Now that the 2015-16 season is finally over, the Phoenix Suns will soon need to start making...wait, what? Six games left? Are you sure? Geez. Fine.
With six games left to play in the 2015-16 season, the Phoenix Suns will soon need to start making decisions about the look of next season's roster, and one of the less heralded decisions that faces GM Ryan McDonough this summer is which player, Archie Goodwin or John Jenkins (if either), should remain with the team as a backup shooting guard.
The Suns have already begun assessing the matter, as Jenkins has taken the lion's share of the playing time at that position over the past month.
"It's the need to see John," interim head coach Earl Watson told azcentral.com about going with Jenkins over Goodwin lately. "We obviously made a transaction and a move to get him here for a reason. We know what Archie brings to us. He's still another young player. He has a lot to grow on both ends of the court.
"John Jenkins is a unique scorer. Nobody had a chance to see him all year (with Dallas). He's coming in here and putting up points quickly. It's unique to see him play, and moving forward, you have to think we need to build depth at that two-guard position."
Watson is correct. (And he loves the word 'unique'. Uses it all the time.) The Suns do know what Goodwin brings to the table and do need to see what Jenkins is capable of while there are still games left to play. But Watson is incorrect in claiming that playing Jenkins ahead of Goodwin is a move to build depth at the two-guard position.
The fact of the matter is that there is not room on the team for both players. The Suns have already stated that Goodwin's future is not at point guard (even though he makes for an interesting change-of-pace point guard in small doses), and assuming Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, and Devin Booker all return and are healthy next season, the minutes at shooting guard will be stretched thin — and that's not even factoring in the possibility that Bogdan Bogdanovic could be brought over or that the Suns could draft/sign/trade for a shooting guard.
With that in mind, it seems apparent that McDonough is trying to get a bead on Goodwin and determine whether better options exist than the former No. 29 overall draft pick in 2013. The tricky part is determining where on the bell curve the 21-year-old's growth potential falls and how he fits into a future role with the club relative to other options.
While statistics and numbers can be thrown out to argue for or against both Goodwin and Jenkins, the fairest way to assess which player is best suited to the role is to examine each player's best skill. After all, a role player needs to impact the game immediately upon setting foot on the floor, and neither player can accomplish that by attempting things they aren't proficient at.
For Goodwin, he is at his best when he attacks the basket, and that is coupled with an innate ability to draw fouls. Outside of the statistically skewed Alan Williams, Goodwin draws the most fouls for his court time on the Suns, getting fouled once every 7.1 minutes he plays. His advantage over his teammates grows when looking at drawing shooting fouls, where he earns a trip to the line every 13.3 minutes. That rate for drawing shooting fouls is on par with the likes of Dwyane Wade and Isaiah Thomas and just a minute worse than LeBron James.
But for a player who draws fouls so well, he shoots an unacceptably low percentage from the free throw line (68.2 percent). Even odder is that Goodwin shoots 56.7 percent from the charity stripe in games where he plays 20 or fewer minutes this season versus 75.2 percent when he plays 21 or more. That suggests a lack of focus from Goodwin and is a red flag for a player who is fighting for a role that will regularly see him playing less than 20 minutes a night.
Then there is Jenkins, the No. 23 overall pick in 2012. He is more of a prototypical shooting guard who is comfortable playing off the ball and waiting for an open shot. He has taken the term spot-up shooter to heart since joining Phoenix, with 62.9 percent of his field goal attempts coming from beyond 16 feet and a majority of those being assisted on. To Jenkins' credit as a shooter, he is converting at a 50-percent clip from 16 feet to the 3-point line and at a 57.9-percent clip from beyond the arc — both highs on the team. Going further, Jenkins hits 83.3 percent of his 3-point shots taken from the right corner and 50 percent of his 3s taken above the break. He is even a respectable 33.3 percent from the left corner 3. These numbers are over just a 16-game sample size, but he is at least trending in the right direction.
The knock on Jenkins' shooting, though, would have to be his ability to get his shot off. At 6'4'', he is undersized for a shooting guard and isn't especially long or quick. Because of those drawbacks, defenders can more easily affect his shot. None of this is a problem when getting open looks off of penetration or ball movement, but creating his own shot isn't his bailiwick.
All that said, the biggest differentiator between Goodwin and Jenkins should be this: Jenkins stretches the defense; Goodwin does not. Jenkins' ability to shoot the basketball means he is always just a swing pass away from being dangerous, and defenders must respect that. With Goodwin, he is not a threat without the basketball, allowing defenses to sag off him when he doesn't have possession and then shift against him in the paint once he has it.
Neither Goodwin nor Jenkins are due big money next season — Goodwin will make just north of $2 million in 2016-17 while Jenkins has two partially guaranteed contract years left at a smidge above $1 million each — so finances shouldn't play much into the final decision of whom to keep. Movability isn't either, as Jenkins' contract isn't fully guaranteed and Goodwin could be flipped for at least a future 2nd round pick easily if desired.
Ultimately, the decision needs to come down to potential and fit for McDonough, but with both Goodwin (six 20-point games from mid-January to mid-February and his first career double-double) and Jenkins (averaged 19.7 points during the 2015 preseason) possessing potential to some unquantifiable degree, the key consideration becomes fit. In that regard, the Suns' depth at the guard spots clashes with Goodwin's game more than it does Jenkins' game. Therefore, the choice going forward should be Jenkins for the betterment of all parties involved.