“When the Sun Shines on Wild Cats”

Devin Book
Devin Booker (pictured) and Archie Goodwin, two “wild cats,” are building confidence in Phoenix. (Getty Images)

There’s really no reason to write much about the Phoenix Suns in 2016. They’ve underachieved, have internal dysfunction and the team’s best player (Eric Bledsoe) suffered a season-ending knee injury a few weeks back.

For a team with playoff aspirations heading into the new campaign, where is the silver lining for Suns? Or, better yet, is there a glimmer of hope on the horizon?

Funny you ask…because two former Wildcats (from Kentucky) stare into the distance as the sun rises, preparing for new challenges that lie ahead with youthful zest.

Awful analogies aside, third-year guard Archie Goodwin and rookie Devin Booker are locked and loaded for the future (and present) – displaying glimpses of promise on a nightly basis.

Both guards parallel each other in a number of ways: one and done at UK, entered the NBA as the youngest player of their draft class (Goodwin: 2013, Booker: 2015), drafted by Phoenix despite a logjam at the guard spot (well, this is mainly just a Suns thing it seems).

(Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports)

Though Goodwin is only 21, he’s taken Booker under his wing and is one of his biggest supporters. Coach John Calipari’s UK brotherhood extends far beyond the confines of Lexington, Kentucky and it’s evident with how well Goodwin and Booker mesh.

Goodwin, at 6’5, has manned the PG spot the last few games in the absence of Brandon Knight. Over that time frame, Goodwin’s averaging 20.5 points/game, and 4.3 dimes/game while CASHING a “give me minutes,” game-winner to down the Hawks on Jan. 23rd.

After the game, Archie had this to say:

“I was looking at the play like, ‘Yeah right, I am shooting this.” (ESPN.com)

Ehh, he was kinda joking but he kindaaa wasn’t at the same time. Archie’s battled inconsistency for the better part of three years but put yourself in his shoes for a sec…After investing a first-round pick, PHX acquired guard after guard after guard to play ahead of him during his short tenure.

Archie Goodwin
(Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports)

And for someone who is barely able to legally buy a drink (turned 21 last August), staying patient and maintaining a high level of confidence became his daily task.

Now that Goodwin is getting minutes, he’s showing signs as a playmaker and penetrator. His play style is reminiscent of a young Tyreke Evans. While he lacks Tyreke’s finishing ability and ball-handling, Goodwin is adept at finding seams and has a bit more raw athleticism.

Before, Goodwin would play out of control in his sporadic PT. Now, he’s attacking the rim strategically (getting to the line 8 times/game as a starter), while keeping the defense honest with an improved outside stroke.

Moving forward, it makes a ton of sense for Coach Jeff Hornacek to trot Goodwin and Booker out at the same time, even when Knight returns from injury.

D. Book, at 6’6, is already a classified marksman, converting the three ball at a 42% clip. Like we mentioned when he started breaking out a month ago, Booker is a mini-Klay Thompson type of talent.

It’s really not hyperbole either – Booker, at age 19, already recognizes situations where he should drive or shoot, according to what the defense is trying to take away. As a result, his confidence is skyrocketing (avg. over 17 points/game over the last 10 contests).

Both Goodwin and Booker represent Phoenix’s long game, a strategy that will definitely feature an influx of more young talent in the coming years.

The short game sees the pair thriving and building confidence.

Because when young, wild cats witness the hopeful rays of a bright sun, a million possibilities open up.


-Jabari J.

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