Andre Iguodala’s summer arrival in Denver ushered in plenty of hype for a young Denver Nuggets team that is now widely considered to be a legitimate contender for this season’s NBA title. The former Philadelphia 76ers star is certainly an excellent addition to the team, as his significant production on both ends of the floor should help make the Nuggets a much more well-rounded team.
While Iguodala’s greatest strength is likely his defense, his versatile offensive game should give the Nuggets a major boost as well. And though Denver’s mediocre 1-3 start to the season may not show it, Iguodala undoubtedly makes this rising team one of the greatest threats in the league.
Here are five ways that Iguodala helps the Nuggets offensively.
The Nuggets are fortunate to have not one but two capable point guards on their roster. Ty Lawson is a rising star and the veteran Andre Miller is still more than capable of running a team effectively.
Last season, George Karl frequently opted to play the two floor generals together, in order to allow Lawson to maximize his scoring ability by playing off the ball. Although this was certainly an effective strategy on the offensive end, it did have the drawback of leaving the Nuggets vulnerable on defense (Miller, the taller of the pair, is barely 6’2”).
While this lineup may still be effective at times, the Nuggets now have a solid alternative. The 6’6” Iguodala, who averaged 5.5 assists per game last season, has played the point forward role often during his career, and has the skills and brains to run the offense from time to time while allowing Lawson to operate more as a scorer.
Iguodala has not been known as a great shooter throughout his career, but he has made great strides in improving his outside shooting in recent years. After connecting on just 34 percent of his three-pointers in 2011, Iguodala upped his perimeter shooting percentage to a superb 39 percent last season while averaging greater than one made three per game.
Iguodala’s improved outside shot was also evident during the 2012 Olympics, in which he made five of his nine total three-point attempts.
Iguodala was previously thought to be somewhat of a liability in terms of his ability to stretch the floor, but as the 28-year-old heads into his ninth season, his shot looks better than ever.
You may be wondering, how does Iguodala’s propensity for accumulating steals translate to improving Denver’s offense? Well, as the cliché goes, the best offense is sometimes a good defense.
Iguodala, who has averaged 1.8 steals per game throughout his career, excels as both an on ball defender and in playing the passing lanes. He is also relentless at attacking in transition, and uses his blinding speed and powerful finishing ability to convert fast break opportunities into easy points.
These traits should be especially obvious on the Nuggets. Denver led the league in points per game last season, and did so by employing a high tempo offense that milked its players’ athleticism to its absolute potential. Expect the Nuggets to get plenty of easy points off of Iguodala’s steals this season.
Iguodala managed to make his first All-Star team last season while with the 76ers. Interestingly, he did so despite averaging the lowest number of points (12.4) since his sophomore campaign.
This goes to highlight that while Iguodala is a gifted scorer, his greatest value comes from his versatility. The defensive ace also averaged 6.1 rebounds and 5.5 assists in that season while acting as the unquestioned leader of that Philadelphia team.
But though Iguodala’s excellent reputation does not stem from his scoring ability, he is still a highly adept scorer. Especially when points are most needed.
Iguodala has become known as one of the NBA’s better crunch time scorers throughout his career. His overall versatility becomes even clearer in clutch situations, as he stands as a threat to drive the lane, pull up for the mid-ranged jumper or kick to an open teammate.
While Ty Lawson will likely be the go-to scorer for the Nuggets this season, Iguodala presents a formidable backup plan, and could at the very least be key in feeding the speedy Lawson off a pick or cut to the basket.
With former franchise centerpieces Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups and Nenê all long gone, Denver is without any of its primary leaders of the past few seasons. Fortunately, a new leader has arrived for the Nuggets; one who plays at an elite level on both ends of the floor.
As the new captain of the Nuggets, Iguodala will command plenty of respect from his teammates, and his NBA experience should prove invaluable in providing consistency for this young and sometimes sloppy Denver team.
Though Miller provides excellent leadership for the second unit, Iguodala is the only starter above 24 years of age, and his veteran status will work to balance out the somewhat unpolished talent of his fellow starters.