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Breaking Down How Andre Iguodala's Versatility Is Denver Nuggets' Secret Weapon

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Breaking Down How Andre Iguodala's Versatility Is Denver Nuggets' Secret Weapon
Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

When the Denver Nuggets acquired Andre Iguodala before the 2012-13 season in the four-team Dwight Howard trade, there were several basketball junkies infatuated with the move.

And it wasn't because Howard had just wound up with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Iguodala provides the Nuggets with impressive defensive versatility, but his impact on the offensive end is far too often overlooked.

According to 82games.com, the Denver Nuggets attempt 43 percent of their field goals within the first 10 seconds of the shot clock. It follows that most of their rotation players play into this trend.

Fifty-five percent of Kenneth Faried’s attempts are within the first 10 seconds, along with 49 percent of Kosta Koufos’ attempts, 48 percent of Corey Brewer’s attempts, 47 percent of Ty Lawson’s attempts, 46 percent of JaVale McGee’s attempts and 41 percent of Wilson Chandler’s attempts.

Only three of Denver’s regular rotation players fail to top the 40-percent mark: Andre Miller (obviously), recently injured Danilo Gallinari (36 percent) and Andre Iguodala (37 percent). 

Iguodala may just be Denver’s best early-shot-clock option, though. His .615 effective field goal percentage—which takes into account the value of both two- and three-point shots—is second best among regular rotation players. According to mySynergySports, Iguodala has made 68.8 percent of his shots in transition this season, third best on the team among regular rotation players and best of any wing player on the team.

His athleticism allows him to finish any way he wants, but his speed, strength and knowledge of which lane to fill on the break and when turns most of those baskets into easy ones.

Let's look at this particular play frame-by-frame.

When Faried collects the loose ball with 24 seconds (top left) on the shot clock, Faried is just about even with him below Denver’s free-throw line. When Faried picks up his dribble with 23 seconds (top right) on the clock, Iguodala has pulled even at the three-point line. By the time Miller gets the ball at half court with 22 seconds (bottom left) remaining on the shot clock, Iguodala has pulled ahead of them both.

When Iguodala receives the pass from Miller with 21 seconds (bottom right) on the shot clock, he’s ahead of the entire field. Only Jeremy Lin has a chance to stop him, but Iguodala is too fast and too strong to let that happen. He fights off the foul and makes the basket for an and-one with 20 seconds on the clock. 

Of course, Iguodala’s prowess on the break isn’t limited to finishing.

He’s one of the best open court playmakers in the league. Of Iguodala’s 392 assists this season, 93 have come in transition, per Synergy, or about 1.3 per game. As a reference point, Jrue Holiday ranks 10th in the league with 1.6 transition assists per game. The top 10 includes only point guards, one of which is Lawson. 

With Lawson currently nursing an injury, Iguodala is Denver’s best option to lead the break. Against the Rockets on Sunday night, he assisted on a whopping seven baskets in transition. As could be expected from  a jack-of-all-trades like Iguodala, he got them in a variety of different ways. 

He dropped it off to the trailer he spotted out of the corner of his eye. He—of course—created an easy basket with his defense. He gathered a rebound and made a hit-ahead pass to leak out master Corey Brewer. He rewarded the big man for running the floor. He surveyed the court, saw the Nuggets didn’t have numbers, pulled it out and hit a shooter on the secondary break.

And then… 

This is all the best of Iguodala rolled into one play. Force a turnover. Fill the lane on the break. Catch on the wing. Penetrate and threaten in the lane. Recognize the disadvantage and wait for more manpower. Fake the entire defense out of their shoes. Reward the big man for running the floor. Make sure the crowd goes wild.

Later on, Iguodala pulled out his best Ricky Rubio impression.

Grab the rebound. Lead the break. Go behind the back. One-handed, across the body feed to a wide-open shooter on the wing. Even for Denver, the league’s 25th-ranked three-point shooting team, that’s easy money. 

The Nuggets play at a breakneck pace, and their early-shot-clock offense is probably more important to their success than it is to any other team in the league. With Gallinari out for the year and Lawson’s return date still unknown, Iguodala will be counted on to boost the offense in a variety of different ways.

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