PHOENIX — The educational process of this NBA preseason includes Tuesday’s crucial lesson involving the Suns and Oklahoma City Thunder.
At the end of a less-than-artful 88-76 demonstration, we now know the Suns are better without Goran Dragic than OKC is without Kevin Durant … and Russell Westbrook … and a couple of other guys.
But the Suns’ entire season is expected to generate interesting storylines that go beyond the predicted totals of wins and losses.
One compelling issue to follow is the development of Phoenix’s younger guns. And nobody — on the roster or the league — is as young as rookie guard Archie Goodwin.
Tucked inside this brush with the mighty Thunder, we witnessed the former Kentucky Wildcat producing 11 points during the fourth quarter.
Goodwin’s salvo included four baskets at or above the rim. These included a two-handed follow slam over OKC defenders and 6-foot-11 teammate Miles Plumlee. The 6-5 Goodwin also demonstrated enough burst to blow past OKC guard Jeremy Lamb (lottery pick, 2012) and sufficient lateral quickness to keep Lamb out of the lane at the other end.
But while 19-year-old Archie continued looking like a fine addition as the 29th pick during the 2013 NBA Draft, he also missed seven shots — including all of his attempts from distance. For the preseason, Goodwin now is 0 of 11 from 3-point range, including 0 of 4 vs. OKC.
“I think his first nine were all short,” Suns first-year coach Jeff Hornacek said. “At least he was long on the last one. He’ll find the middle.”
At least he’s already finding teammates during his quick-first-step-initiated journeys into the lane. Although he registered only one official assist Tuesday, Goodwin made a few passes that — had his teammates converted — could have resulted in baskets.
“He’s like ‘what do you mean I don’t pass?’ ” Hornacek joked after pointing out that Goodwin’s potential as an off-the-bounce facilitator has been a point of emphasis by the coaching staff.
After making sure teammate Kendall Marshall heard reporters giving him credit for moving the ball around during post-game inquiries, Archie suggested this passing skill was nothing unexpected.
“Just me being aggressive, opening up a lot of passing lanes,” Goodwin said when asked about his evolving drive-and-kick game.
And, as Hornacek pointed out, Archie could venture all the way to the rim during his only year in college with considerably greater ease than he’ll be able to in the NBA. But consistently finding open teammates eventually could translate into more opportunities to get to the rack.
To ensure that his trips through opposing defenses don’t become more difficult, however, Goodwin will need to shoot with a greater level of perimeter accuracy. After struggling from behind the college arc during Kentucky’s conference schedule last season, he shot well from the NBA distance during the summer league in Las Vegas.
Now that he’s working alongside veterans, the lack of consistent minutes makes staying sharp a bit tricky.
“It’s getting used to coming into the game out of the blue like that,” Goodwin, who didn’t play in Tuesday’s first half, said of adjusting to his current role. “The great thing about it is it’s only preseason. It’s going to come. I know I can shoot.”
While Goodwin continues to work on rounding out his game, Hornacek realizes the rookie two-guard already has some attributes that often are much more difficult to develop.
“Fundamentally, he picks up things pretty fast,” the Suns coach said. “He’s going to make some mistakes. He does a lot of good things out there.
“We don’t want to take away his aggressiveness.”
Dragic — who left Nike last summer for an endorsement deal with Adidas — finally received a more contemporary model of game shoe from the sneaker company. Unfortunately, he sprained his left ankle while wearing the new kicks a few days ago and sat out Tuesday’s game with OKC.
Dragic said he’s not sure if he’ll play during the Suns’ final preseason game Wednesday night in Denver.
Gerald Green, who usually works at small forward, started Tuesday’s game at shooting guard and delivered 15 points.
“He’s a little bit wild out there,” Hornacek said, “but sometimes his wild is pretty good. And he can make threes.”
Green was 3 of 4 from 3 Tuesday night and made 6 of 9 shots overall, including a soaring, alley-oop slam following a back screen on a baseline out-of-bounds play. Follow Randy Hill on Twitter