The if of the 5th: Jordan Goodwin’s sneaky case as Suns’ best option

Oct 1, 2023, 6:58 AM

Jordan Goodwin, Washington Wizards...

Jordan Goodwin #7 of the Washington Wizards looks on against the New Orleans Pelicans at Capital One Arena on January 09, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

The unofficial start to the NBA season in media day is within a week, and who the Phoenix Suns make the fifth starter alongside Deandre Ayton, Bradley Beal, Devin Booker and Kevin Durant is unknown.

Well, that was how we introduced this series on Tuesday, a day before Ayton (and Toumani Camara) was traded to the Portland Trail Blazers as part of a multi-team trade in exchange for Jusuf Nurkic, Grayson Allen, Nassir Little and Keon Johnson.

Nurkic slots in for Ayton but the question still remains of who the fifth starter is, and now the Suns have even more options.

It is a compliment to the depth Phoenix has built up but also points to how necessary it is that they must figure that out. We are going to roll through eight candidates leading up to media day on Monday with respect to names like Damion Lee, Chimezie Metu and Ish Wainright, who could hypothetically start games this season as well.

While much intrigue is percolating in regard to the player receiving the nod on opening night in the Bay, we will instead preview all of the options under the optics of who starts the first game of round one in the postseason.

This means our conversations will naturally trend toward what these players have to do over the course of the regular season to earn that spot and how they can differentiate themselves over that time, as opposed to keeping it more theoretical by projecting how training camp and such goes.

That is likely how this will pan out. Head coach Frank Vogel will try different looks and grant various opportunities across a seven-month period. Injuries will force him to do so anyway. Could the Day One starter secure that job immediately? Sure. But Vogel and his staff would be wise to sift through everything he’s got.

Jordan Goodwin’s case as Suns’ 5th starter

Why should he start: Goodwin might be the best defender on the team. And the only reason I have the “might” qualifier is because he did so on the Washington Wizards, a team outside of high-level environments against contenders. He’s very good all around on the perimeter, and he’s established this at only 24 years old, so he’s got plenty of room to grow. If the Suns’ primary concern for the fifth guy is covering the opposing primary initiators at guard, Goodwin should be the favorite.

Pros: Goodwin serves as the best defensive matchup in Phoenix for all of the hyper-quick and elusive guards in the Western Conference, and the Suns project to see a few this postseason. This was the rub with the Beal trade. It’s either asking one of him or Booker to take on this task, or go with a small wing to take that defensive assignment.

With respect to how good C.J. McCollum and Austin Reaves are, out of all the West teams projected to vie for a playoff spot, the Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Pelicans are the only squads without that type of threat.  Stephen Curry (Warriors), Russell Westbrook (Clippers), De’Aaron Fox (Kings), Jamal Murray (Nuggets), Anthony Edwards (Timberwolves), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Thunder), Kyrie Irving (Mavericks) and Ja Morant (Grizzlies) are all extremely problematic matchups for anyone who isn’t a great perimeter defender on ball-handlers of that athletic makeup. Goodwin stands as good of a chance as anyone on the roster.

Goodwin’s also solid with making quick decisions on the ball as a playmaker, where he would do well as an off-ball asset alongside the Big 3.

Cons: Goodwin shot at a 32.2% mark on 118 total 3-point attempts last year. The guys playing off the Big 3 are almost always going to have some room, so the Suns putting a bad shooter there would be unwise. That’s really what will swing how much of the court Goodwin and Josh Okogie see this season.

Beyond that, Goodwin has some things to still prove defensively. Okogie was fantastic in the regular season but struggled to carry over the same level of defensive contributions in the playoffs, and that was more of a problem for him than missing shots since it’s why he was out there. Goodwin needs to pass the same test before it’s cemented he’s ready to defend an elite guard for an entire series at a high level.

Likelihood of starting: It ultimately comes down to how Keita Bates-Diop and Little fare over the next handful of months, as well as Okogie. Goodwin just broke into the NBA last season, so it would not only be him continuing to impress, but a lack in what the other perimeter defenders are bringing to the table. He’s a good darkhorse candidate, and again, Goodwin was not just a throw in for the Beal deal because he’s his buddy. He can play and the Suns are going to be glad they got him.

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The if of the 5th: Jordan Goodwin’s sneaky case as Suns’ best option