It’s always fun to engage in a bit of small sample size theatre as October comes to a close, marking the first stretch of the NBA season. So who better to focus on than an exciting new guard for the Phoenix Suns, Jordan Goodwin?
Defense is Goodwin’s calling card going back to his days in Washington before joining Phoenix along with Bradley Beal as part of that trade, and that’s shown up early in the season.
He’s helped the Suns to a fourth-best defensive rating (100.7) after nearly a week of the season gone by with Goodwin ranking as the best individual on the team in that stat so far (86.4) all while logging the sixth-most total minutes thus far (69).
But we know that these days in the NBA — and especially come playoff time — it’s hard to stay on the floor if you can only play one end. So what does Goodwin bring offensively?
One of the first things I notice when watching Goodwin is just how smart he is as an off-ball floater. He’s always moving in some form or fashion to keep the defense honest and fill space as needed. This can be as simple as floating from deep in the corner to more of the wing area to open up passing lanes, making it easier on his teammates.
That’s illustrated beautifully with his three near the end of the first quarter vs. Utah Jazz when threw it into Kevin Durant at the mid-post area then floated from a deep right-wing area to a higher right-wing area. That way, his defender has to commit more when helping on Durant, leaving Goodwin even more open than he would’ve been otherwise.
These subtle nuances might not feel like a big deal, but this is a game of inches, and whatever a player can do to make things easier at all makes quite a difference.
Goodwin has also proven to have a very functional handle that can make a case for the best on the team outside the big three. Even in tight spaces — like on an assist to Jusuf Nurkic in the second quarter — he can safely get the ball where it needs to go. Perfect for a team that’s struggled with ball security through the first few games.
Sometimes, he even throws in a hostage dribble here and there to get the defender on his hip, which isn’t something you see all that often from non-top 100 players.
He’s also shown a willingness to throw ahead outlet passes to keep up the pace and keep the defense on their heels, something we almost never saw from Chris Paul in his time here. Head coach Frank Vogel has talked about wanting to attack defenses before they’re set, so he probably loves Goodwin’s mindset there.
In transition, he has Patrick Mahomes-like accuracy and timing, threading the needle in tight windows to generate highlight plays for teammates, like he does with Nas Little multiple times in the second half.
By the numbers, Goodwin started to get it going from three in the Jazz game, finishing 2-5 3P where one of the misses can be optimistically written off as a late-clock catch-the-hot potato-type of shot. Coming into that game, he was just 1-6 3P on the year. Synergy has him shooting 3-6 3P on the year on open spot-ups as well, which is maybe even more encouraging than the recent uptick.
At the rim, he’s 8-11 (72.7%) at the rim, and that’s without any dunks. The 1.45 points per shot he generates from close range are in the 86th percentile of the league; great efficiency, especially for someone with a 6-foot-3 frame, banging in there through the trees.
It’s also impossible to talk about his rim efficacy without talking about Goodwin’s magnetism to the free throw line. He’s third on the team in total free throw attempts (nine) so far and is fifth in free throw rate (.321).
From a usage standpoint, he’s about an even split between spot-ups (20 possessions) and running pick-and-rolls (17 possessions) but expect that to be much more lopsided the healthier Devin Booker and Bradley Beal become.
He will drive to either side of the court, but so far the only success comes when he drives right; 4-4 when driving right, and 0-5 when driving left.
Overall, for a player most weren’t expecting much of at all, let alone offensively, Goodwin has proven he deserves a role on this team through three games. Part of that, yes, is due to the absences of stars, Booker and Beal, but even when those guys are healthy, they’ll still need some time on the bench during games.