Andre Iguodala Needs Denver Nuggets as Much as They Need Him

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Andre Iguodala Needs Denver Nuggets as Much as They Need Him

With Danilo Gallinari’s torn ACL (from ESPN.com) making the NBA’s deepest team a bit shallower, Andre Iguodala may need to contribute more offensively for the Denver Nuggets (52-24) to get where they want to go. Of course, in terms of pure production per dollar, a lot more would be expected of the swingman if he played in a different uniform.

The Nuggets’ roster construction allows him to be a role player—a defensive stopper and offensive facilitator—while winning despite his alarming inefficiency from the field and the free-throw line this season.

He’s averaging 5.2 assists and 1.7 steals per game, while shooting career-worst percentages from the field (44.1 percent) and the stripe (57.5). Three years ago, his field-goal percentage was similar (44.3) but his free-throw percentage was much higher: 73.3.

That translates to 12.6 points per game for the former near-20-PPG scorer. Not exactly superstar numbers—but Iguodala’s $14.97 million cap hit trails only Kobe Bryant ($27.85 million), Joe Johnson ($19.75 million) and Dwyane Wade ($17.18 million) at the 2-guard position.

The chances that he opts out of his $16.15 million salary in 2013-14, therefore, seem to be small, given that he’s unlikely to get that kind of salary on the open market next season. That may become an issue with regard to the cap as soon as next year, when Ty Lawson’s extension kicks in and his cap hit balloons from $2.54 million to $10.79 million.

But the long-term security of a new deal—even if it isn’t worth as much per year—appeals to Iguodala. He told Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post:

I’m going to explore every option…Ideally, you would want to opt out. The business of the NBA says you opt out and get a deal you like. But I think that’s still to be determined, depending on our success in the playoffs. I can’t make that decision now…

It would be hard for me to win a championship here, or get to the Finals or get to the Western Conference finals and say, “You know, I’m out.” I don’t want to make any guarantees, but if that happens, it would be obvious [Nuggets GM] Masai [Ujiri] and them would understand my worth to the team and we would come to an agreement. But who knows what is going to happen? I could get hurt tomorrow and then have to opt in.

Iguodala’s defensive presence as a perimeter terror is inarguable:

Former Nugget Arron Afflalo is now making $7.71 million a year with the Orlando Magic, so Iguodala approaching eight figures annually based on his defense alone wouldn’t be laughable in the slightest. But Afflalo made 85.7 percent of his free-throws en route to scoring 16.5 points per game in Florida.

Iguodala, meanwhile, did this.

Regardless, head coach George Karl told Hochman that Iguodala’s defense “probably” exceeded his expectations.

I think his versatility and ability to move around and play different players, especially the point guard, helps. Last year we tried to play Arron on the point guard and it wasn’t very effective. He is very accommodating to game plan thoughts, and I think he has an instinctive ability where his defense is contagious. There aren’t many guys who are so defensive-minded. Our success is based on how well we defend.

And that’s why the Nuggets and Iguodala are such a great match. The two, when taken individually, have their deficiencies: Denver’s defensive identity was nearly nonexistent prior to Iguodala’s arrival, and Andre isn’t getting buckets like he used to, but plenty of other guys are.

Eight Nuggets meet or beat JaVale McGee’s 9.3 points per game.

They have sole possession of the No. 3 seed in the West with six games to go, so they were winning without much efficiency from their third-leading scorer. Gallinari’s absence, however, elevates Iguodala to the second-highest scorer who will be able to suit up in the playoffs—and the leading scorer presently while Lawson sits with a foot injury.

As deep as the Nuggets are, they’re likely to look to a guy like Wilson Chandler or Corey Brewer (11.9 PPG apiece) to get more buckets so the pressure doesn’t mount on Iguodala offensively.

If Iggy can just reach his career average (72.5 percent) from the line, he could tack half a point to his scoring average based on the amount of times that he gets to the stripe (3.3 free-throw attempts per game).

 

For more Denver Nuggets analysis, follow Jamal on Twitter

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