Andre Iguodala may not be the first name that comes to mind when thinking of the Denver Nuggets. The 2012 Olympian and former Philadelphia 76ers swingman is, however, the highest-paid player on the Nuggets roster, earning almost a full $5 million more than the team’s second-biggest contract on the books this season.
Maybe the first name that comes to mind is Ty Lawson, the team’s spark plug at point guard and a guy whose salary is set to balloon from $2.6 million to $10.8 million when the 2012-13 league year concludes.
Maybe it’s Danilo Gallinari, the team’s de facto go-to scorer, a former No. 6 overall pick and another eight-figure salary guy ($10.1 million) come 2013-14.
Maybe it’s Kenneth "The Manimal" Faried, the guy who’s as close to a double-double average (12.4 PPG and 9.8 RPG) as he is to winning the dunk contest.
Maybe it’s JaVale McGee, the mercurial, hyper-athletic big man whose highlight-to-blunder ratio is consistently improving. He’ll be making $10.8 million next year—when Iguodala has an early termination option worth $16.2 million.
Among off-guards, his average salary is behind those of Kobe Bryant ($27.8 million), Joe Johnson ($20.6 million), Dwyane Wade ($17.9 million), Kevin Durant ($17.8 million) and Eric Gordon ($14.6 million).
Carmelo Anthony ($21.6 million) and Rudy Gay ($16.5 million) are also wing players who bring in more annually than Iguodala does. Iggy isn’t an elite scorer like many of the names above—he’s never scored more than 19.9 points per game in a season—but he can irritate several of the aforementioned players on the defensive end of the floor.
He’s also been remarkably durable.
Despite playing 37.5 minutes per game and starting in all 667 of his NBA regular-season appearances, he has never missed more than 15 games in a season. He played all 82 games in five of his first six years in the Association.
Iguodala adds value in his ability to facilitate, with 4.7 assists per game this season. Unfortunately, his offensive production hasn’t lived up to his defensive prowess. He’s shooting a disappointing 44.6 percent from the field, 31.1 percent from three-point land and a dismal 60.1 percent from the free-throw line.
After converting 39.4 percent of his long-distance attempts in the truncated 2011-12 season, Iguodala’s dip in accuracy is startling. Even more alarming—since his near-40 percent shooting was by far a career best—is the continued decline in his free-throw shooting, which has dropped for the third consecutive season.
This is a guy who, on a career-high 7.3 attempts per game, shot 82.0 percent from the stripe in 2006-07. He had never shot worse than 74.3 percent (his rookie year) before that, but hasn’t shot better than 73.3 percent since.
Denver has Corey Brewer and Wilson Chandler as other wing defenders to throw at the opposition. Head coach George Karl sees Iggy as the defensive standard, but, as Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post writes, it’s an idea restricted to one side of the ball:
So was it too much to expect Iguodala to lead the Nuggets in scoring and shoot better than 60 percent from the foul line? Coach George Karl is never afraid to tell me I'm wrong, so I asked him.
"I'm not unhappy. That's unrealistic. You thought he'd be our leading scorer? I never thought that," Karl said. "He's a good scorer for us, and we have other guys we plug in. The way we play, we don't tilt the offense to one player until the end of the game. We just play basketball, go out, run and see who gets the touches."
The absence of Iguodala, who missed the better part of the last two games with a strained neck, has correlated with a two-game skid for the Nuggets following an impressive nine-game winning streak.
In each loss, a wing player was the leading scorer for the opposition. Pierce recorded a triple-double: 27 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists—in triple-overtime and on 7-of-20 shooting—for the Boston Celtics. DeMar DeRozan scored 22 and grabbed eight boards on Feb. 12.
Is Iguodala a difference-maker for the Nuggets? Absolutely, especially on the defensive end.
But if general manager Masai Ujiri wants to keep him on board for the long haul—an idea to which the swingman seems to be open—it will have to be at a considerably lower cap hit than his $16-plus million in 2013-14.