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How Andre Iguodala Elevates Golden State Warriors' Playoff Ceiling

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How Andre Iguodala Elevates Golden State Warriors' Playoff Ceiling
Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

The Golden State Warriors made a legitimate playoff run for the first time in years last season, and now that Andre Iguodala is on board, the team's postseason prospects are looking better than ever.

The veteran wing ended up in Golden State as part of a complicated three-team sign-and-trade deal that also allowed the Dubs to jettison the dead-weight contracts of Andris Biedrins and Richard Jefferson. Strictly from a financial standpoint, the Iguodala addition was a coup for the Warriors.

Beyond the monetary relief, though, Iguodala gives the Warriors a couple of critical new dimensions that they simply didn't have a year ago. The team will be different without Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry, but it will also be much more dangerous.

 

Jack vs. Iguodala

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Spor

It's not entirely fair to make a one-to-one comparison between Jack and Iguodala. Most likely, the reserve minutes Jack ate up last season will fall to Harrison Barnes, who'll be demoted to bench duty with Iguodala taking over the starting small forward role.

In terms of actual on-court duties, though, there's a lot of logic to measuring Jack against Iguodala.

That's because Golden State is going to count on Iggy to be its secondary ball-handler and distributor. So in much the same way Jack assumed those duties when Stephen Curry rested or moved off the ball, Iguodala will function as an oversized point guard for long stretches this season.

The numbers show he can handle that role.

Last year, Iguodala posted an assist ratio of 26.5, while Jack's was 28.5, per NBA.com. That mean Jack's possessions ended with an assist just 2 percent more often than Iguodala's. It's also true that Jack was a more efficient shooter and turned the ball over less frequently than Iguodala last year.

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Overall, Jack was a slightly better offensive player than Iguodala was in 2012-13, but his advantages were marginal.

Iguodala's real edge over Jack—and the one that makes him such a critical addition—comes on the defensive end.

As one of the NBA's most dominant and versatile defenders, Iguodala gives Golden State the kind of stopping power that it lacked in its most recent postseason run. When opposing wings got going, the improving, but still inexperienced Klay Thompson was the Warriors' best defensive option.

And when point guards like Ty Lawson and Tony Parker started running wild, Golden State had even fewer answers.

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

This is where Iguodala, whom Synergy (subscription required) ranked in the top 3 percent of all NBA defenders in isolation situations last year, matters most to the Warriors. He can put the clamps on opponents at three positions, providing a shutdown option that helps transform a good Warriors defense (they ranked 13th in defensive efficiency last season, per ESPN) into a great one.

Jack was a valuable offensive piece for Golden State, but Iguodala can come very close to replacing his raw statistical contributions on that end. And on D, Iggy is substantially better.

 

The Playoff Necessity

The old NBA cliche is that defense wins championships.

Well, it turns out that that's actually true. Neil Paine performed a study for Basketball-Reference.com in 2010 that definitively proved a good defense was more closely related to winning a championship than a good offense.

So if the Warriors were looking to increase their chances of a deep playoff run, adding a player like Iguodala to shut down perimeter scorers was a very smart place to start.

Just look at the teams that made the finals last year.

It might be tempting to label the Miami Heat as something of an outlier because they have LeBron James on the roster. But simply attributing their title to the fact that they've got the best player in the league is an oversimplification. James is so dominant because he's the NBA's most efficient scorer, but don't forget that he's also probably its best perimeter defender.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Iguodala isn't James, but he has a lot of the same qualities as a defensive player: length, versatility, smarts and quickness.

The San Antonio Spurs had two elite wing defenders in Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard. Their stars tend to get the credit, but San Antonio's success has always been largely attributable to their D.

And now the Warriors have a championship-caliber defender, too.

 

A New Way to Score

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

If all of the talk about defense, Synergy and three-year-old studies doesn't convince you that Iguodala gives the Warriors a higher playoff ceiling, consider the following, simpler argument:

Iggy creates easy baskets.

Golden State was a perimeter-oriented team last year, which made sense because of the elite shooting of Curry and Thompson. They'll probably fire off plenty more triples in the upcoming season.

But Iguodala does his damage on cuts and drives and in transition. The Warriors desperately needed a guy who could find ways to get to the hole when the jumpers weren't falling last year, and Iggy is just the man for that job.

You can tell from his shot chart that Iguodala isn't much of a shooter. When he gets to the rim, though, he's a beast.

A great handle and elite athleticism made Iggy one of the most efficient finishers in the NBA last year, and his close-range skills will help give the Warriors an offensive consistency they lacked in 2012-13. Big scoring droughts against the Spurs were a key reason for the Warriors' playoff defeat, but the Dubs' inability to get to the hole was a problem all season long.

Curry's game doesn't produce many foul-shot attempts, Thompson almost never gets to the line, and Barnes hasn't yet learned the veteran tricks necessary to generate free throws. When Golden State couldn't hit from outside, its scoring options dried up.

Now Iguodala can keep the points coming by getting looks at the rim.

 

The Recipe

Teams that make deep playoff runs generally do two things very well: create easy baskets on offense, and prevent easy baskets on defense. Pretty simple, huh?

Iguodala makes the Warriors a whole lot better at both of those things, which is why his presence in the rotation improves the Dubs' chances of making more playoff noise than they did last season.

Look, the Warriors still probably aren't on the same level as the Spurs or the Oklahoma City Thunder in the West. But Iguodala gets them closer to that top tier of NBA superpowers than they were a year ago.

Consider the Warriors' playoff roof raised.

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