New Roster Gives Archie Goodwin His Opportunity

Oct 29, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Archie Goodwin (20) against the Los Angeles Lakers during the home opener at US Airways Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 29, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Archie Goodwin (20) against the Los Angeles Lakers during the home opener at US Airways Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

The Phoenix Suns have lost seven of their last eight games. They just traded away one-third of their 15-man roster at the NBA Trade Deadline and now sit 1.5 games out of the eighth spot in the West.

Knowing this young team could compete in a historically brutal conference has made the recent struggles hard to watch, but the most frustrating part of seeing a young team flounder in its playoff pursuit was the knowledge that the youngest players in need of development couldn’t crack the rotation.

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By trading away Goran Dragic, Isaiah Thomas and Tyler Ennis, the Suns are now down to two point guards. But if an extremely small sample size of two games is any indication for the new-look Suns, Archie Goodwin will finally get his chance to show what he can do.

Before the trade deadline, Goodwin had played a grand total of 98 minutes on the season. In the two games since, Goodwin has played 38 minutes…and he’s looked good while doing it.

The potential of this 20-year-old Kentucky product hasn’t been a secret to anyone. His athleticism, his wing span and his speed have made him a treat to watch in the limited instances he’s stepped onto the floor. Last year, we saw it in the final game of the season against the Sacramento Kings, when he put up a career-high 29 points as a rookie.

It was a thoroughly meaningless game against one of the worst teams in the Western Conference, and the Suns had already been eliminated from the playoffs. But for a 19-year-old rookie, Goodwin was impressive regardless. He got out in transition with highlight reel dunks and no one could stop him from attacking the rim. Once he got to the rim, he knew how to finish in style.

But after bringing in Isaiah Thomas and drafting Tyler Ennis last summer, the Suns suddenly had a very crowded backcourt in a two point guard — and sometimes even three point guard — system. Goodwin’s minutes took a severe hit as the Suns fluctuated between “promising young team” and “have they hit their ceiling?”

That’s not to say Goodwin had changed though. His bright future was pretty evident when he got in the game, like the time he decided he wanted to commit the basketball equivalent of homicide on poor Jonas Valanciunas:

But the majority of Goodwin’s highlights this season came from his time with the Bakersfield Jam, Phoenix’s D-League affiliate. In 10 games with the Jam, Goodwin averaged 22.6 points and 6.5 rebounds per game while shooting 43.6 percent from the field.

In his best game with the Jam, Goodwin put up 35 points in a win over the Reno Bighorns and capped off his big night with an impossibly difficult game-winning jumper:

Yes, playing in the D-League is a lot different from playing in the NBA. But with the Suns struggling heading into the All-Star break, it seemed like a pity to shackle all that potential to the bench.

Now that the trade deadline has passed and missing the playoffs feels like an understandable outcome, Goodwin is finally getting his opportunity to shine.

In the first game of the new-look Suns, Goodwin played a season-high 21 minutes off the bench. New additions Brandon Knight and Marcus Thornton didn’t suit up, making Goodwin the de facto backup point guard behind Eric Bledsoe. Goodwin finished with 12 points (3-of-6 shooting), four assists and three rebounds. He was aggressive attacking the basket as well, making five of his six free throw attempts.

In his second game, Goodwin finished with 12 points in 17 minutes, going 6-for-8 from the floor and scoring the majority of his points in transition. Brandon Knight found him on the break a few times and Goodwin more than held his own when he was in the game by capitalizing on those easy opportunities.

Technically speaking, Phoenix isn’t out of the playoff picture yet. Despite the recent skid, the Suns are only 1.5 games behind the Oklahoma City Thunder, who will be re-evaluating Kevin Durant in a week after he underwent a procedure on his right foot to reduce discomfort.

The Thunder made all the right moves at the deadline, but injuries are an unfortunate, important aspect of the game. The new players need time to adjust and KD’s absence won’t help with the chemistry building. On top of that, the New Orleans Pelicans might not be a playoff threat anymore, losing Anthony Davis for the next 1-2 weeks and Ryan Anderson for the next 2-4 weeks.

If the Suns can regroup from a tumultuous last couple of weeks, the playoffs aren’t impossible. But the last thing this team needs is to start giving minutes to Marcus Thornton — who has yet to play for the Suns — over Goodwin.

The ultimate goal this season should be building cohesion between the players of this young core, and none may be as important as Archie Goodwin. In other words, maybe there IS some reason for optimism, Suns fans.

Next: Goran Dragic: Top 10 Moments With The Phoenix Suns

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