Teams don't usually give away two first-round picks and three expiring contracts for virtually nothing.
The Warriors did not want to wait a year to play free-agency hardball, so they gave up future assets to play this offseason. They clearly believe Iguodala is the last major piece needed to compete for a title, and they may just be right.
What Iguodala Brings
We learned in the 2013 playoffs that Stephen Curry needs some help with the primary ball-handling duties. He often appeared exhausted against the San Antonio Spurs, deferring to Jarrett Jack late in games.
Iguodala will take some pressure off of Curry.
Iggy is always a threat to take his man off the dribble and score at the rim. He also has the vision to find open teammates when defenses collapse on him. He's averaged at least 5.3 assists in his last five seasons.
Iguodala's biggest weakness is his perimeter shooting. He's a career 32.9 percent three-point shooter, and he made only 57.4 percent of his free throws last season.
However, he has the potential to improve upon those numbers.
In his six games against the Warriors in the playoffs, he made 48.3 percent of his threes and 72 percent of his free throws. Even if his shooting struggles from the 2012-13 regular season seep into next season, he should make up for them on the defensive end.
Last year, Iggy shut down 2s and 3s alike, allowing per-48-minute PERs (Player Efficiency Rating) of 12.7 and 9.9 respectively. He'll be Golden State's best option against James Harden, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and the rest of the Western Conference's best perimeter players.
How Iguodala Impacts Lineups
To give the Iguodala move context, let's go back to the Warriors upset of the Denver Nuggets in the playoffs.
The Dubs played their "standard" lineup through much of Game 1, with David Lee at the 4. The Nuggets were able to contest perimeter shots by Curry, Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes and recover when Lee caught the ball with space on pick-and-pops.
Lee struggled, shooting 4-of-14 from the floor, and the Warriors lost 97-95.
Lee also tore his hip flexor in the second half. Without their only All-Star, the Warriors seemed destined to lose the series to the favored Nuggets.
That's when the Warriors tried the 4-out, 1-in starting lineup (Jack starting with Lee hurt), and it changed their fortunes for the series. The Warriors scored 131 points in Game 2. When Curry or Jack ran pick-and-rolls with Andrew Bogut or Festus Ezeli, Denver couldn't help defend the roll man in the key and contest the three other three-point shooters on the court.
Barnes' versatility was critical in this new lineup. At 6'8", Barnes had the size to hold his own against Denver's power forwards, and he had the quickness to blow by them on the other end.
The Warriors scored 100-plus points in Games 2 thru 5 before edging the Nuggets 92-88 to win Game 6 and the series. It appeared the Warriors ran out of gas in Round 2 against Spurs (Curry's ankle tweak didn't help), but the blueprint for success was discovered: The Warriors should play more lineups with four perimeter players and Bogut as the 5.
Fast-forward to today. Many expect the Warriors to start Curry, Thompson, Iggy, Lee and Bogut. This is a solid lineup, but it would not be Golden State's optimal lineup.
The lineup that would give opposing teams the most issues would have Barnes at the 4 and Lee on the bench. Curry and Iguodala would act as the primary ball-handlers, with Thompson and Barnes either spotting up in the corners or posting up when guarded by poor defenders.
Defensively, this lineup would hold its own despite being a bit small. Bogut and Iguodala are plus defenders, and not one of the five is the defensive liability that Lee is. With Iggy, the rumor that the Warriors tried to deal Lee for Andrea Bargnani seems all the more believable (even though this is not a trade I would support). The Warriors probably recognize Lee's poor defense and inability to shoot the three as major issues for a player due $44 million over the next three years. That being said, he still holds lots of value on offense (I'll explain later).
If Bogut gets hurt, the Warriors are awfully thin at center. Remember, Ezeli could miss the beginning of the season while recovering from knee surgery.
I'm sure the Warriors will sign a backup center in the coming weeks. However, their optimal offensive lineup would pit Lee at the 5 anyway. When playing center, Lee's per-48-minute PER was 21.6 last season, and opposing centers managed just an 18.0 PER against him.
Without a rim defender on the floor, the Dubs would have major issues defending the paint with this lineup, but on the offensive end they'd be lethal. If Bogut gets hurt early in the season, expect the Warriors to play in some shootouts.
Western Conference Contenders
The Warriors will do whatever they can to add another point guard and big man to the rotation, even if it means they acquire Iguodala via sign-and-trade with Denver. Regardless of whom they add, the top six players in the rotation are set for 2013-14, barring a trade. And it will be a rotation that rivals the best in the league.
With Bogut defending the rim and Iggy matching up with premier perimeter scorers, the Warriors should finish much better than 13th in defensive efficiency.
Offensively, it will be essential for Iguodala to find a role that doesn't negatively impact Golden State's young perimeter trio.
Warrior fans might see the Iguodala move as damaging to Barnes' growth. After all, Iguodala and Barnes are natural small forwards, and Golden State didn't give Iguodala all that money to come off the bench.
Those concerns about Barnes are overblown, however. Even if he starts on the bench, he'll play more than 30 minutes per game. And if the 2013 playoffs are any indication, he'll thrive in a role as the stretch 4.
Though the Warriors ultimately lost out in the Dwight Howard sweepstakes, Iguodala fits what the Warriors need just as much, if not more.
They needed another offensive playmaker who can lock up opposing swingmen, and Iguodala is exactly that. Sure, they don't have a player with Howard's ability to score in the paint, but in acquiring Iguodala they didn't have to deal Thompson or Barnes, and they already have Bogut to defend the rim.
Assuming the Warriors stay relatively healthy and find a couple of other quality players to fill out the rotation, they should be a serious contender to win the Western Conference next year. And with Curry, Thompson, Barnes and Iguodala under team control for the next few years, there's no reason to believe their window to contend is small.