The Phoenix Suns currently sit where no professional sports franchise wishes to be: slightly above average. Not quite good enough to challenge for a title or bottom out into the lottery, Phoenix has some very difficult decisions to make going forward. Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, the Morris Twins (Markieff & Marcus) and Alex Len are solid building blocks but the focus needs to shift towards developing the brightest young talent on the roster, second-year guard Archie Goodwin.
Sure Goodwin has struggled to get consistent playing time during his short run in Phoenix but that has never deterred the 20-year old’s tremendous confidence. It seems as if Coach Jeff Hornacek and the entire organization (including GM Ryan McDonough) made a pact to develop Goodwin at an extremely slow rate, so they can make a push to be competitive in the short term.
Initially, it made some sense because Archie was coming off an inconsistent freshman season at Kentucky, a far cry from the dominant play Coach John Calipari expected from former High School All-American. But after receiving strong endorsements from the coaching staff this year, Goodwin was in line to see an uptick in minutes. Instead, the Suns went in other directions to stunt his growth.
Since Archie was drafted in 2013, Phoenix traded for Eric Bledsoe, Gerald Green, Reggie Bullock, Brandon Knight and Marcus Thornton, signed Isaiah Thomas and drafted Tyler Ennis…most of whom figured to get playing time ahead of him. D-League stints, trade threats and questions of loyalty followed from Archie but who can blame him?
Goodwin is more than capable of handling extended minutes, similar to how the Morris twins and Len have thrived with greater opportunity. He has all of the tools to become a perennial All-Star down the line: great work ethic, fearlessness attacking the basket and good size (6’5). His jumper is a little iffy but he’s shown signs of improvement over the past few months. A tireless worker on both ends, he projects as the Suns’ top wing defender in a couple of seasons and seems to fit much better next to Bledsoe in the long run.
In a recent game versus the Chicago Bulls, Goodwin displayed his versatile offensive skill set and how suitable he is in Phoenix’s uptempo style:
It’s scary to think what Archie can grow into if given the right tutelage under the ideal circumstance. The key for him is to continue to work hard in practice (to improve his jumper and defensive intensity) and stand out in every stint (avg. 19 pts, & 6 rebs per 36 minutes this season), however brief, he gets. If consistency develops, it’ll be tough for Goodwin to stay off the court.
Phoenix may have the second coming of Dwyane Wade buried at the end of the bench. Once they realize it, the Suns can finally escape one of the most damning realities known to man: hopelessly mediocre.