim.
This has been Archie's bread and butter skill set since he was drafted. It is good to hear that he hasn't lost this, as some players who come to the NBA do, but this isn't particularly earth-shattering.
The mechanics on his set shot look good...
This is somewhat new information, as in the past Archie's shot mechanics haven't looked particularly solid. This could be the result of off-season work we know he did with Jeff Hornacek.
...he's effective when he does cut...
There are caveats to this statement that I will get into, but its encouraging to know that Archie's off-ball movement at least some of the time is positive.
He has great instincts when one pass away and because of that he got a couple steals and deflections that not all players would have gotten.
Some of this is influenced by Archie's athleticism, but it is really encouraging to hear that Archie's defensive instincts have improved, as this has been one of the major criticism's of his game to date.
Off the ball he does well to keep an eye on both man and ball and he looks to be in the 'right' place on almost every play.
This is in fact really encouraging, given that in his NBA stints Archie has at times looked absolutely lost when off the ball on defense.
Archie's on ball defense was surprisingly solid to me. He had to guard Andre Dawkins yesterday, who is a lights out shooter and Dawkins finished 2 of 12 from the floor.
Archie in fact did defend Dawkins well, as Reichert notes. Archie's on-ball defense again benefits from his athleticism, but in defending a player like Dawkins, who is deadly from the elbow, there is a certain element of basketball IQ necessary to preventing him from scoring, and it seems that Archie may be displaying that.
...any time he's shooting off the dribble he tends to lean or fade, almost every time.
This is something that has plagued Archie since he joined the team last year. For whatever reason, it still seems like Archie has been unable to shake his tendency to add some sort of movement to his jump shot, and it throws off the improved mechanics displayed in his set shot.
Off the ball he simply stands. In the two games of film I watched I saw him cut off the ball a total of four times...its very rare.
This isn't particularly encouraging. Given his athleticism, Archie should be doing what he can to free himself from his defender by using screens and picks and getting alley-oops at the rim, much like Gerald Green does. As Reichert notes, some of this may be the Jam's system, but other players were cutting off the ball, so that can't be the only explanation.
Most possessions he stand on the wing just waiting for the ball to come to him and he doesn't work off screens very well or even make short v-cuts to try and create space to obtain the ball...
This is really more of the same from above problem.
...When players would get by him he just kind of lets them go and doesn't finish the play.
This is the only real defensive criticism Reichert has of Archie, but it is a pretty serious one. Finishing the play is an effort thing - when guys give up on the play after they've been blown by, it can create problems with their teammates, who either have to shift over to help in future situations or let the offensive player score. This could simply be an issue of maturity and playing down to the stage, but it isn't encouraging regardless.
All in all, I think Goodwin is headed in the right direction. The main area of concern for me was off the ball on the offensive side. He quite literally just stands and made no attempts to create openings for himself. He's only 20 and he will get better, but there's still work to be done.
This takeaway is really important. Archie's game is still a work in progress - he's a 20 year old 2nd year player who was taken as a long term development project. There is a reason he slid from a projected lottery pick to the very end of the first round. His developed skill set was very limited coming out of college.
It is encouraging to hear that Archie's defensive skills seem to have come along, as last season this was perhaps the most egregiously under-developed portion of his game.
It is disheartening, however, to continue to see things like his inability or unwillingness to operate creatively without the ball, to stick with his defensive assignment or to develop a consistent jump shot.
It must be noted that at least some of Archie's lack of development is a direct result of the Suns' inability to get him court time, given their unexpectedly strong play last season and their seeming inability this season to really put teams away early.
However, Archie isn't doing himself any favors when his play seems to reflect lack of effort, or when he is unable to show improvement in his jumpshot despite working with a shooting coach Kyle Korver credits with vastly improving his shooting stroke.
Reichert's final takeaway point is key. Archie will get better; there is definitely still work to be done, however.
Note: Archie Goodwin and the Jam play in the D-League Showcase finals today, at 11 o'clock Arizona time (1 pm ET, 10 am PT) against the Grand Rapids Drive. The game will air live on NBATV.