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What Phoenix Suns can expect from defensive stalwart Jordan Goodwin

Gerald Bourguet Avatar
July 6, 2023

Jordan Goodwin first found out about the Bradley Beal trade on Instagram. His Washington Wizards teammate — another St. Louis legend he’d grown up watching since he was a kid, and someone he’d met for the first time all the way back in seventh grade — was being traded away to the Phoenix Suns.

Five minutes later, that bit of shocking news took a turn for the better.

“I checked Instagram, seen Brad got traded,” Goodwin said. “And five minutes later, I get a call saying I got traded. So it was kind of exciting, especially to still be with my mentor, big brother coming over here.”

Included alongside Beal and Isaiah Todd, Jordan Goodwin was no throw-in, however. The 6-foot-3 point guard brings a few important traits to the table that the Suns could use right away.

“I think it’s unbelievably refreshing for them to get a new look and a new opportunity,” Beal said of Goodwin and Todd at his introductory press conference. “They weren’t just thrown in to be thrown in. Like, we value what they’re able to bring to the table and to the team.”

Expectations will remain tempered for a player who averaged 6.6 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 0.9 steals in 17.8 minutes per game for a 35-win Wizards team last year. Goodwin’s contract is only partially guaranteed, and after the Suns added Todd’s fully guaranteed contract, picked up Ish Wainright’s team option (non-guaranteed until January) and signed rookie Toumani Camara, Phoenix’s upcoming trip to NBA Summer League carries some additional weight.

Goodwin should have no problem carving out a spot on the roster, but after a busy free agency period for the Suns, it’s worth taking a look at where all these new arrivals fit in. Much like we already did with our expectations for Camara, here’s a breakdown of what fans can expect from Jordan Goodwin.

Jordan Goodwin brings playmaking but not much shooting

On the offensive end, Goodwin is an underrated passer and a limited shooter. He shot an okay 44.8 percent from the floor overall last year, but made only 32.2 percent of his 1.9 3-point attempts per game.

In an offense that will revolve around high-octane scorers and playmakers like Beal, Devin Booker and Kevin Durant, Phoenix could really use floor-spacers around their Big 3. Goodwin doesn’t project to fill that role at this point, making 34.2 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3s last season and ranking in the 43rd percentile in points per possession on spot-up looks.

The one glimmer of hope is that he went 13-for-26 on corner 3s, but that’s a really limited sample size. Goodwin believes his shooting has been one of his biggest growth areas since he first entered the league in 2021, but if he can’t prove that growth — or corner 3 efficiency — is sustainable, the Suns will likely use him in more of an on-ball role than they will as a floor-spacer.

That’s because Goodwin is quite useful as a driver, ranking in the NBA’s 79th percentile in drives per 75 possessions, according to The BBall Index. He was able to finish pretty well when he got there, making 69 percent of his shots at the rim, but his secondary playmaking could really pay dividends on a team that will surround him with so many weapons.

According to advanced stats and the eye test alike, Goodwin had a knack for probing the defense to find open shooters or cutters whenever he drove the lane. He ranked in the 70th percentile in both drive pass-out rate and drive assist rate, and his ability to draw in help defenders, read the rotation and scope out 3s on the weak-side will come in handy for a Suns team that just stacked the deck with a bevy of corner snipers:

Goodwin didn’t check out as an efficient — or even average — ball-handler in the pick-and-roll, but he displayed a knack for threading nifty passes through the trees in the lane. The BBall Index placed him in the 83rd percentile in assists per 75 possessions, 72nd percentile in potential assists per 100 passes and 84th percentile in high-value assists per 75 possessions.

Setting teammates up for open 3s and pretty finishes around the basket looked like it was second nature for the second-year guard. Whether it was two-handed pocket passes, shovel passes or one-handed wrap-around passes, he made the smart plays in the paint:

Goodwin won’t function as a lead playmaker on a team that already has Booker, Beal and Durant, especially since he’ll be fighting Cam Payne for minutes off the bench. But it’s a skill-set the Suns should be aware of, even if Goodwin already knows he needs to be flexible on offense.

“Just understanding the court, understanding how to play off other players,” he said. “Understanding that, especially with this team I’m on now, I’m not gonna be having the ball in my hand. I might be a screen and roller or crash, you know what I’m saying? Just understanding my role.”

Point-of-attack defense is where Jordan Goodwin will really shine

Regardless of how the Suns choose to activate Goodwin on the offense, it’s the defensive end where this new arrival will make his mark.

“I think Jordan is gonna surprise a lot of people,” Beal said. “A lot of people may not know who he is, but he is a nasty, tenacious defender who loves the game, who will compete at both ends of the floor.”

Gifted with a 6-foot-10 wingspan, Goodwin excels at the point of attack — an area where the Suns needed help entering the offseason, in order to spare Booker or Beal from having to defend opposing teams’ best point guards on a nightly basis. Josh Okogie or Keita Bates-Diop will likely get that assignment in the starting lineup, but as a defensive specialist off the bench under a defensive-minded coach like Frank Vogel, Goodwin should get his chances to wreak havoc.

“He’s a very compelling talent,” Vogel said. “I think Bradley said it best, he’s a tenacious defender with good size and physicality. As we fill out the rest of our roster, we want to make sure that we’re one of the most physical, toughest teams in the NBA, and Jordan at the guard position represents that. So I’m excited to watch him work.”

In his one-on-one interview with PHNX Sports, Vogel mentioned that envisions Goodwin and Camara being “big parts” of what the Suns do because of their effort and toughness on the defensive end. Camara has to prove himself at the next level, but the 24-year-old Goodwin spent all of last season making his mark as a defensive hound in Washington’s backcourt.

As a point-of-attack defender, Goodwin ranked in the 92nd percentile in on-ball perimeter defense. According to The BBall Index, he spent most of his time on slashers or secondary ball-handlers, but he was accustomed to shadowing lead scorers and playmakers all over the court, placing in the 91st percentile in ball-screen navigation, 85th percentile in off-ball chaser defense and 84th percentile in defensive miles per 75 possessions.

Not only did Goodwin rate well in those areas, but he routinely blew up plays with deflating steals. Utilizing his terrific instincts, good hands and quick reflexes, Goodwin routinely pounced on his unaware prey, tapping the ball to himself or a nearby teammate:

Watching him shade over to catch star ball-handlers unaware for an easy strip or sniff out the nearest passing lane for abrupt interceptions, it’s no surprise Goodwin ranked in the 96th percentile in steals per 75 possessions, 92nd percentile in deflections per 75 possessions and 89th percentile in passing lane defense.

That knack for making defensive plays to dominate that side of the ball is something he realized he could harness back in college at St. Louis.

“I’ve kind of been playing defense my whole life, know what I’m sayin’?” Goodwin said. “But kind of when I really realized it was in college. I had a game with like seven or eight steals one game. I was like, ‘All right.’ Everybody started talking about it, so it’s like, ‘Okay, that’s different. Let me start doing this.’ So I kind of just continued that on.”

Goodwin isn’t just adept at reading plays and judging angles to decide when to jump passing lanes or sneak over from the weak-side for an easy strip. He’ll also take the fight right to his man, embarrassing ball-handlers with the type of one-on-one burglaries that typically prompt a frustrated timeout from opposing coaches.

Goodwin ranked in the 97th percentile in pickpocket rating and the 70th percentile in loose ball recovery rate, so when he went for those riskier 50-50 balls, he usually got them.

That’s the kind of defensive chaos the Suns would love to see coming off their bench, and it extends beyond the first line of the defense as well. Although most of his “blocks” last season were of the “shooter gets stripped while going up for a shot” variety, Goodwin also displayed pretty good timing and instincts for swatting shots from behind before the ball got too high and out of his reach:

Goodwin is not some undersized weak-side rim protector by any means, but he rarely gave up on plays and made opposing shooters pay for it when they forgot he was still in pursuit. It’s part of the reason why Goodwin ranked in the 76th percentile in rim contests per 75 possessions and 96th percentile in rim points saved per 75 possessions.

Opponents shot 4.6 percent worse at the rim when defended by Goodwin, which is an impressive number for a 6-foot-3 guard. But thanks to his wingspan, solid timing and upbringing as a big man, he took some people by surprise whenever he got caught on a “mismatch” in the post.

“I actually started off playing a big man,” Goodwin said. “Started off center. My dad was coaching me and I gradually kept going out.”

Goodwin said in college, people were always surprised to realize such a little guard averaging 10 rebounds a game. By now, most NBA players have adjusted to him being a stout rebounder and sturdy post defender, but it speaks to his versatility that he ranked in the NBA’s 80th percentile in time spent defending post scorers and also the 79th percentile in time spent defending point guards.

The question is how Vogel will choose to deploy him. Goodwin feels like he can fit in any system because of his defensive tools, but adjusting to a new team’s system and terminology takes time. Goodwin will get to know assistant Quinton Crawford as his new Summer League head coach, but he’s already been familiarizing himself with the types of defenses Frank Vogel ran in the past as well.

“Just going back and watching the teams he had, what type of system he’s running, what type of guards, how aggressive he wants to play and things like that,” Goodwin explained. “So just little things like that. Just trying to get ahead of the game a little bit.”

Goodwin looks to lead at Summer League

Including Goodwin, Wainright, Todd and Camara, the Suns now have 16 players under contract heading into next season. Teams are allowed to carry up to 21 players in the offseason before whittling it down to 18 in training camp (15 roster spots plus three two-way contracts), but there’s no question Summer League represents a proving ground for Camara, Todd and even Goodwin.

Most observers typically expect to see more proven NBA commodities put up big numbers in Summer League, but Goodwin said his focus won’t be scoring or trying to do too much. Instead, he just wants to be himself, prove he can be a leader for his more inexperienced teammates, and let his game speak for itself.

“Just approaching it how I approach every other day, just trying to be a leader,” he said. “Understand I got more experience than some of these guys coming in. So just doing my best to let ’em know basically what to expect and just go out there and play freely, play calm, and don’t put too much pressure on yourself.”

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