The 2019-20 NBA season isn’t “over” but, with the coronavirus pandemic placing the season in a suspended mode, there is a distinct chance that the Atlanta Hawks won’t be playing again this season. With that as the backdrop, the Peachtree Hoops crew will look back at the players still on the roster and how they performed in the team’s first 67 games.
The sixth profile focuses on guard Brandon Goodwin.
In several ways, Brandon Goodwin was an ideal young player to target for a two-way contract spot on an NBA roster, as teams started to work on building their respective squads heading toward the 2019-2020 NBA season. He was a 23-year-old coming off of a successful developmental season with the Denver Nuggets, an organization on the short list of those having the most impressive player development track records in the last five seasons or so. As a point guard, he profiled to potentially fill one of the most in-demand roles in the league and, in four games of Summer League play, Goodwin stood out as a player that may have had little else to gain from performing in that setting.
Fortunately for teams that had interest, Denver was (largely as a result of own player development success) facing tough decisions as they looked toward how they might finalize their roster. On top of that, certain aspects of the NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement make it hard for franchises to bring back players who had played (and finished) the previous season with them on a two-way contract.
Looking back, it seems that Goodwin had options. Among the 30 NBA teams, the Atlanta Hawks may have had the most potential playing time at the backup point guard position, an attractive situation even for players considering playing a second season on a two-way contract. As such, it was a largely natural arrangement for Goodwin and Atlanta given his roots on top of the genuine need for another guard.
Behind Trae Young, the team had no obvious full-time back-up point guard on the 15-man roster. Noise made about Evan Turner, acquired via trade, filling that role never seemed to turn into an actual, realistic plan. Goodwin’s decision to join the Hawks payed off in the form of 34 games of NBA experience including his first career start.
If Goodwin ever makes it as a reliable rotation player in the league, it will likely be the result of his ability to defend with versatility, despite lacking ideal size (6’0, 180 pounds), in combination with the reputation he is building as a player that can make shots from the three-point line. Importantly, he also plays with a rather unique physicality, something he would have to continue to exhibit in any extended minutes playing against starting caliber guards in the league as to have any hope of holding up in a sustainable way.
Goodwin converted just 26 of his 87 (29.9%) perimeter attempts in his play with the varsity team. But after not flashing an ability to make shots during his collegiate career, he has made 39% of his 264 attempts from the arc in G League play the last two seasons.
At this point, Goodwin is a more confident shooter when generating his own shot whether from the three-point line or pulling up in the mid-range when attacking a defense in the pick and roll. His value to an NBA team would be greatly enhanced if he would demonstrate an ability to make shots in spot-up situations. Some players just never find a way to shoot with rhythm when playing off of the ball as compared to the rhythm they seem to find with a few dribbles. This is a key area to keep an eye on as Goodwin looks to take the next step in his development.
Although he has generated excellent assist numbers in G League play, Goodwin doesn’t look the part of an average (or better) creator at the lead guard position. He makes solid reads in the pick-and-roll, but tends to create leverage on the defense with the threat of a decent percentage shot. He puts his physicality to use when the defensive scheme calls for him to attack the paint. Goodwin is comfortable generating contact, especially for free throw opportunities. Additionally, he was 25-of-39 (64.1%) on field goal attempts at the rim, a more than passable conversion rate for a point guard.
He’s good enough with the ball on offense that most NBA teams would likely find him an acceptable option to create scoring opportunities on a second unit with some regularity. But, he not so good that he is likely to ever be entrusted with the role 15-20 minutes per game 82 times in a season, unless he’s able to develop equity as a shooter playing off of the ball.
He posted an offensive net rating of -13.8, which is a hideous number on the surface. In interpreting this math, though, it needs to be done within the context that he was playing behind one of the single best offensive point guards in the league. Atlanta’s offense was 15.5 points per 100 possessions worse when Young sat as compared to when the All-Star played. Statistically, Goodwin improved those non-Young minutes a bit.
Goodwin is an infinitely more exciting prospect on the defensive end of the court. And he seems to know that. He possesses above average speed and quickness. He makes himself a bigger defender with effort, proactiveness and a willingness to be consistently more physical than the player he is guarding.
The 24-year-old guard diagnoses the offensive action well and is an excellent communicator. He may be a slightly better defender off the ball than he is functioning at the point of attack, which has increasing value as the league continues to value the dribble-handoff (DHO) technique as a mechanism to get offensive creators working off of screens without the basketball.
Goodwin displays excellent technique navigating screens in general. He gets a should into the body of the screener as uses his hands to (legally) work around the opposing player without risking a foul. He doesn’t give up on a play when its reversed and he has to work back across the screen in the opposite direction. He consistently exhibits the effort, focus and intelligence to be a trusted defender.
Goodwin is also a good team defender and even shows resistance at the rim when rotations dictate in the half court. But if he weren’t already most of these things on defense, he would have been unlikely to get the opportunities he has been afforded thus far.
The sweet spot of Goodwin’s 2019-2020 season was during the period after Turner fell from the rotation in December and before Jeff Teague was acquired at the trade deadline in January. It wasn’t an extended opportunity, but he did enough to be rewarded with a full-fledged NBA contract on Feb. 12. The NBA season would come to a premature halt shortly thereafter.
Although Teague’s presence did negatively impact Goodwin’s opportunity to play at the backup point guard spot from the remainder of the season, he made decent use of his opportunity to play in the NBA this season.
His numbers — 6.1 points, 1.5 assists per game with unimpressive shooting marks from the field — don’t broadly capture what he was able to do. Goodwin built on his developmental reputation as a defender, and he flashed the shooting potential he has been building in a handful of opportunities.
Looking ahead, Goodwin has probably done enough to do better than another two-way roster spot. On the flip side, he’s not proven enough to be worth a guaranteed roster spot. It’s unknown what the 2020-21 NBA calendar will look like when league activities eventually resume in some form, but in normal seasons, teams are allowed to offer contracts that don’t fully guarantee until roughly the second week of January. That’s the type of contract Goodwin, and his representation, seems likely to target.