On late Thursday afternoon, the Denver Nuggets announced in an official press release that they have signed Memphis Hustle guard Brandon Goodwin to a contract.
While the Nuggets currently have 15 players on their roster, in addition to their two-way players, the team could still sign Goodwin using an injured player exception. Denver has that option available because Denver currently have four players (Will Barton, Michael Porter Jr, Isaiah Thomas and Jarred Vanderbilt) that are all expected to be out for two-plus weeks.
Although Goodwin wasn’t the highest profile G League prospect entering the 2018-19 season, the Florida Gulf Coast alum has stood out as one of the league’s best guards. That claim is backed up by some impressive numbers to date: 23.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.7 steals on 53 percent shooting from the field and 33 percent from beyond the arc on 5.7 attempts per game.
Despite being an average perimeter shooter, Goodwin has still been able to hold on to a solid 62 percent True Shooting Percentage during his nine games with the Hustle.
Goodwin’s fantastic offensive production has been one of the biggest reasons why the team currently sits at 5-4. According to on/off numbers, the Hustle are 11 points per 100 possessions better when he’s on the court (112.6 points per 100) compared to when he’s on the sidelines (101.4 points per 100).
While that extreme separation in production could be attributed to the Hustle’s mediocre second unit or a great supporting cast, Goodwin’s impact is still evident when you actually watch him play against G League competition.
Part of Goodwin’s immediate success at the G League level was due to his seamless fit within Brad Jones’ offense that was designed around player movement, side screens and HORNS sets.
As an agile 6-foot-2 guard with an extremely quick first step, this is basketball heaven for the Florida Gulf Coast product; he can utilize single or double screens to separate himself from his perimeter defender and then face a big that switches to him. Once that switch happens, it is usually game over for the opposition as the Hustle post can use his quickness to motor past them.
Although the Hustle’s system was a fantastic fit for Goodwin, his success was due to more than that. “The system was great for him but it’s more about Brandon’s talent as a player,” Memphis Hustle color commentator Jon Roser told Ridiculous Upside. “He showed that for Grizzlies in Summer League. Brandon got to the rim on anybody the G-League put in front of him. He’s also giving it his all on every play. Playing hard is also a talent these days because not everyone plays hard all the time. Brandon does.”
Roser’s comments regarding Goodwin being able to get to the rim no matter who’s against him are plainly evident, no matter if he’s utilizing off-ball screens or just going one-on-one against a perimeter defender. In regards to that second part, he does a great job of utilizing a quick first step and smooth handles to work around the perimeter defender.
Even if the perimeter defender sticks with him from perimeter to paint, he’s still able to score at the rim around contact. Those traits allowed him to shoot an impressive 69 percent from within the restricted area, according to the G League’s stats page.
Although Goodwin shooting 33 percent from beyond the arc may seem disappointing to some, that actually doesn’t tell the full story. That’s due to how the perimeter shooting percentage is hindered by his struggles in just one area as he’s shooting just 31 percent on 36 total attempts from shots above the break.
However, the 6-foot-2 guard is shooting 50 percent on perimeter shots from both the left and right corner. While that may be just an example of small sample size as he’s shot a combined 12 attempts from both corners, it’s a sign that Goodwin has potential in this area as long as he sticks in that area.
Another area that Goodwin shows upside in is as a facilitator where he’s averaging 4 assists per game with a 1.5 Ast/TO ratio. Most of those assists come when he’s working in transition as Goodwin does a great job of being able to push the pace and being able to quickly spot open teammates.
While he stands undersized, Goodwin was still able to be an above-average defender in the G League due to just working his tail off, which ultimately led him to average 1.7 steals per game.
However, he still has room to grow as Goodwin regularly gets caught in off-ball screens while trying to defend in the pick-and-roll. Despite his current struggles in this area, there’s still optimism that he has room to grow as he makes the transition to the NBA and with the Nuggets.
“He’s got the quickness and length to put pressure on the ball and he averaged almost 2 steals per game so he can get deflections and use his length to get into passing lanes,” Roser said. “Going to a Nuggets team that has ranked in the Top 5 of Defensive Efficiency in the NBA this season should only help him get better on that end.”
Due the Nuggets injury-depleted roster, Goodwin could get some immediate opportunities to showcase himself at the NBA level. When that does occur, head coach Mike Malone should utilize him as a dangerous off-ball threat that can hit corner jumpers but also cut to the paint.
Although the newcomer might not be tasked with handling the ball, he has obviously shown the ability to perfectly utilize the off-ball screen to create an opportunity to drive to the paint. Once he gets there, Goodwin is a dangerous threat, no matter if he’s driving into contact or not.
Unless he immediately comes in and plays at the level of Allonzo Trier, Brandon Goodwin will likely return to the G League once the injured Nuggets players return to 100 percent. Until then, Nuggets fans will have an opportunity to watch a talented young guard that can drive to the paint whenever he desires and nail corner 3s.