PHOENIX — At 19 years and 19 days, Phoenix Suns guard Archie Goodwin enters the 2013-14 season as the youngest American-born player in the NBA.
But the 6-foot-5 rookie doesn’t want to talk about being a project pick — selected No. 29 in the 2013 NBA Draft — or starting his career on a team in full-on rebuild mode.
Instead, the former Kentucky standout (14.1 points, 4.6 assists, 2.7 rebounds per game in 2012-13) is concerned with one thing and one thing only: Beginning his life as a professional athlete.
At the Suns’ 2013-14 Media Day last week, Goodwin didn’t sound like a teenager overwhelmed by the moment. No, he sounded like an adult ready to get to work.
“I got moved in early,” Goodwin said about his summer. “I just moved in and really just tried to focus on getting into the gym and working out. I’ve been trying to gain weight but I know I’m young and that my metabolism is at a high right now. I’m really just trying to maintain, try not to lose so much.”
Aside from fine tuning his workout regime and dietary habits, there is work to be done on the court as well.
As he illustrated during Phoenix’s run to the final of the 2013 Las Vegas Summer League, Goodwin is an athletic freak in a combo guard’s body. He thrives in transition, fills the lanes well from either wing and can get to the basket regardless of contact.
But while Goodwin averaged 13.3 points and 3.3 rebounds in 24.6 minutes per game over the summer, the same concerns that plagued the Arkansas native heading into June’s draft still exist.
Here was the analysis of Goodwin’s offensive game back in May:
Goodwin clearly has the athleticism, the explosiveness and the wingspan (6-foot-10) to play at the next level, but his shot selection, mechanics and consistency from both the free throw line and three-point range are a bit troubling.
As a freshman, Goodwin had no problem getting off his shot — whether it came off his own dribble or off of a screen from another teammate. His issue was connecting on it. For the season, the former McDonald’s All-American shot 26.6 percent from distance and went 11 straight games during SEC play without connecting on a single three-point shot. He also shot an underwhelming 63.7 percent from the charity stripe.
From Goodwin’s film, it seems most of his shooting woes can be attributed to his lower body mechanics. While his shot and follow through seem to be relatively under control, he doesn’t always release with a balanced frame. One leg is usually bent forward during the release and at times neither foot is firmly square towards the basket. Because of those flaws in technique, Goodwin’s shot has a tendency to be rather flat.
According to Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic, the 198-pound guard has spent a majority of training camp at Flagstaff’s Rolle Activity Center working on his shot with head coach Jeff Hornacek. The goal is simple: Move Goodwin’s release point from the middle of his head to the right in order to get more arc and lift on the ball.
While Goodwin struggled with his shot (1-of-7 from the floor) in Saturday’s scrimmage, the Suns’ patient approach seems to be a better fit for the rookie than what he endured during his one year under John Calipari in Lexington.
“It’s a lot different,” Goodwin told Coro. “With Calipari, it’s so much more intense as far as his coaching style. Coach Hornacek is more laid-back. He’s easier to get along with than Coach Cal is on the court. It’s Coach Cal’s way. If he sees it his way, that’s it. There’s no talking to him about it. With Hornacek, if he sees something or you see something and you might have a different view on it, you could talk about it and I could discuss it.”
Odds are Goodwin and Hornacek will be discussing plenty during the 2013-14 campaign. The first-year Sun hit a wall during his freshman season at Kentucky and will likely go through a similar situation as February or March of 2014 rolls around.
Still, it would serve both he and the organization well, if his on-court development primarily takes place during games and not on a practice court.
While the days of him running the point might be few and far between — at least based on how Phoenix’ roster is currently constructed — whether it’s alongside Goran Dragic or Eric Bledsoe, the Suns would be wise to find a way to carve out 15-20 minutes of playing time for him every night.
Although it likely will be choppy and hard to watch at points, the only way to turn Goodwin’s flashes of greatness into something more is to run him through a trial by error.
Like most teenagers, making mistakes early on usually serve as the best lessons for later.