The journey of evaluating Archie Goodwin’s career is a nice way of looking at the Ryan McDonough era to this point in Phoenix.
Drafted 29th overall in 2013, Goodwin had serious upside, but it was widely agreed upon that he would take time before he was ready to seriously contribute to the Suns.
A year later, the 48-win Suns that had real potential.
In the 2014-15 season, the Suns failed to meet those expectations and improve, just like Goodwin, who showed no improvement from year one to year two.
There was no reason to fret, though, because this was a team built for the future with plenty of young assets. A slip in year two was no reason to panic. It was the same for Goodwin, who was just going to turn 21-years-old.
This team didn’t need to make the playoffs in 2014-15 season and they were going to grow on their own.
All of a sudden, the signing of Tyson Chandler further solidified playoff expectations for the 2015-16 season and in year three, it was time to really see what the Suns and Goodwin had.
Instead of bouncing back, the Suns fell even further in the 2015-16 campaign. There’s been major regression, and in year three of a rebuilding project, they are arguably at the lowest point of the initial progression since McDonough arrived.
Like Goodwin, if that floor had come in 2013, there was no reason to become unrest because of the growth expected in the future.
But it’s not 2013 anymore. It’s 2016, and the Suns are headed for a top-five selection in the NBA Draft. Jeff Hornacek is gone and their best assets are that aforementioned draft pick and a selection in the 2015 Draft, Devin Booker.
It’s not Eric Bledsoe, who despite fulfilling his All-Star potential, has had two serious knee surgeries halt the seasons when he would have likely made the team.
Bledsoe is no longer a budding talent. He’s 26-years-old and should be making those All-Star teams and leading the Suns to the playoffs. Two of his three seasons trying to do so ended in a knee surgery, which should bring serious concern and cannot be ignored.
McDonough scoured the NBA for any available All-Star or a younger player with All-Star potential ever since he got to Phoenix and while he struck gold on Bledsoe, he did the opposite with Brandon Knight.
When he arrived, Knight seemed like a great fit off the ball with Bledsoe after nearly making the All-Star team with Milwaukee in the same season.
Instead, Knight’s flaws have been exposed in Phoenix. He’s a mess on defense, not a good passer even for shooting guard standards, a streaky shooter and fails to consistently create good looks for both his teammates and himself.
It’s worth noting right now that Knight is not overpaid. He’s one of the best microwave scorers in the league, recently turned 24-years-old and can run the point despite his inefficiencies. It’s not fair to evaluate Knight’s contract until players like Kent Bazemore and Festus Ezeli get paid this offseason with a major rise in the salary cap coming for the 2016-17 season.
Knight’s a natural fit to come off the bench and that’s even easier with Devin Booker’s play. The problem is that Knight does not sound like a player that wants to come off the bench and spend time away from the point guard position.
Booker gives the Suns a dilemma for that reason. It’s not a question of if he’s starting for the Suns when they are fully healthy in the future, it’s when. He’s got star potential and this season has accelerated his growth even further with the amount of playing time he’s been getting.
Those are the big three, but Goodwin and Bogdan Bogdanovic should be included in the discussion.
Goodwin’s development finally came in year three, showing true point guard skills while filling in for Bledsoe and Knight.
He continues to improve as a defender. The Kentucky product has gone from an elite slashing tweener who can do nothing else to a multi-dimensional point guard prospect.
The 2014 first-round pick Bogdanovic is worth monitoring this summer. If Bogdanovic comes over this summer, he will be given a rookie scale contract. However, if Bogdanovic waits another year like Nikola Mirotic did with the Chicago Bulls, he can avoid that rookie wall for his contract.
If he did wait until 2017, Bogdanovic would be 25-years-old and ready to play in the rotation right away. His shooting and scoring immediately translates, he’s a crafty defender and his vision and ball handling adds versatility to his game.
The trouble for the Suns is how well-stocked they are at guard. The roster suggests they should look elsewhere to improve.
A step-slow Tyson Chandler and Alex Len’s inconsistencies in both his play and health aren’t a guarantee at center. T.J. Warren doesn’t look quite ready enough to replace a 30-year-old P.J. Tucker and the departure of Markieff Morris leaves two expiring contracts at power forward in Mirza Teletovic and Jon Leuer.
The Suns need to figure out what sort of confidence they should have in Bledsoe’s knees, Knight’s role in the backcourt, how much they should factor in Bogdanovic to their future plans, if Goodwin can positively contribute at point guard and how to build around Booker.
Those issues do not sound like something that can be resolved in one season and it’s not 2013 anymore.
Fans are growing more impatient with McDonough by the day and they aren’t just expecting improvement, they’re expecting to contend for a playoff spot like they were supposed to for the past two seasons.
Most of the major transactions have not gone his way and continue to multiply the pressure as our own Bryan Gibberman highlighted.
A lot has gone wrong, but the selection of Booker has been a life saver. There’s still a lot to be determined.
Bledsoe’s health, the growth of the 2013 and 2014 draft picks, the (possible) three selections in this year’s draft and how the Suns address their needs with plenty of assets still left and potentially $30 million in cap space give them a chance to still wind up where most thought they would be in 2013.
Should the Suns draft a guard with their top pick in the 2016 draft? Of course not. It would be a mistake, however, to undermine the uncertainty at both guard positions.