LeBron James vs. Andre Iguodala: Who's More Clutch?
It's the end of the fourth quarter, you're down two. Precious seconds are ticking away with every bounce of the ball, and you need a big play (or two) to get away with the W. Who would you rather have with the ball in their hands, LeBron James or Andre Iguodala?
Of course, the quick fix reply is, "Well, LeBron is the best player in the league, so..."
The next most popular (and opposite) answer would be, "LeBron and the clutch are mortal enemies, so..."
It just so happens it's not that simple...
1. Playing with No Margin for Error
First of all, being an MVP over 48 minutes doesn't automatically translate into MVP of the moment. With dozens and dozens of possessions in which to generate his typically massive totals, it's easy to forget how much LeBron depends—and excels—on his margin for error.
Even those big playoff finishes against Boston and Chicago were accomplished with the benefit of having two more games to close the series out.
Room for error happens to be LeBron's favorite thing in the world. No sway means the possibility for a deciding missed shot, which LeBron doesn't care for at all. Nobody wants to trip up at the finish line less than he does.
Iguodala has no visible fear of taking or missing the last shot of the game. Like most, he's made some and missed some. He does have the benefit of not having the majority of the opposing defense dedicated entirely to him, and he has about a half-dozen equally capable scoring options to defer to if the right play doesn't materialize.
2. Athletic Capabilities
Andre Iguodala is a hell of an athlete, as Rick James might say.
The guy is fast and lean, strong and explosive, multi-talented and defensively gifted. He'll just as soon take a three as dribble down the defense's throat for a jumper/floater/kickout/layup/dunk, with varying degrees of flamboyance.
He uses his athleticism well on defense and, like James, he's a great lateral defender—and defense counts in the clutch, perhaps more. All in all, Iguodala is a deserving All-Star, a freakish finisher and a legitimate threat no matter what he's up to on the court.
That having been said...
3. Playing Loose
LeBron can often be seen playing a bit tight—those who enjoy reaching would say "stiff"—which could easily be mistaken for jitters late in the fourth.
In actual fact, he's more likely just tensed up because he's thinking of exploding at any moment; it's just how he plays sometimes.
But late in games, with a loss staring him in the face, he's more often in this "ready to snap" mode, trying to think of what big move to go with. It doesn't always make for the most fluid final plays.
Now, if you want to talk about guys who look loose out on the floor, take a look at Andre Iguodala, owner of some of the most relaxed body language in basketball. The way he runs and jumps, you sometimes wonder if somebody put two tranquilizer darts in his shoulder during the last timeout.
Low margin for error means you need higher-percentage shots, and the best way to get them is better rhythm. Don't misunderstand: Explosiveness is always good to have, but rhythm is at a higher premium in do-or-die moments.
4. Actual Results
Some people are holding the Heat's loss in Utah against LeBron because, evidently, he's not allowed to pass the ball ever again on a final play. Of all the times LeBron has passed up the final shot and been mocked for being a spineless amoeba, once in a blue moon it actually is the right thing to do.
Iguodala has missed a game-winner or two himself this year, but he generally continued to deliver in pressure moments throughout the fourth quarter.
Which of these two has hit more game-winners this year? It's a tie at nil. Both players' clutch performance has been up and down thus far in the season, and as far as career-wise, let's just say it cancels out.
Which one has more career game-winners? Probably LeBron, but Iggy is no slouch in that department either.
Am I going to mention the Finals? You're darn tootin' I am... I've never seen Iguodala implode like that before, so score one for him in the lifetime embarrassment column.
To reiterate a point made earlier, if you were picking who you'd rather have for an entire game, it's no insult to Iggy that you'd probably pick LeBron.
However, in the more immediate do-or-die moments that determine the outcome of games, where volume counts for nothing, LeBron loses his decisive edge over the rest of the field.
Not that it's a landslide, but if we're talking crucial possessions with little to no time to recover, then it's much, much closer than many would think.
I'd have to give the edge to Iguodala.