Why Andre Iguodala Is Secret Weapon to Denver Nuggets' Playoff Success

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Why Andre Iguodala Is Secret Weapon to Denver Nuggets' Playoff Success
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Amidst the Denver Nuggets’ survival kit roster of NBA talent, new addition Andre Iguodala is the Swiss Army Knife.

Iggy is a jack-of-all-trades who can impact the game in a variety of ways, which is a skill rivaled by very few NBA players. For the Nuggets to have continued playoff success, the former Arizona Wildcat will need to be their secret (or perhaps not-so-secret) weapon.

Although the Miami Heat received a great deal of media attention (and rightfully so) for their 27-game win streak, Denver rattled off a 15-game win streak of its own from Feb. 23 to March 23. The Nuggets finished the season averaging 106.1 points per game, which was the best mark in the league.

Denver’s overall success has hinged on all-around team play, as eight different players on the roster averaged at least nine points per game. That being said, Iguodala has been the defensive anchor for a hyper-offensive team.

During the regular season, the offensive rating of Nuggets' opponents was 4.4 points per 100 possessions better when Iguodala sat on the bench. Additionally, the field-goal percentage of opponents was 48.7 percent when Iggy was on the court, and 50.8 percent when he was on the sidelines.

Iggy’s defense has been a staple for the Nuggets this season, and that fact has only ballooned after one playoff game.

In the Nuggets’ Game 1 win over the Golden State Warriors, the Warriors’ offensive rating was a ridiculous 29.2 points per 100 possessions better when Iggy sat on the bench. When Iguodala was on the court defending, Golden State shot 41.9 percent from the field compared to 56.3 percent when he took a breather.

Obviously a one-game scale isn’t the best way to illustrate advanced defensive statistics, but the overall point is that the Nuggets are a far superior team (on offense and defense) when Iggy is on the court.

Considering that Danilo Gallinari, Denver’s second-highest scorer during the regular season at 16.2 points per game, will miss the entire postseason due to an ACL tear, Iguodala will have to step up big in his absence.

Andre Iguodala showed Golden State his offensive prowess earlier this season, when he scored a season-high 29 points against the Warriors in November.

Iguodala finished Game 1 with just eight points on four shot attempts (going 2-of-4), but his contributions in other categories meant the difference between a win and a loss. The 29-year-old may not have scored in double digits, but he grabbed 10 rebounds, dished out five assists and notched three steals versus just two turnovers in 36 minutes of action.

But again, so much of what Iggy is able to do doesn’t show up in the box score. He’s a tenacious perimeter defender who hustles on every play (evidenced by his team-best plus-11 plus/minus ratio in Game 1).

The season-ending injury to David Lee has crippled Golden State’s odds of beating Denver in this first-round series, but the Nuggets can’t afford to take their foot off the gas pedal. If they take care of business in the first round, Iguodala’s reputation as a lock-down NBA defender will be on display against the opposing team’s best player (whoever that may be).

Despite being underrated by some, the Nuggets have a nice mix of youth and veterans, one of the most potent offenses in the league and 2012-13 Coach of the Year candidate George Karl. For Denver to make a deep playoff push, Iguodala needs to be the guiding light by continuing to assert himself on both ends of the floor.

 

All stats courtesy of ESPN and Basketball Reference.

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