Brandon Goodwin is ready to seize his opportunity at summer league

Denver Nuggets guard Brandon Goodwin (6) shoots against Houston Rockets guard Gerald Green (14) during the fourth quarter at Toyota Center.
Jan 7, 2019; Houston, TX, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Brandon Goodwin (6) shoots against Houston Rockets guard Gerald Green (14) during the fourth quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

“I think, I will say Brandon (Goodwin)… I feel like he really wants it.”

That quote from Vlatko Cancar came when asked about which Nuggets summer leaguer has stood out to him thus far. His answer was not one people would expect — Michael Porter Jr. — but it was Brandon Goodwin, who is looking to make a name for himself in his first summer league with Denver.

Goodwin earned a two-way contract with the Nuggets last season and played in 16 games with Denver (57 minutes), while most of his time was spent in the G-League. This all came after a solid summer league performance last year with the Memphis Grizzlies, which earned him a spot on their training camp roster.

After being waived by the Grizzlies, Goodwin played with the Memphis Hustle for 11 games before the Nuggets signed him to a two-way contract. Even though it was just a brief stint in Memphis, Goodwin certainly impressed as he averaged 21.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game with the Hustle.

Goodwin’s numbers were just as good when he joined the Iowa Wolves later in the season as he averaged 21.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 5.9 assists in just 16 games. All that experience has led Goodwin to the Nuggets summer league roster as he looks to show what he can do.

“I want to prove that I can guard my position, the two, three, wherever it may be. I want to prove that I can guard and be a pest. Be something like Patty Mills, a guy that can playmake and is going to get into the offensive play and cause problems,” Goodwin said in an exclusive interview with Mile High Sports. “I just want to show I can shoot the ball, run a team, and ultimately win the championship. That is what I really want. The farther you go, the more people watch.”

Since the season ended just two months ago, Goodwin has spent most of his time in Denver training with the team. That has prepared him for what the Nuggets are asking the team to do in workouts, which provides Goodwin an opportunity to show his leadership.

“Workouts have been good. The altitude definitely helps a lot. When you got new guys that are coming in that’s what really hurts them the most. For me, I’m kind of used to it and the same things we were doing in the workouts, we’re doing now in practice. I’m kind of used too it right now and I’m able to lead guys and show guys the way that haven’t been through it yet.”

That leadership is something you see right away when you watch Goodwin practice. At Monday’s practice during the media availability portion, you could see Goodwin chirping and talking with his teammates, but in a positive way.

Not only was Goodwin running his team with ease, but he was displaying a competitive approach that is huge for a point guard. That competitiveness does not interfere with his leadership as Goodwin is still taking pride in making sure all of his teammates are comfortable and on the same page.

“Just trying to talk and make sure guys are in the right spot. Make sure guys are comfortable. This is some guys first summer league, this will be my second and being a point guard, I think it’s my job to make sure everyone knows what’s going on,” Goodwin said on his role as a leader. “I get to go up against Jordan (Davis) and Keifer (Sykes) right now and we get to play against each other. Right now, we’re competing against each other, while helping each other. Then when we get in the game we can battle against other point guards, so it makes it a little easier for us.”

Goodwin mentioned Davis — who is a former local star at the University of Northern Colorado — as a player that has done a great job pushing him at practice. Goodwin says the competition is all in good fun and playing with a guy like Davis will only make each of them better.

“It’s really nice,” Goodwin said on his competition with Davis. “Having someone that is just as hungry as me. Wants to get up and down and compete. It makes the game a lot more fun, competitive, and at the end of the game we shook hands and told each other we was tired and laughed it off. So, it was pretty fun.”

Not only has Goodwin showcased his leadership and competitiveness during the first few days of summer league practice, but he has also shown a scoring ability that is incredibly tough to stop. Whether he is going to the rim or making step-back jumpers, nobody has been able to guard Goodwin so far in practices.

Getting to the rim is something Goodwin does with ease, but he can also shoot the three, which is something he put on full display in the G-League last season. Goodwin shot 38 percent from three in 27 G-League games and shot a scorching 41 percent from distance in 16 games with Iowa.

It has been a full year since Goodwin began his NBA journey at summer league and he feels like his game has grown “a lot” since then.

“My game has grown a lot. Just based off of being a point guard, the communicating aspect, being a leader, making sure my teammates know it’s just not me trying to score. Just make plays in the lane and my IQ has grown a lot when it comes to passing, scoring, time and pace. My game has just matured a lot since then and I’m looking forward to showing how it has changed.”

Maturity is something that caught the eye of Nuggets summer league head coach Jordi Fernandez as he too is excited for what Goodwin will show at summer league.

“It’s hard to tell cause I watched his G-League games too. Great scorer, rebounder for his size, but obviously in the NBA, he’s not going to play taking 20 shots like he did in the G-League,” Fernandez said on where he has seen improvement in Goodwin’s game. “He’s aware of it, he knows he has to pick up full-court on defense, he needs to push the ball offensively and get into the offense, and then be able to score when he’s in the open court. Those little things, he knows it, he’s done great job so far and that is the reason why I think he’s going to be a big summer league player.”

Fernandez mentioned how Goodwin is a guy the Nuggets organization believes in, but that it is important for him to still take a step forward with his play in Vegas.

“I think it’s almost like what we talked about yesterday with Michael (Porter Jr.) and Jarred (Vanderbilt). He’s experienced (Goodwin) what it is to be in an NBA locker room and he’s fortunate to do it in a winning locker room and now if he wants to be apart of this locker room in the NBA, he has to earn a contract. Different than a two-way. He has a chance to change his mindset, he’s obviously another guy we believe in and we want him to be apart of our culture and our team and he has been great. He looks like a grown man trying to lead the team.”

Goodwin is currently a restricted free agent with the Nuggets, which means they could match any offer another team might present. What this also means is Goodwin is not just trying to make the Nuggets roster at summer league, but he is also showcasing to other NBA teams what he can do.

With this being Goodwin’s second summer league, it already gives him a leg up on everyone else, which he says should make him more comfortable.

“It’s going to help me a lot because first summer league I actually played a lot of good minutes. I did pretty good. So, just coming back on a good note, coming back where I left off is going to be a lot easier for me. Knowing what’s going on and the crowd, this time I’m a lot more familiar with the plays, running the team, it’s going to be challenge, but it’s going to be fun.”

Running the team will be Goodwin’s main goal as he will most likely be paired with Porter Jr., Jarred Vanderbilt, Thomas Welsh, and possibly Cancar in the starting lineup. If Goodwin is able to run the Nuggets first unit with success — kind of like Monte Morris did at last years summer league — it could be huge in his chances of sticking around in Denver.

The Nuggets and Goodwin begin Summer League on Friday night at Thomas & Mack Arena against the Phoenix Suns. While all eyes are on the big names like Porter Jr., just remember Goodwin, because he easily could steal the show.

“I think, I’m hungrier now, more than ever,” Goodwin told the media after practice on Wednesday. “I was hungry last year, but like I said, I didn’t really have goal. I didn’t know what to expect. Now, I know what to expect and I’m just working hard.”

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