The Phoenix Suns snapped a two-game skid on Sunday night, squeaking by the Washington Wizards 112-108 at the Footprint Center. This was far from a vintage display, with the team using a 31-19 fourth-quarter run to power themselves to victory.
Devin Booker was at his best late in the game, scoring 11 of his 27 points in the final quarter of action. After disappointing home losses to the Brooklyn Nets (featuring former players Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson) and New York Knicks, this was an important win for the franchise. With the Wizards having only won four games all season, to drop a game to them would have been ugly.
The Suns were without Bradley Beal - who turned his ankle badly in the loss to the Knicks - but still shouldn't have struggled as they did against one of the worst teams in the league. At 14-12, they are clinging onto the final play-in spot, and with Beal expected to miss some time with his latest setback, are going to be right up against it to get a high seeding for the playoffs.
In the wake of the win over the Wizards, Booker was quick to praise backup point guard Jordan Goodwin for his role in the victory.
Goodwin played 20 minutes (up slightly on the 18.3 he has averaged so far this season), and he had six points, six assists and a surprising eight rebounds. That may seem like a small contribution - but with Beal out and Eric Gordon slotting into the sixth-man role - Goodwin was the next man off the bench and he stood up and was counted.
In fact head coach Frank Vogel went with a nine man rotation, with trade target Bol Bol among those who didn't see any action. When healthy, Goodwin is generally going to make the cut, but his performance in this one was much needed. The Suns were on the ropes, and Booker recognized the contributions of Goodwin after the game.
There may come a time before the trade deadline when the Suns have the chance to add a pass first point guard, and in doing so allow Booker to move back to the two-guard spot he has played since coming into the league. But whether that happens or not, Goodwin's spot as the backup guard to Booker or somebody else is secure.
When he is on the court, the defensive effort and intensity at the guard position goes up a notch. Which is just as well, because the Suns rank a poor 18th in defensive rating (115.0) on the season so far. They struggle to get spots consistently - yet in the minutes Goodwin is on the court - the team are a much better 108.8 on that end.
That is a top three defensive rating in the league, and easily the best mark of the 25-year-old's career to date as well. Goodwin is a limited player offensively, but he also takes care of the ball well and runs the second unit with a steady hand when Booker is not out there.
Goodwin is also one of only two players on this roster (the other is Jusuf Nurkic) to have appeared in every game so far this season. He hasn't started a single game, but has been an unequivocal success since coming to The Valley this summer from the Wizards in the deal that was centered around Beal joining Booker and Kevin Durant.
T.J. McConnell of the Indiana Pacers has long been linked with a move to the Suns, and he played his part in his own team reaching the finals of the inaugural in-season tournament. But it is also fair to ask at this stage, what exactly McConnell could do for this group, which Goodwin does not already do in his limited time on the court.
McConnell may be the friskier of the two defensively, but that is a tough attribute to quantify. He's also the better passer and has spent a lot longer in the league, but Goodwin is bigger, bulkier, doesn't get hunted as much by opponents and is growing in confidence running the team with each game. Booker has noticed all of this, and is right to praise one of the Suns' best role players in Goodwin.