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#TBT - The Brief Rise and Long Slow Fall of Archie Goodwin

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Once upon a time, Archie Goodwin provided Suns fans with a jolt of hope. Now he’s without a team. Here’s what happened in between.

2013 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images

In an act of mercy to all party involved, the Phoenix Suns released Archie Goodwin this week, allowing him to pursue his dream in a land where he will have plentiful minutes. In his three seasons in Phoenix, Archie became a folk hero to some people - an uber-athletic longshot with the chance to maybe — just maybe — become something special.

The Draft Pick

Let it not be said that Ryan McDonough doesn’t have a type. In 2013 after acquiring hyper-athletic combo guard (and University of Kentucky alum) Eric Bledsoe, the new Phoenix Suns general manager traded up in order to acquire hyper-athletic combo guard (and University of Kentucky alum) Archie Goodwin. This was also the same Ryan McDonough who had previously been instrumental in drafting Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley. While McDonough had a thing for half-baked backcourt athletes, Archie Goodwin was even less developed than his prior draftees.

As the second to last first round pick in a weak draft, the 18 year-old Goodwin was a low-risk high-reward home run swing. He had had a rough season at University of Kentucky and came into the draft with no discernible NBA skills besides otherworldly athleticism and a 6’6” frame that he might eventually grow into. McDonough believed enough in Goodwin’s potential to trade up in the draft from the 30th pick to the 29th to acquire his precious precious combo guard.

Summer League: A Legend is Born

With fellow draft pick Alex Len (taken fifth overall) sidelined from Las Vegas Summer League with ankle surgery, all eyes were on Goodwin. In his first minutes as a pro, Goodwin raised eyebrows with a 13 point performance against 10th overall pick C.J. McCollum:

Goodwin stole the show, though, with about as impressive of a debut as anyone could have possibly hoped for...

"Archie didn't shoot the ball very well (in college), that's an area he absolutely has to improve on, but he really knows how to get in the paint," commented McDonough. "He knows how to break down defenses and get to the basket."

This was clearly evident in the game. Goodwin attempted a game high six free throws, making four, while displaying a mesmerizing combination of quickness and fluidity. Maybe graceful would be a fitting adjective?

He want on to average 13.1 points per game on 50% shooting in 24.6 minutes of SL action, trading particularly on an array of athletic, slicing drives to the bucket. Bright Side of the Sun’s Kris Habbas gushed:

There is an aura of excitement in the Valley for the first time in years. A jubilant adolescent glee has stretched over the masses with promise, potential, and plenty of praise. One unique individual has caught the imagination of fans and media alike as those that love the game are swooning over this soon to be NBA rookie.

Who is causing all this excitement? None other than former University of Kentucky guard Archie Goodwin.

I’m not going to say the bar was set a little high for the 29th overall pick, but the bar was set WAY TOO HIGH FOR THE 29TH OVERALL PICK.

Season 1: A Quiet Victim of the Team’s Success

By now we know all too well the story of the 2013-14 Phoenix Suns: a ragtag collection of players led by a rookie coach weren’t supposed to do anything, yet won 48 games and narrowly missed the playoffs. As “Win Later” transformed into “Win Now”, development opportunities for the rookie were few and far between. Nevertheless, Goodwin managed just over 10 minutes per game in his 52 appearance his rookie season, good for 27th among all rookies.

Despite his minutes more or less matching his draft status, some Suns fans were unimpressed:

While the majority of his season was quiet, Goodwin closed the year with a very loud bang. In the Suns’ final game, he exploded for 29 points on 11-13 shooting against the Sacramento Kings. The table was set for an exciting second season.

Season 2: Which came first: lack of production or a lack of playing time?

Entering the 2014 season, expectations were high for the second year guard. With a year of NBA and D-League experience under his belt, he was expected to dominate at Las Vegas Summer League. To say that didn’t happen would be... an understatement. From Dave King’s Summer League review:

Goodwin ended up regressing, in my eyes, to a one-trick pony who drove so often that every team knew they could throw three defenders at him at the rim without fear of him passing off. Archie will have to calm down and become more cerebral as his career progresses.

Defensively, he was even worse, getting caught ball-watching for (what seemed like) constant cuts behind him for easy baskets by his man. Goodwin was aggressive all week in getting steals, and eventually paid for it when the team was struggling.

Goodwin fared no better in the regular season. He was effectively squeezed out of the Suns’ rotation when Phoenix signed free agent Isaiah Thomas as an insurance policy against Eric Bledsoe’s potential departure and injury issues. Phoenix had three starting quality guards on the roster in Bledsoe, Thomas and Goran Dragić, and backup Gerald Green coming off a career year. Goodwin’s role was virtually non-existent for the first two-thirds of the season. He only appeared in 14 games before the All-Star break. And when he did play he didn’t exactly make a case for himself, making only 15 of his 42 field goal attempts.

But when he did make his field goals... well, it was pretty fun:

But as luck would have it, Goodwin got his shot as the Suns’ season imploded. Unable to manage the competing talents and egos in their backcourt, the Suns’ shipped out Goran Dragić and Isaiah Thomas and got back Brandon Knight. The logjam in the Phoenix Suns backcourt was alleviated and Goodwin finally saw the court.

Goodwin’s heaviest minutes came in March and April after Brandon Knight went down with and injury. In those final 22 games, Archie logged nearly 18 minutes per game and delivered similarly disappointing numbers as he had earlier in the season: shooting less than 40% (barely 20% outside of three feet!) and dishing out more turnovers than assists. Though he again saved his best for last, capping the year with a season-high 18 point performance against the Los Angeles Clippers, the bloom was coming off Archie’s rose.

Season 3: A Star Is Born (but it’s not Archie Goodwin)

Entering his third NBA season, Archie Goodwin finally had a clear path to solid NBA minutes. All he had to do was beat out fringe NBA player Sonny Weems and precocious teen rookie Devin Booker and the back-up shooting guard slot was his.

Welp.

To say the least: that did not happen. In an ironic twist of fate, Goodwin found himself completely overshadowed by a teenaged Kentucky Wildcat. While early attempts were made to give minutes to Weems and Goodwin, it became clear that Devin Booker was coach Jeff Hornacek’s preferred option off the bench. Things improved when Hornacek was replaced by Earl Watson and Eric Bledsoe went down with a season-ending injury. While Booker — clearly ahead of Archie in the rotation — moved into the starting lineup, Goodwin saw a career high in minutes as the season progressed.

While he made strides compared to his disastrous 2014-15 campaign, he still struggle to make things coalesce at either end of the floor. Goodwin’s athleticism continued to allow him to get to the rim, but that didn’t translate to points. He was a worse finisher inside of two feet than all three guards ahead of him in the rotation. And despite getting to the line as much or more than his fellow backcourt members, he shot free throws at a much worse percentage. I’ll let Bright Side’s Rollin J. Mason sum up Goodwin’s third season with the Suns:

Things get worse the farther Goodwin ventures out, where the flat and erratic jumper he entered the league with is still raging it up in 2016. His shooting from deep plummeted down to 23.5% (from 29.3% a season earlier), and altogether he shot only 24% (48/200) on shots outside of 3 feet, a number that seems unfathomable for a shooting guard that is anything less than a defensive ace...

And...

Unfortunately, many of those massive holes in his game remain unfilled after his third year in the league, even after he more than doubled his previous career high in minutes played in 2015/16 with 1114. The ball-handling, court vision, decision-making, defense, and shooting of Goodwin all remained woefully subpar.

Season 4: On to the New

Archie Goodwin was conspicuously absent from the team’s rotation in the the 2016 pre-season. Now we know why:

Failing to find a trade partner willing to part with anything of value for Goodwin, the Suns waived him on October 24. For his part, Goodwin seemed grateful for the chance to seek out a new path.

Of course, it wouldn’t be an Archie Goodwin season if he didn’t save his best for last. Archie gave Phoenix fans a thrilling farewell present with his pre-season game-winning dunk against the Utah Jazz:

Archie Goodwin’s career is far from over. He just turned 22 years old in August. He has plenty of years of basketball ahead of him. And his raw athleticism might yet coalesce around a decent basketball skill or two. Players of his caliber have found great success (and paychecks) overseas. There’s also the chance some other NBA team takes a flyer on him this season and that he maybe even cracks the rotation. The Phoenix Suns may be done with Archie Goodwin, but basketball almost certainly isn’t.