Is Andre Iguodala an NBA Superstar Despite Struggles in the Clutch?

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Is Andre Iguodala an NBA Superstar Despite Struggles in the Clutch?
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Much is made of how NBA superstar players perform in the crunch time—how they fare with the game on the line. 

Andre Iguodala of the Denver Nuggets has never been considered a clutch player. There is no doubt that he is playmaker, but he has often faded in moments when superstars are needed most.

This could not have been more evident in Denver's game against the Golden State Warriors. Not only did Iguodala miss a crunch-time free throw, but he drilled a three-pointer that won the game—fractions of a second after time expired, that is.  

Obviously, making too heavy a fuss over a small sample size is dangerous. Perhaps Iguodala thought that his natural release did not require the full half-second remaining on the clock. 

But truth be told, Iggy has struggled to be productive during crunch time long before this season.

Are we to judge the player Iguodala is based strictly on this?

Our good friends over at 82games.com define "clutch" as "4th quarter or overtime, less than 5 minutes left, neither team ahead by more than 5 points."

Last season, in the "clutch," the Philadelphia 76ers were minus-41 with Iguodala on the floor. He averaged just 10.5 points per 48 clutch minutes on 30 percent shooting from the field and an atrocious 38 percent from the charity stripe.

How is that indicative of a superstar?

Well, it's not. But the last five minutes of a particular game cannot make or break how we view a player. If it did, Steve Nash wouldn't be a superstar. The Phoenix Suns were minus-29 with him on the floor during clutch time last season.

Or how about Deron Williams? The 2011-12 New Jersey Nets were minus-22 with him during crunch time, and yet they still felt he was worth $100 million this past summer.

Which means we cannot strictly define a player based on how he performs in crunch time. 

Superstars are supposed to be players teams can depend on, players who can carry them when it matters most.

But while that's true, there are 43 additional minutes of any given game and a player's overall stats to consider. If Iguodala was averaging 10.5 points per 48 minutes on 30 percent shooting from the field outside of crunch time, then we have case.

Right now, however, we don't. Not for a superb two-way athlete who is fresh off making his first All-Star appearance in the midst of a lockout-truncated season. Not when he has already proven he is capable of so much more than what he has shown us during such a limited sample size.

Is this to say that excelling with the game on the line is a strength of Iguodala's? 

Absolutely not. Clearly, he has issues there. But take into account that the Nuggets are plus-three with Iguodala on the court in the clutch this season and are scoring at a rate of 106.8 points per 100 clutch possessions—nearly four points higher than their overall efficiency rating.

Believe it or not, Iggy has made some big shots and free throws as well.

Has Iguodala missed some big shots over the course of his career? Of course, but he has hit plenty of big ones as well. And you know what? We can't let either dictate our impression of him as a player.

Is Andre Iguodala a superstar?

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Iggy is still scoring 21.2 points per 48 minutes this season, grabbing eight rebounds per 48 minutes as a shooting guard and, most importantly, playing a vital role in Denver's eventual success or failure.

Yes, clutch statistics and occurrences tell part of the story, but they don't tell all of it. Place too much stock in their existence and you're bound to overlook the bigger picture.

Like the undeniable reality that Iguodala is a superstar—even if he doesn't always perform like one at game's end. 

 

Note: All stats in this article are accurate as of Nov. 30, 2012.

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