PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns have a lot to be excited about going forward. They have a budding backcourt with heaps of potential. They have a coach and general manager who easily could have taken home awards after their first year on the job. And they have cap space and draft picks to make a 48-win team even better.
But perhaps one of the most exciting, and more known, developments is the potential of guard Archie Goodwin. His recent arrest for allegedly cursing and resisting arrest at a skating rink may raise a small red flag unrelated to basketball but unless something bigger comes of it will be a single blip on the radar.
In a limited amount of playing time, the 19-year-old made an impressive mark with his hard work on and off the court. Goodwin was usually the last person to leave the practice court, sometimes staying over 30 minutes longer than anybody else.
But, hard work does not mean anything without results. Though it was a small sample size, Goodwin did enough to make many excited for what could come.
“Archie is unbelievable,” Suns guard Goran Dragic said. “He didn’t play a lot this season. I already talked with him, it’s his first season, so be patient. You’re going to get opportunity.
“I feel like Steve (Nash) talking to me,” Dragic added about Goodwin. “He was such a positive guy. He was always working hard. He came to the practice when maybe we were down, we didn’t have energy. He and P.J. lift the practice up and everybody have to follow them. Archie demonstrate he’s going to be a great player in this year.”
The question has to be asked: Why so much hype for a player that only played in 52 games?
I mean, he only averaged 3.7 points per game and scored double digits in just four games.
His three point shot is non-existent — Goodwin made five of 36 attempts — defensively he still needs work and he can be wild at times offensively.
His flaws, and a lack of minutes, forced him into a couple stints with the Bakersfield Jam in the D-League. In five games at Bakersfield, Goodwin averaged 26.4 points along with five rebounds per game. The Suns wanted Goodwin to work on the flaws in his D-League stints, and Goodwin made the most of those opportunities by shooting much better behind the three point line — he went 10-for-26 with the Jam — and showed improvement on defense at times.
Goodwin feels like his outside shot, which was criticized out of college for being flat, will improve with more playing time.
“I don’t think it’s really a part of not being consistent,” Goodwin said. “When you play maybe five minutes every four or five games, you might shoot one three every 10 games.
“Nobody’s going to shoot a great percentage. I think it’s really a matter of me being able to get extended minutes and being able to shoot it comfortably and getting into the flow of the game. Then you’ll see the numbers rise.”
Playing time could be increased as soon as next season. Backup point guard Ish Smith is not on a guaranteed contract, which puts Goodwin in the mix for more playing time. How the backcourt shakes out depends on if Goodwin can assume point guard duties to play with Dragic or Eric Bledsoe should he return to Phoenix.
“Just me being so aggressive, it opens up a lot of passing lanes,” Goodwin said in October. “That really was a result of guys sucking in and me kicking it to them. I just have to continue to feed my teammates from my aggressiveness.”
Goodwin’s aggressiveness really showed in the season finale at Sacramento when he put up a season high of 29 points.
Those points came on just 11 made shots and 13 field goal attempts, and they included a three-pointer and six made free throws. Goodwin displayed a little bit of everything that night with his aggressiveness driving to the basket, his high flying dunks and even an improved outside shot. Kings guard Ben McLemore, the seventh overall pick in the 2013 draft, could not stick with Goodwin, the 29th overall pick.
“It meant a lot,” Goodwin said, reflecting on the last game. “Because for me to end the season the way I did with that game, it really shows the dedication I was putting into this.”
Goodwin played one year at Kentucky before deciding to come to the NBA at the raw age of 18 when he was drafted. Being a late first round pick in the draft that saw minimal playing time has made some question whether he made the correct choice in leaving college early. It certainly must have stung a little for the rookie to see his team make a tournament run to the championship game this season before falling to Connecticut.
Though many see his decision to come to the NBA as going against him, Goodwin sees it as another step towards becoming a great player in the NBA someday.
“I knew at the end of the day what I wanted to do with my life since I was 8 years old,” Goodwin said. “Being at school wasn’t going to help me anymore.
“I mean, there was nothing more I really felt like I could do other than win a national championship. You know, that would have been great to win, don’t get me wrong. I credit those guys who went back this year and what they did. That team they had this year was phenomenal. I was turning them all through the whole way. I was their biggest fan,” he added. “Me personally, I feel like I know what I want to do with my life, and I feel like I can be one of the better player to ever to play this game if I just continue to work. For me to be only 19 and have a really bright future ahead of myself as long as I continue to work, listen to my coaches and the rest will take care of itself.”
Goodwin’s hard work throughout the year did not go unnoticed by the coaching staff.
Suns coach Jeff Hornacek had nothing but praise after the season for his two first round picks from 2013 — Goodwin and fourth overall pick Alex Len — citing specifically the improvements on Goodwin’s jump shot.
“Both those guys are probably the two hardest-working guys on the team,” Hornacek said. “They’re in to practice every day. They’re in the weight room. They stay after. They’re working on their games.
“Obviously Archie is changing his shot up some. That’s a very difficult thing to do. I told Archie, ‘When you start doing this, you’re probably going to be worse than you were before. You’re going to have that little downfall and then you’re going to go back up.’ Even in that last game against Sacramento, when he took those jump shots, they looked much better than they did earlier in the season.”
Goodwin’s jump shot is going to be a thing he will need to work on over the summer — gaining weight is the other but it’s been hard for the young guard to put on pounds with his metabolism. Only 12 of Goodwin’s 81 made baskets came from away of the rim and only seven of those came from outside of the paint.
The one thing you can bet on is that Goodwin will put every ounce of energy towards not only improving his jump shot, but improving every part of his game.
After going through exit interviews at the end of the season, the endless worker said he was not taking a day off this summer.
“Nah, I will be in the gym tomorrow,” Goodwin said.