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Suns’ Hornacek on Len, Goodwin: ‘We couldn’t just throw them out there and hope for the best’

Where are Alex Len and Archie Goodwin?

If you were watching Phoenix Suns games as the season crawled to a close, perhaps you were asking that question. Or maybe you weren’t.

Either way, head coach Jeff Hornacek addressed that query Wednesday night on the Phoenix Suns End of Year Special on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.

“If you’re a team that’s losing consistently, now you throw the young guys in there and have them learn that way. But we felt that with our team and the start we got off to, that we were a good team and we couldn’t just throw them out there and hope for the best,” Hornacek said.

Just because the two rookies didn’t get a lot of playing time as the team cruised to a 48-34 record didn’t mean that the organization had given up on them, Hornacek added.

“And these guys were great in practice. Every single day they practiced hard,” the first-year coach said. “When Alex got off his ankle injury, he was practicing and giving our guys fits in practice. And that’s how they’re going to get better. They both have bright futures.”

Len, a 20-year-old center, had a crucial tip-in to help the Suns win on March 14 in Boston, but he played less and less as the season wore on — including just two appearances and 18 total minutes over the final eight games as Phoenix made some last-ditch efforts at earning a postseason berth.

The fifth overall pick of the 2013 draft finished the season having appeared in 42 games — starting in three — averaging 2.0 points and 2.4 rebounds while shooting 42.3 percent in 8.6 minutes per contest.

Similarly, Goodwin, the 29th overall selection in last summer’s draft, played sparingly throughout the season and even spent time in the Development League on two different occasions. However, he went out on a high note, scoring 29 points, grabbing four rebounds and shooting 11-for-13 in a season-ending win in Sacramento.

The 19-year-old Kentucky product finished the season averaging 3.7 points and 1.7 rebounds on 45.5 percent shooting in 52 games.

“Archie can really get to the basket,” Hornacek said. “He’s working on his shooting. You can see the progression he made from the beginning of the year on his shot.

“People out there might not see it, but we see it in practice. And it looks a lot smoother, because it feels better than it did before. So that’s something he’s just going to get used to.”

Fans may not have seen much of the two in 2013-14, but Hornacek said they “absolutely” could play bigger roles next season and beyond.

“These guys are going to get thrown into it probably a little bit more next year,” the coach said. “They have great confidence in themselves, and we have confidence in them that they’re going to be great players.”