Suns fans have been almost desperate for Archie Goodwin to become some sort of cult hero since he was drafted as a fresh-faced prospect from Kentucky in 2013. There was something immediately compelling about him, despite the fact that he lacked a true position and had holes in his game one could drive a semi through.
The intrigue turned into unbridled excitement when Goodwin put on a show during the 2013 Summer League at the age of 18.
His knifing drives to the rim temporarily assuaged concerns about his suspect handles and clunky jumpshot, and it was still way too early to even think about defense yet, and thus the legend of Archie Goodwin began to grow. With a name destined to be etched in the history books and a knack for the kind of plays that make one exclaim "did you see that?!" even when sitting in a room by their lonesome, Suns fans were giddy at the thought of plucking an exciting and talented prospect from the 29th spot of a remarkably weak draft.
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. Meanwhile Devin Booker, who was supposed to be a raw prospect chained to the end of the bench like Goodwin has been much of his career, quickly became one of the best rookies in a stellar class as he almost immediately grasped the nuances of the game that have eluded Goodwin during the last three years.
Fortunately, the skills he came into the league with are still there. He can get into the lane alarmingly fast if he has an opening, he excels at drawing fouls, and he's an exciting finisher in transition. However, all of those skills come with a caveat.
Drives and Freethrows
His ability to get into the paint against a set defense is hampered by his limited handles, as he (in American football terms) is a 'north/south' kind of driver with the ball in his hands. If he can attack off the catch against a scrambling defense, or if his man gets completely buried by a screen and no help arrives, he can explode to the rim with the best of them. But if he has to break down a set defender off the dribble, things get messy. Spastic movements, wild dribbling displays that make it look like that ball has too much air in it, spin moves into the defense instead of away from it; Goodwin looks every bit the jittery rookie we saw in 2013/14 way too often.
His frequently wild drives do result in a lot of freethrow attempts, in which he finished 3rd on the team despite finishing only 9th in total minutes played. He posted a freethrow rate of .458 on the season, and for a frame of reference, Eric Bledsoe's was .350, and he's no slouch at drawing fouls.
Again, however, there's a problem. Goodwin shot only .674 from the line this season, and one can't help but wonder if his high freethrow rate is less of a true skill and more of a by-product of his reckless forays into the paint. Sometimes it's as though opposing players are fouling him in self-defense, the same way they would flail at an agitated bumblebee terrorizing their picnic.
52.6% of Goodwin's attempts from the field came at the rim, which is a good sign that he is aware of his strengths as a scorer, yet he only shot 57.7% from inside 3 feet on the season. The much ballyhooed Brandon Knight, for an example, shot 62.4%.
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.
Future in Phoenix
Obviously, Goodwin is still very much the raw prospect that was drafted in 2013. The good news is, he's still quite young (will be 22 in August) and he has at least one more year to make a case for himself, as the Suns picked up his team option for the season. Like the rest of the team, he expressed a desire for Earl Watson to return as head coach in his exit interview, which spoke volumes considering the tough love approach he was given as the season wound down.
When Watson was asked by BSOTS overlord Dave King on April 4 why Goodwin had yet again fallen out of the rotation just as he had under Jeff Hornacek earlier in the season, he responded by saying "every player off the bench has an opportunity, but you cannot take it for granted."
Watson received some criticism during his interim stint for favoring veterans like John Jenkins and Chase Budinger over Goodwin, which certainly is a valid point in the context of a wasted season, but the message was made clear that minutes off the bench must be earned, and there is no excuse for Goodwin to leave even a shred of doubt that he's willing to play hard enough as he concludes his third season of minimal production.
Goodwin might not ever round into anything close to a complete NBA player, but no one on the team outside of maybe the 10-day contract guys should be playing harder than him. While it certainly wasn't intriguing to watch Budinger sop up reserve minutes down the stretch, it's clear that for whatever reason, certain things have not "gotten through" to Goodwin.
Perhaps a training camp and season with Watson will be what ends up salvaging Goodwin's career in the NBA. Watson appears to be good at the whole "getting through" thing, so there is reason for optimism. However, with the emergence of Booker, the possible addition of Bogdan Bogdanovic, and as many as four rookies possibly coming into the fold in 2016/17, it might already be too late for him in Phoenix.
I'm stopping short of including any of Goodwin's high points of the season for the simple reason that as fleeting and hollow as they were, they will serve little purpose other than to briefly distract the people reading this from the unfortunate fact that Archie is still as raw as they come even after three seasons, and even Earl Watson with his campfire-singalong style was compelled to knock him down a peg.
This whole process might be a bit easier if there was a jumping-off point for Goodwin other than his knack for wildly barreling into the lane. Instead, it's still hard to say what he even is in an NBA sense. He presents almost no threat without the ball in his hands, as he has neither the cutting instincts of T.J. Warren (another guy drafted after Goodwin who has played better) nor the shooting skills of anyone beyond Edward Scissorhands. So the only logical thing left to do is to play him at the point, where his idea of setting up an offense is either to A) create for himself with mixed results, or B) defer immediately and disappear for the remainder of the possession.
Perhaps he can emulate the recent success of Will Barton, another raw and wild prospect that suddenly clicked in Denver and was a Most Improved Player candidate. Or perhaps he'll continue to do what should've been expected all along from a 29th pick in a weak draft.
I'm going to take a quick moment to directly address you, the Archie Goodwin faithful. I would enjoy nothing more than to see Archie finally make the leap we have been anticipating since his arrival. I was just as optimistic as anyone about the kid's potential, and I even devoted a few hours of my life to making my case for a nickname that I still think is totally awesome.
I thought he was only a jumpshot away from being a true impact player, and that might still be the case. Understand that when I began writing this review, I started out with a clean slate. But in poring over the numbers, examining the context, and digging up the comments from coaches made over the course of the season, there is no other conclusion I can arrive at with a straight face other than Archie Goodwin has been a very poor NBA player thus far, and despite his increase in minutes leading to a bump in per-game averages, there hasn't been a single marked improvement that I can identify between 2013 and now.
Prove me wrong, Mongoose.
All stats are courtesy of basketball-reference.com