It's been a shade more than two years since Masai Ujiri took over as the general manager of the Denver Nuggets, and he's yet to steer the franchise wrong. Here's a quick rundown of what he's accomplished so far:
- Jettisoned the ugly drama of Carmelo Anthony for the youthful exuberance of Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Timofey Mozgov and a peck of draft picks in March 2011.
- Flipped a soon-to-fatten Raymond Felton, who also came to the Mile High City in the 'Melo deal, for the savvy Andre Miller just before the lockout.
- Turned a 2016 second-round pick into Rudy Fernandez and Corey Brewer just after the lockout
- Took Kenneth Faried, a productive rookie and instant fan favorite, with the 22nd pick in a supposedly weak 2011 NBA Draft
- Re-signed Nene, then dumped his massive salary at the 2012 trade deadline for a younger, cheaper, healthier and more promising big man in JaVale McGee.
To be sure, Ujiri took something of a risk by facilitating a trade that turned the Los Angeles Lakers into a title contender and, moreover, a roadblock to the top of the Western Conference for his own team. But, like any good GM, Ujiri understood that his primary goal was, is and should always be to improve his team, and that's exactly what he accomplished by plucking Iguodala out of the Howard deal.
In Iguodala, Denver can now count in its employ a player who fits perfectly into what the team already does. That is run, run and run some more. The 28-year-old swingman is among the fastest and most effective players in the NBA in going from defense to offense.
Never has effort in doing so been an issue with Iguodala, who wouldn't have made Mike Krzyzewski's 12-man roster for Team USA this summer if he were one to "dog it".
Not that Iggy isn't a gifted player whose talents alone would've earned him no less than a tryout. He's long been one of the most versatile players in the league, a jack-of-all-trades-type player who can shoot, pass, dribble, defend and doesn't need the ball in his hands to be effective.
In fact, Iguodala might actually be better off without it. According to Grantland's Sebastian Pruiti, Iguodala shot 79.2 percent as a finisher rather than a ballhandler in transition with the Philadelphia 76ers.
He'll have even more opportunities to do just that in Denver than in Philly. Per Hoopdata, the Nuggets were the second-fastest team in the NBA last season, averaging 96.6 possessions per game, while the Sixers were the fourth-slowest, at 91.6 possessions.
Remarkably enough, Denver still managed to be the third-most efficient team on offense—as opposed to Philly's patently-mediocre ranking at 17th—despite pushing the pace at a rate (first in fastbreak scoring and fastbreak efficiency, per Team Rankings) that would normally leave a team susceptible to turnovers.
Which is to say, Iggy will no longer have to languish on an anemic Sixers squad where the appreciation for his services had grown stale. Iguodala's production declined considerably during his last two seasons in the City of Brotherly Love, though that had as much (if not more) to do with Evan Turner's arrival and development as with any apparent decline in his own game.
Now, rather than fighting for his job and being dragged along by a point guard, in Jrue Holiday, who can't seem to figure out whether he's improving or stagnating, he'll have his run of the joint at shooting guard in Denver, alongside a true floor general and rising star, in Ty Lawson, whose ability to facilitate the break will complement Iggy's skills.
This isn't to say, though, that anyone should expect Iggy to return to those halcyon days when he averaged nearly 20 points per game and folks couldn't decide whether he was underrated or overrated. George Karl's roster is once again so deep that a repeat of his 12-6-5 line (with stellar defense on the wing) from last season would be more than adequate in support of Denver's overall efforts.
Furthermore, Iggy represents a significant upgrade over Arron Afflalo and Al Harrington, the two players that Ujiri sent out to bring the Sixers' All-Star to Denver.
Truth be told, Iguodala would hardly be able to replace the 29.4 points and 9.3 rebounds that those two combined to average all by his lonesome, but Iggy is a better player now than either Afflalo or Harrington figures to be with the Orlando Magic going forward.
His All-NBA-caliber defense will come in particularly handy out West, where he'll be matched up against the Kobe Bryants, Kevin Durants and Rudy Gays of the basketball world on a nightly basis.
And if Iggy blends into what the Nuggets do as well as his track record would suggest, then it'll be another feather in the front-office cap for Masai Ujiri and onward and upward through the NBA hierarchy for the Nuggets.
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