- UCLA Bruins - December 3, 2015 - 9:00 PM EST - Pauley Pavilion, Los Angeles - ESPN
Archie Goodwin owns the dubious distinction as arguably the most intriguing prospect for this year’s NBA Draft.
Intriguing can be both good and bad.
As the second-youngest player available in Thursday night’s NBA Draft on ESPN – Giannis Antetokounmpo out of Greece has Goodwin beat by a few months – Goodwin, theoretically, has plenty of time to capitalize on his unquestionable upside.
“He’s one of the most intriguing players in the draft,” ESPN’s resident NBA Draft expert Chad Ford said on a teleconference on Tuesday. “He doesn’t turn 19 until August, which meant he was also one of the youngest college players in the country. He has a couple of things going for him in that he’s got elite speed and quickness, he’s very long and he’s a very creative finisher around the basket. He’s explosive off the floor.”
There’s tremendous potential, but there are also question marks.
In his lone season at Kentucky, Goodwin led the Wildcat in scoring with a 14.1 scoring average, but he shot just 26.6 percent from the 3-point line, he struggled with his decision-making and he often drove the ball to the hoop with reckless abandon.
Though Goodwin showed signs of being one of the most talented players in the country, his trajectory of improvement was never consistent, which troubles Ford and a lot of NBA teams looking at him.
“He did not meet the expectations that everybody had for him, but that does not mean he’s still not a good prospect,” ESPN draft analyst Jay Bilas said on conference call. “Back in the old days, guys had really rough freshman years and they would turn around and be great players. The start is not the finish with him. He can and will get better. I’ve got him at the top of the second round, but he’s talented enough to be a first-round draft pick. He’s a good prospect that has a chance.”
Who: Nerlens Noel and Archie Goodwin
When: Thursday, 7 p.m. ET
Where: Brooklyn, N.Y.
Initially projected as a first-round pick when he declared for the draft back in April, Goodwin has slid in most mock drafts because of an inconsistent jump shot in workouts, including on the big stage at the NBA Combine.
Nonetheless, Goodwin is still expected to hear his name called by the middle of the second round, and a couple of draft experts, including Ford, believe a team could snag him with a first-round pick because of his raw potential.
Archie Goodwin is projected to go anywhere from the late first round to the middle of the second round during Thursday night’s NBA Draft in Brooklyn, N.Y. (photo by Josh McCoy, UK Athletics)[/caption]
A first-round selection would be extremely important because of the NBA setup. A first-round selection guarantees a two-year contract with a team option for a third; a second-round selection guarantees nothing.
“There’s talent there,” Ford said. “He was one of the highest-ranked high school players in the country. NBA GMs know that, and a team that’s drafting late in the 20s may say look, he’s not ready right now, but he may be the best player you can get in the 20s in a couple of years and gamble on him.”
Ford said Goodwin’s projected range is anywhere from 25 to 40, but his former head coach, who has been working the phones to feel out Goodwin’s potential suitors, still thinks he has a good chance to go in the first round.
“He’s got a bunch of teams in the late first that are all looking at him,” Calipari said. “His age is working in his favor. His athleticism, his toughness, his ability to get to the rim is working for him. The last thing those teams worry about is shooting, so I don’t think that’ll work against him as much as everybody thinks. I think he’s going to be fine.”
Following the season, Calipari laid out the pros and cons for Goodwin before he made a decision and explained how teams would view him. Coach Cal was going to support whatever Goodwin decided, but Calipari had to make sure he knew there were risks – just as there were benefits – to any decision he would make.
In the end, Goodwin was ready to pursue his NBA dreams.
“My thing when we sat down (was), ‘Here’s the worst that could happen. Can you deal with this?’ ” Calipari said. “(Goodwin said), ‘Yeah, I can, Coach. I want to do this. I can do this.’ I’m convinced that he’s in the frame of mind (that) he’s prepared to deal with the worst that can happen. He’s ready to deal with it. And hopefully it’s not what happens. Hopefully he goes in the first round, but if not, he’ll go do his thing.”
Wherever Goodwin goes, chances are his role will be a limited one in his first year or two. Most teams know that by drafting him, you’re getting a project with a lot of upside. That’s just the way it goes for the second-youngest player in the draft.
While Goodwin could have answered those concerns with another year in college, there’s no disputing that he still possesses a lot of intriguing potential.
“Would I have rather had Archie back? Sure I would’ve,” Calipari said. “Would I have thought it’s probably in his best interest to come back? Yeah, maybe. But at the end of the day, what I think doesn’t matter. I can give him the information and he’s got to make that decision, because whatever he did – coming back or going – he’s got to make it work. I can’t make it work for him. No one’s going to make it work. He’s got to make it work. He has to have both feet in one way or another.”
Now who’s ready to put both feet in with arguably the most intriguing prospect in the draft?