For the second time in as many years, Andre Iguodala will enter the season wearing a new uniform.
After playing the 2012-13 campaign with the Denver Nuggets, following eight years as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers, Iguodala will step onto the floor donning a Golden State Warriors jersey in 2013-14.
This represents what is probably the biggest opportunity of Iguodala's career. On paper, these Warriors are the best team he has ever played for, and they are also the ballclub who knocked his former team the Nuggets out of the playoffs last year.
Of course, Iggy must make some adjustments to seamlessly fit in with his new squad, but being that he is an unselfish veteran who does not need the ball in his hands to be effective, that should not pose too much of a problem.
Biggest Narrative: Playing Time
Given that the Warriors already had a wing tandem of Barnes and Thompson, many were puzzled when they acquired Iguodala. Would the former All-Star come off the bench? Would he have to play out of position? Would his minutes be drastically cut?
Interestingly enough, Iguodala has started all 695 games he has played in during his professional career. That is extremely rare, even for the league's biggest stars. So, clearly, coming off the pine is not something the 29-year-old is accustomed to.
If the preseason is any indication, it doesn't look like Iguodala will have to worry about that. The swingman has started every exhibition contest, and Golden State head coach Mark Jackson has played with different combinations around him. However, before Barnes went down with a foot injury, Thompson was relegated to a bench role, so it appears that Jackson is going to go with Barnes and Iguodala in the starting lineup.
So, what does this mean for Iguodala?
Well, first of all, it means that Iggy is going to be the starting shooting guard. While he may be better suited for the small forward position, he has played plenty of 2-guard in the past, and let's face it: those two spots are essentially interchangeable nowadays anyway.
More importantly, Iguodala is likely going to see reduced minutes.
The nine-year veteran has averaged 37.4 minutes per game over the course of his career, his career low being last season when he played 34.7 minutes a contest with Denver. With Barnes, Thompson and Draymond Green on the Warriors roster, it's probable that his playing time will decrease even more.
The good thing about Iguodala is that he is a team player who is willing to sacrifice. He has only taken 11.6 shots per game throughout his tenure in the NBA, and over the past five seasons, he has tallied over five assists a night each time (his best being 6.3 in 2010-11). Take a look.
Source: Basketball Reference
You will notice that even in the years where Iguadala took more field-goal attempts than his career average, he was still spreading the ball around. Plus, you should also take note of the fact that his minutes have decreased year by year since the 2008-09 campaign, so perhaps that will make the transition a bit easier for Iguodala at Golden State.
Jackson will likely experiment with different lineups throughout the season, and you have to think that there will be some instances in which Iguodala, Barnes and Thompson are all on the floor simultaneously. Regardless, the chances are that Iguodala is not going to see the same kind of consistent burn that he saw during his days in Philadelphia and even during his short stint with Denver.
For that, he must adjust, and it's hard to envision him having any problems doing so.
What's on the Line for Iguodala and the Warriors?
For some reason, Iguodala got a bit of a bad rap during his time with the 76ers. He was maligned by Philly fans, and many could not wait to dump him. Perhaps that was because Iggy didn't develop into the star that many felt he would become.
Either way, most of the criticism thrown his way was unwarranted.
Thanks to all of the flak he received in Philadelphia, Iguodala was mocked by many fans of other teams, primarily due to his insistence on taking perimeter jumpers even though he wasn't very adept at making them (a la Josh Smith). His poor free-throw shooting also drew some ire.
I specifically remember watching Iguodala against the Boston Celtics during the 2012 playoffs. While he had a solid series overall, he was absolutely awful from the free-throw line (48.6 percent), and his ineptness from the charity stripe kind of became a running joke among Celtic fans during that series.
Now, Iguodala is a part of a ballclub that has realistic championship aspirations, both now and for the future, so this may be his best opportunity to finally earn some much-deserved respect around the league.
The Warriors made it to the second round of the postseason last year and put a legitimate scare into the San Antonio Spurs.
With youngsters such as Curry, Thompson and Barnes having a year of playoff experience under their belts, Lee returning healthy and adding a veteran presence like Iguodala, lofty expectations have been placed upon Golden State entering the 2013-14 campaign.
While the majority of prognosticators are not necessarily picking Golden State to win it all or even make the conference finals, they do anticipate the Warriors trending upward, and why shouldn't they?
Of course, the key for the Warriors is staying healthy, and players such as Curry and Bogut have not exactly been durable over the course of their careers.
If Golden State can avoid injuries and Iguodala can smoothly integrate himself into Jackson's system, the Warriors should be better this year than last.
Fortunately, the Dubs are a very young team, and they don't have to win right away. Still, winning 50-plus games and putting forth another impressive performance in May (and possibly June) will go a long way to helping the Warriors establish an identity for the future.
Scouting Report for 2013-14 Season
Breaking Down Iguodala's Signature Move
Because Iguodala is not exactly the greatest outside shooter in the world, he is obviously at his best when he can get into the lane and finish at the rack.
Thankfully for him, he has a pretty deadly crossover that allows him to do just that.
You never hear Iguodala's name mentioned when the best ball-handlers in the league are being discussed, and while he is not Chris Paul or Rajon Rondo with the rock, he is pretty darn good, especially for a swingman.
What Iggy likes to do is utilize his crossover to fool his defender and get into the paint for a slam or a layup. He is very effective at working his way through traffic.
Breaking Down Iguodala's PER
As you can see, over the last five seasons, Iguodala's PER has been relatively consistent. Before last season, he hovered between 17 and 18. The dropoff in 2012-13 becomes less surprising when you look at Iguodala's other stats, as he also posted a career lows in win shares per 48 minutes (.097) and True Shooting Percentage (52 percent).
Hopefully for Iguodala and the Warriors, last year was simply an anomaly and not the start of a potential decline for the University of Arizona product.
The good news for Iggy is that he will be surrounded by ample offensive talent in Golden State, so that should take a considerable amount of pressure off and allow him to shift his focus to the defensive end where he is at his best.
How to Defend Iguodala
Defending Iguodala is fairly simple. You know his primary intention is to either get to the basket or facilitate, so the best way to contain him is to coax him into taking a jump shot.
It's not like that is incredibly difficult, either.
Despite Iguodala's inefficiency from the perimeter, he sure takes a lot of three-pointers. In five of the past six seasons, he has attempted at least three triples per game, despite shooting only 32.9 percent from beyond the arc in his career.
So, what a defensive player must do is simply sag off Iguodala and give him some room. That way, he is less apt to get by his defender off the dribble. If he starts knocking down his threes that game, then play him a little tighter, but going by the laws of probability, the chances of Iguodala consistently draining long jumpers are rather slim.
Another way to limit Iguodala's effectiveness is to cut off his driving lanes by packing the paint, but Iggy is not so lethal of a scorer where you should potentially leave other areas of the floor open by focusing too much on stopping his dribble penetration.
Biggest Strengths and Weaknesses
Iguodala's biggest strength is his defense. He is one of the best perimeter defenders in the league, possessing an outstanding blend of quickness, strength and instincts that can make life exceedingly difficult for whomever he is guarding. Not only is he excellent on the ball, but he is very good at ball denial, as well.
As already noted, Iguodala is also a very good facilitator. He is capable of playing point forward and running the offense, as evidenced by his career average of 4.9 assists per game.
The 2013-14 campaign could be a banner year for Iguodala in terms of distributing the basketball thanks to players like Curry and Thompson who roam around the three-point line. Having such sharpshooters as outlets on the perimeter will be a luxury that Iguodala never experienced in Philadelphia or Denver.
Iguodala's final strengths are his athleticism and ball skills, and these go hand in hand. The fact that he is so athletic makes his slick ball-handling that much more effective. He is also a great player to run with on the fast break.
Now for Iguodala's weaknesses.
First, let's address his lack of an outside shot and the fact that he doesn't seem to realize that he isn't too good from the perimeter.
Outside of the 2011-12 season, in which Iggy shot 39.7 percent from long distance (by far a career high), he has generally shot around 31 percent from downtown. You could live with that as a ballclub if he were taking under 100 triples a season, but that's not what Iguodala does.
Take the 2009-10 campaign, for example. Iguodala shot 31 percent from beyond the arc while attempting 303 trifectas. That is far too many given his shooting efficiency.
Hopefully, Iguodala realizes that he now has teammates such as Curry and Thompson to take care of the outside shooting and significantly cut back on the volume of threes he takes.
His other weakness is his free-throw shooting, and this one is a bit odd. Iguodala was once a very reliable shooter from the stripe, but now, he is Shaquille O'Neal-like.
|YEAR||FT%||FTA PER GAME|
Source: Basketball Reference
It's hard to figure out exactly what happened to Iguodala. How can a player go from shooting 82 percent from the line to not even cracking 60 percent? Plus, the frequency with which Iggy gets to the line has dipped considerably over the years, but that can be attributed to the fact that he is not looking for his own shot as much as he used to.
As far as his percentage goes, finding an explanation seems almost impossible. Perhaps it is a confidence issue. Perhaps it is something with his mechanics.
Whatever it is, it would behoove Iguodala (and the Warriors) for him to correct it, as you can't live with your shooting guard shooting 57 percent from the free-throw line. That is beyond atrocious.
Again, Iguodala is probably in the best situation of his career in Golden State. This will likely be the strongest team he has ever been a part of, and this outstanding supporting cast should help shield him from the same type of criticism he received while a member the 76ers. He will not be called upon to be "the man"; he will simply be asked to do his job defensively and contribute whatever he can on the offensive side of the ball.
Iguodala averaged 13 points, 5.4 assists and 5.3 rebounds on a rather deep Nuggets team last season, so expect the same type of numbers in his first campaign as a Warrior. I'll say 12.5 points, six assists and 5.5 boards.
However, his efficiency will be better. In 2012-13, Iguodala shot 45.1 percent from the floor. This year, expect a shooting clip closer to 47 percent, as he will likely take fewer shots. His free-throw percentage will look better, too. It won't be great, but I think something closer to 70 percent than 60 percent is reasonable.
The best-case scenario is that he improves his efficiency and dominates on the defensive end of the floor to help lead the Warriors on a deep playoff run. In that case, he will garner serious consideration for First Team All-NBA Defense.
The worst-case scenario for Iguodala is that he still falls in love with the three-ball, continues to clank his free throws and isn't able to assimilate himself into the Warriors system. He will still be a valuable asset due to his prowess on the defensive end, but he won't see anymore than 25-27 minutes per game due to his lack of offense.
Hopefully for Iggy and Golden State, the former scenario is the one that will come to fruition.