Players that agree to a Two-Way contract more than a year after completing their NCAA career usually have not taken the straightest path to the NBA. Often, they are players that have had to prove themselves anew at every step, from high school to college to the G League and, hopefully, an eventual opportunity to crack the rotation for an NBA team.
Meet Brandon Goodwin, the newest Two-Way addition of the Atlanta Hawks.
He might have been a more prominent collegiate recruit if not for issues that cost Goodwin continuity while playing at the high school level. A similar pattern resulted in his transferring from Central Florida, after his sophomore NCAA season, to Florida Gulf Coast University where he seemed to find his footing en route to winning the Atlantic Sun Conference Player of the Year his senior season.
He went undrafted in 2018 and received a largely non-guaranteed (training camp) contract from the Memphis Grizzlies. Unsurprisingly, the Grizzlies cut Goodwin on the day that NBA rosters had to be trimmed to 15 players. He played the first several weeks of the G League season with the Grizzlies affiliate, the Memphis Hustle.
In December, Goodwin agreed to join the Denver Nuggets organization on a Two-Way contract. He spent a lot of time in the G League and very little time with the Nuggets. After all, Denver was chasing the top seed in the Western Conference playoffs. They were also flush with good young players that had more than proven themselves as being capable of helping an NBA team with serious aspirations.
But it should be noted that, when considering he played just 57 minutes with Denver last season, it seems his time with the organization was far from useless. The Nuggets have one of the stronger player development track records in the league over the last 5 seasons or so.
When playing at amateur levels, Goodwin was considered a physical guard, despite his lack of ideal size (6’2, 180 pounds) who could attack the paint with dribble penetration and use an impressive ability to finish around defenders at the rim. The physicality was apparent on both ends of the court.
Like so many young guards of a similar profile to his, Goodwin’s likelihood of getting a real NBA opportunity came down to a few considerations.
Would his offensive game translate at the professional level? It seems to have at least when evaluating his play in the G League. He was consistently able to get past his defender and shot an impressive 53.6% on two-point attempts last season.
Would his physicality translate, especially on the defensive end of the court? His play both in the G League and during Summer League play suggests it could.
And, lastly, can he shoot the basketball from the perimeter? This was undoubtedly the biggest question about Goodwin’s status as a prospect. After all, he failed to shoot 60% from the free throw line in his first two collegiate seasons. And, despite eventually improving significantly in that area, he shot just a tick better than 30% from the three-point line during his NCAA career.
Thus far, it seems that Goodwin made the most of Denver’s player development offerings. He’s a more secure ball handler than he was a year ago. His defensive tendencies are more consistent. Finally, he shot an impressive 38.9% from the three-point line in the G League last season on a fairly robust 5.9 attempts per game.
Heading into the 2019-20 NBA season, the former Norcross High School standout has a better NBA opportunity than he did a year ago. He was never likely to make the Grizzlies roster at the end of the preseason, and he agreed to a Two-Way contract with a team that didn’t appear to have much room for playing time.
He’s now on a Two-Way contract with a young team returning just five players from last season and, to date, no traditional backup point guard on the roster. It’s not difficult to see a path to a sizable amount of playing time for him at the NBA level with the Hawks this season.
Every point guard that gets an audition to play back up to Trae Young will consistently be viewed from the vantage point of how much of the starting point guard’s style he can replicate when leading the second unit.
The Hawks’ coaching staff wants their point guards to be able to attack aggressively in the pick and roll with a tendency to get down hill as to attract multiple defenders. They look for a player that will embrace contact and have some ability to finish at the rim consistently, at least against average defenders. No reserve will be expected to match Young’s passing execution. But any every player is expected to make the right play and to share the ball. There’s no obvious obstacle to Goodwin being able to do these things.
Jaylen Adams got a similar opportunity last season but never found the appetite to play physically and was too ineffective finishing at the rim. He was also too much of a liability on defense, although Adams did improve during his professional tenure.
It’s not immediately clear if Goodwin is a better basketball player than Adams, even with more impressive physical traits. When considering what Atlanta is trying to find in a future backup to a budding star in Young, though, it’s clear to see why Goodwin might be a significantly better fit.
It’s been a one step at a time process to this point for Goodwin and he’s facing a season that will require that he prove himself all over again, even with the real opportunity to do so. Considering his willingness to play physically, his ability to dribble past defenders and an improved jump shot, it might be exactly the right opportunity to prove his worthiness as a legitimate NBA prospect.