The Wizards may have something in Jordan Goodwin

There was some irony in why Jordan Goodwin played for the Wizards on Sunday night in their loss to the Grizzlies. The reason was that starting guard Bradley Beal was out due to health and safety protocols. Beal and Goodwin have known each other for years since Goodwin was in middle school, as they are both from St. Louis, Missouri.

Beal told a story weeks ago when Goodwin earned a second two-way contract with the Wizards after training camp about how he remembers noticing something very early in Goodwin’s game when he was playing in AAU.

“He has the heart of a dog. You can’t teach that and you can’t give it away, you’re born with it. He’s had it since he was little and I’ve always seen it,” Beal said.

Wizards fans are seeing it now. Goodwin excelled in Sunday’s game with nine points, eight rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block, all in 26 minutes of work. Four of his tackles were on the offensive end, and all four resulted in second-chance points for the Wizards.

Goodwin helped spark the Wizards’ big comeback. They trailed Memphis by 23 points but came back to take the lead in the fourth quarter before the Grizzlies pulled away. Goodwin helped ignite a spark with his extra effort and his defense against Grizzlies star Ja Morant.

Goodwin’s lean, energetic plays in Sunday’s game were a reminder of his path to this point. He was known for his defense and rebounding in college at St. Louis University. Goodwin was a two-time All-Defensive Atlantic 10 selection and averaged 10-plus tackles in both his junior and senior years despite being listed at 6-foot-3.

His tough defensive mindset brings a new element to the Wizards, especially with Delon Wright sidelined with a hamstring injury. Head coach Wes Unseld Jr. went to Goodwin early and left him in the rotation for the rest of the game. His tough defense was a perfect antidote against Memphis, which plays a physical kind of basketball.

Goodwin has continued to work his way through the Wizards system and has a chance to become an organizational success story. He went undrafted out of college and spent most of last season playing for their G-League affiliate, the Capital City Go-Go. Goodwin came in for two games on a tough contract, but has already shown more this season, appearing in four of the Wizards’ 10 games.

Goodwin showed promise in the team’s loss to the Celtics last weekend with six points, a steal and a block in 18 minutes. But Sunday’s game against the Grizzlies was his best performance yet.

Goodwin has a long way to go to become a lasting power in the NBA, but you can already see how he fits with the Wizards in the short term based on what he does best. They’ve had a need for perimeter defense and physical players for years. And even when Wright is healthy, there is freedom at point guard on their bench with no obvious depth behind Wright and starter Monte Morris.

Goodwin has an opportunity to establish himself as the third point guard in the organization. When they’re at full strength, that might not translate into a lot of minutes, but as they’ve already seen, a third point guard often comes in handy.

Goodwin was the team’s best +12 field goal score on Sunday. While this isn’t always the most reliable stat for an individual on a per-game basis, it does reflect that they were on the court during their best parts. The team’s starting five struggled in the first half, but the Wizards’ bench brought them back into the game, and Goodwin was a big part of that effort.

Once Beal returns, Goodwin could once again be on the outside of the rotation watching. But Goodwin did his part by seizing the opportunity and Unseld Jr. surely noticed.

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