Goodwin Finding Niche as Sparkplug Defender

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When the Suns drafted Archie Goodwin, observers pegged his greatest potential for impact on the offensive end, where the former Kentucky Wildcat made his mark as a slasher and playmaker.

Goodwin’s minutes and role, however, have come as a result of his defense. The rookie guard has shown exceptional speed and footwork while halting opposing perimeter scorers. SportVU player tracking reveals that opponents trying to score at the rim against Goodwin convert just 31.8 percent of their attempts.

“I don’t think there’s been too many times where teams have really taken advantage of him,” said Suns Head Coach Jeff Hornacek. “We tell him ‘focus on the defense. The offense, if you get something, you get something.’”

Goodwin’s points usually come in transition, often initiated by his own effort on defense. With that role in mind, the first-year player can think less about the mechanics of his game and simply focus on infusing energy while on the court.

The result has allowed Hornacek to play him for stretches that range anywhere from four to eight minutes per half, almost always beside Eric Bledsoe or Goran Dragic in the backcourt. Such pairings further lessen any concerns about Goodwin’s offense and give him an elite running mate when his defense produces a turnover.

His willingness to focus on that end of the floor, Hornacek said, is the reason he has been able to get plenty of opportunities.

“If they focus on their defense, that’s what keeps them in the game,” Hornacek said. “I think that’s what always jumps out at coaches. If a guy’s out there and he’s not rotating, his man’s driving by him, then we’re going ‘hey, we’ve got to get that guy out of the game.’ Archie’s done a good job staying in front of his man.”

Even when he loses a step, Goodwin has shown a knack for making up for it with his elite speed and length. He boasts an 8-foot-6 standing reach and a 36-inch vertical leap. Both came in handy on Tuesday night, when he initially let Xavier Henry drive past him. Goodwin didn’t give up on the play, scrambling quickly enough to get block the shot despite the awkward angle at the rim.

“You’re going ‘oh no’, but he came back and he blocked the shot,” Hornacek said of the play. “He recovered. He’s got that special ability that he can recover when he makes mistakes.”