I’ve been thinking about writing this for quite some time. I’m most likely in the small minority that actually appreciate University of Kentucky freshman guard Archie Goodwin. Again, I appreciate Archie Goodwin.
Am I saying that I approve all of his on-court decision making? No. Am I suggesting that there are times when he doesn’t frustrate me with some of this blind, full force drives to the basket? Not at all. I’ve yelled a time or two at the TV during Wildcat games this season after yet another play where Goodwin goes careening into the paint for yet another twisting and turning drive to the basket. But one thing has become almost painfully obvious: when it comes to wing players that can get to the basket, this year’s Kentucky team has very limited options.
I have posed this question to many of the Big Blue fans I know, both in person and on Twitter: Who, besides Archie Goodwin, can get to the rim and finish? Most of the responses I’ve received have been along the lines of, “Well, I wish he made better decisions” or “He needs to learn to make the right play.” And those are great suggestions. Those are lessons that I’m sure that head coach John Calipari has instructed and imparted to Archie Goodwin from day one. As we can see, however, this team is more limited offensively that Coach Cal’s previous UK teams. Yes, Cal has always had freshman guards that can play, but they’ve always had other offensive options to help them “make the right play.”
John Wall could attack known that DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson were down low and could finish the play if he passed them the ball. And Eric Bledsoe provided another option for Cal’s first team as a player that could put the ball on the floor and attack the rim. It wasn’t just one player. Once Cal instituted the high-pick and roll with Josh Harrellson, Brandon Knight was able to become more of a playmaker as well as a scorer. Coming off the pick, Knight had options. Harrellson could hit the mid range jump shot to keep the opponent’s big man honest on Knight’s drive. Doron Lamb outside jumper was so deadly that the floor stayed evenly spaced, again giving Knight room to make plays in the lane. And although he was much maligned for his career, Terence Jones was a more than capable scorer. It wasn’t just one player. And just last year, Marquis Teague started off the year frustrating, he soon learned to just facilitate the offense and utilize all the weapons at his disposal. It wasn’t just one player. The question remains: besides Archie Goodwin, who on this team can attack and get his own shot?
For all the great things he could do (and there were many this year) Nerlens Noel was a raw offensive product. And while it was evident he was working on his post game, it wasn’t nearly consistent enough to be considered dominant. Alex Poythress has had consistency issues of his own. Kyle Wiltjer, a spectacular spot up shooter, simply isn’t quick enough or fast enough to attack the basket. And Ryan Harrow and Julius Mays just aren’t big enough to bull their way into the paint. Willie Cauley-Stein is a phenomenal athlete, but his basketball skills overall are still a little rough and, like almost everyone else, simply isn’t reliable enough to command any defensive respect from the opposing defenses. So, who is left? Jarrod Polson? Jon Hood?
I used to criticize Archie Goodwin because I thought he had a Messiah Complex. I thought he had this mentality that he wanted to be the hero to save the day and hit the big shot. The more games I watched, the more it clicked that he understands that no one else can or will attack the basket like he can. Does he need to make better decisions? Yes. Does he need to pass the ball? I think so. But, I’m not going to fault a kid for not being afraid to drive to the basket. When he doesn’t, we have an offensive performance like the first half against Florida. It’s stagnant. There’s very little motion and the opposition can lock down without fear of anyone attacking the rim.
Maybe you’re still going to yell at Archie. Maybe you’re hoping he leaves UK after this year. Maybe you’re salty that someone so “selfish” gets to play for your beloved Wildcats. Me? I’m going to appreciate a kid for trying to make the best out of a trying situation. Consider me a member of Team Archie.