Sidelines with John Clay

As a Kentucky player proved, NBA executives can get it wrong

Phoenix Suns guard Archie Goodwin (20) reacted after making what proved to be the game-winning shot against the Atlanta Hawks in 2016.
Phoenix Suns guard Archie Goodwin (20) reacted after making what proved to be the game-winning shot against the Atlanta Hawks in 2016. Associated Press

Ben Falk, former front office executive and analytics expert with first the Portland Trail Blazers and then the Philadelphia 76ers, has a new website called Cleaning the Glass.

In a post this week, Ben writes about making mistakes on player evaluations in the NBA Draft. The personal example he uses is a former Kentucky basketball player.

In a meeting with the Trail Blazers preparing for the 2013 draft, general manager Neil Olshey turned to Falk for his opinion on Archie Goodwin.

An excerpt from Falk’s account:

“So I think he’s the kind of player we should really try to get,” I began. “He’s incredibly young, he got to the foul line at a really high rate, and he passed it pretty well. If you look at the list of perimeter players who played like him at his age, it’s a really good list.”

Even after that meeting, Falk writes that he continually pushed for drafting Goodwin. He kept coming back to the fact the guard was one of the younger players in the draft. He said he knew Goodwin was a risk, but he thought he was worth the risk.

As it turned out, Goodwin wasn’t worth the risk, as Falk admits.

“And swing and miss I did,” he writes. “ Goodwin, in the end, didn’t live up to my expectations. After four unproductive seasons, he was cut out of training camp this year and has essentially washed out of the league. He’s still incredibly young: Buddy Hield, in his second season, is actually a few months older than Goodwin. But Goodwin never showed any improvement on what he was in college: he still gets to the rim and the line at very high rates, but he still can’t finish, can’t shoot, and can’t take care of the ball.”

Taken in the first round by the Oklahoma City Thunder with the 29th pick and then traded to Phoenix, Goodwin played in 165 NBA games over four years, though just 15 last year between the New Orleans Pelicans and Brooklyn Nets. He was waived by Portland in training camp last month.

Goodwin’s most productive season was 2015-16 when as a 21-year-old he averaged 19.5 minutes in 57 games for the Suns. He averaged 8.9 points and 2.1 assists that season, shooting 41.7 percent from the floor.

I would say that Ben’s story is interesting, but really his whole web site is interesting. That’s especially true if you like analytics and the NBA. It’s a subscription site, but there’s also free stuff there, as well.

You can also hear Ben on Zach Lowe’s “The Lowe Post” podcast.

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