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The sad account of Archie Goodwin’s time with the New Orleans Pelicans

It didn’t go much better in NOLA than what we saw for three years in Phoenix

NBA: Boston Celtics at New Orleans Pelicans Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

As a Pelicans blogger for FanSided’s Pelican Debrief, I consider myself to be fairly plugged into the thoughts and prayers of fans and writers. We’re a small community. When former Suns guard Archie Goodwin replaced Lance Stephenson, who was injured then waived from his partially-guaranteed deal, I saw mostly confusion, but actually a fair bit of excitement. That comes with the unknown.

And even after three seasons with the Phoenix Suns, that’s what Goodwin was: unknown. Barely into his twenties, without a marketable NBA skill upon which to build, save athleticism. The omnipresent gift bestowed upon just about every NBA player. What would he do with it?

In New Orleans, well, not much at all.

Look how excited he seemed when he first arrived:

They let Lance go, and for me? Shucks. I’m...I’m stunned. What have I done to earn this? Asking for a trade actually worked. This is a great situation for me.

He was right to see the opportunity as a good one, but coming at this from the cautious perspective of a Suns fan, I wasn’t sure what to expect. This is a kid who has worked hard since the day he entered the league. Always ready to play. Flashing crazy hops and finishes every time he saw minutes. Amazing, most every time I saw him.

Yet when Goodwin finally got playing time with the Pelicans, I was disappointed. It was the worst Archie games we saw in Phoenix, all bottled up into a few appearances. Alvin Gentry, gone from the Suns by the time Goodwin was drafted, has become known in New Orleans for frustrating lineup inconsistencies perpetuated by an injured roster lacking talent.

Those inconsistencies meant Goodwin couldn’t count on finding a pattern in his playing time. It would come as Gentry needed him, and we never knew when that might happen. Archie had expectations to perform immediately, on the court to inject life, energy, something. We know what happens to Goodwin when things go that way.

With the Pelicans, he attempted only five shots in 30 minutes played. One assist, a turnover, a block. Sheepish glancing around the court and too short a leash to gain experience in a system that, while fast like the Suns’, is centered foundationally around Anthony Davis.

For a player that is at his best playing off of others’ strengths and play-making abilities, Goodwin sat back, and let opportunities come to him. On a team that started 0-8, they never came.

My only positive memories of him were the few times he found a hole in transition, ran aggressively toward it, and got to the line. He was 10/10 on free-throws during his New Orleans stint, per Basketball-Reference. That’s going to be Archie’s niche if he ever finds a home in the NBA. Defend his position, make the most of the spots where he shines: transition, broken plays, runs to the rim.

For now, this sad fate awaits a youngster hoping to blossom:

The Suns and Pelicans have given up the opportunity to see his development through to its finale, but even as a spectator, I’d love to see Goodwin get where he’s trying to go. Somewhere in there, the guy who managed a spectacular .457 free throw rate (free throw attempts per field goal attempt) last season and made 74% of those shots the season before is lurking, ready to add skills and flourish in a smaller role.

Neither Jeff Hornacek nor Alvin Gentry was the right man for the job. In many ways, the only man capable of pulling it off is Goodwin himself. Having seen him up close twice, I wish him the best.

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